What is 'looksmaxxing' and why is this male beauty trend controversial?


With white teeth, groomed hair, an athletic body, flawless skin and a square jaw, men are turning to "looksmaxxing" to make themselves more attractive. Photo: AFP

With their white teeth, athletic bodies, impeccable hair, flawless skin and square jaws, younger generations of men are going all out to improve their appearance and conform to the codes of a standardised, sometimes stereotyped beauty – even to the point of indulging in controversial practices.

This trend, known as "looksmaxxing", has now gone viral and has millions of followers on social networks.

According to Urban Dictionary, "looksmaxxing" is "the process of making yourself look better commonly used by incels", in other words, involuntarily celibate men.

The idea is simple: to use all possible means – sometimes even the most dangerous – to improve your physical appearance in order to appear more attractive to others, especially women.

Contrary to what you might think, while the term is gaining in popularity, it's far from new, and is thought to have originated on incel discussion forums and in the manosphere before becoming a broader trend on social networks, as The New York Times explains.

It's now the younger generations who are embracing "looksmaxxing", and making an ever-greater contribution to transforming men's grooming routines.

Read more: Six-pack abs, nice skin, full head of hair? How men fret about their looks too

A perfectly honed beauty routine

On social media, countless videos are posted with the #looksmaxxing hashtag, showcasing comprehensive and demanding beauty routines that aspire to a certain beauty ideal.

And while women are usually the primary targets of these kinds of tutorials, here, it's all aimed at men, determined to unearth every conceivable trick to boost their physical appearance.

But make no mistake, "looksmaxxing" isn't just about cosmetics – although social media users might have you believe so – it's a much broader process, encompassing fashion, sport and even food.

"The past year has been me taking things girls have been doing to look better and telling guys to do the same," explains Dillon Latham, now followed by over 1.4 million users on TikTok, speaking to The New York Times.

His TikTok account is filed with videos aimed at advising those who wish to improve their appearance – or at least who aspire to a certain idea of beauty.

How to get abs, how to smell good, what clothes to wear and what not to wear, how to get rid of acne, how to make your features more attractive, or even how to improve the symmetry of your face, are among the tips shared by the social media user.

Read more: Malaysian men put value into looking good, with the male grooming market growing

From the most basic to the most controversial tips

On the whole, it's a relatively basic, harmless beauty routine that involves relatively standard practices and techniques, such as going to the hairdresser, waxing, teeth whitening, exercising, following an optimal skincare routine, taking up facial yoga, or even indulging in "mewing" – tongue posture exercises to achieve a squarer jawline, get rid of a double chin, or make the face look more balanced.

These are relatively common practices known as "softmaxxing", and are they're very similar to the kinds of things women have been doing for years.

But young men are also turning to more extreme – and controversial – techniques known as "hardmaxxing".

In this case, dangerous, or at least radical, techniques are used to achieve a physical transformation. This could involve cosmetic surgery, particularly implants, as well as skin whitening and extreme diets.

One such practice, "bone smashing", recently went viral. This involves breaking the bones of the jaw to make it squarer, a sign of virility according to some.

Still, despite going viral online, this dangerous trend is actually far from gaining a huge following in real life, even among "lookmaxxers".

The community of men keen to improve their appearance continues to grow, reflecting a willingness to embrace certain norms and imperatives of what masculinity looks like.

This can be partly explained by the impact that certain social networks can have on self-esteem and self-confidence, but it can also be seen somewhat ironic at a time when women are trying to shatter these kinds of conventions and stereotypes.

The same could perhaps be said of the need to give a name to what amounts to a banal beauty routine designed by men for men. – AFP Relaxnews

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

beauty , trends , TikTok , social media


Next In Style

Ask The Expert: Everything you need to know about jewellery
Malaysian beauty queen Wenanita Angang wants to make a lasting impact
Made for each other: Fashion and beauty talents Emran and Tyra are tying the knot
Remembering the 'king of leopard print', fashion designer Roberto Cavalli
New research explores the association of sexual attractiveness and 'good hair'
Welcome the season of denim, cowboy hats and boots! Western style is trending
What is 'doll makeup' and why is this beauty trend so popular?
Report links fast fashion brands to environmental destruction in Brazil
How Emiratis are battling to preserve the dying art of embroidery

Others Also Read