It came to my attention today that there is a new viral Instagram fad: the #KylieJennerChallenge. Young women are using suction techniques to swell up their lips in the name of looking more like Kylie Jenner. They are then sharing the disturbing images on Instagram. As someone who has done this — albeit in the name of journalism — I believe this "trend" has gone too far.
Late last year, I plumped my pout using a device called CandyLipz — the same tool Kylie was gifted with in a swag bag. The cupping method gave me dramatic results, especially when I paired my blown-up pucker with nude lip liner and a touch of gloss. While I definitely attained Kylie-like oversize lips, it wasn't exactly a pleasant experience. And the lip evolution process was actually quite painful. CandyLipz caused severe bruising, making it uncomfortable to eat and requiring heavy makeup to conceal the wounds. And despite these warnings, the #KylieJennerChallenge persists.
There is a reason that I chose not to include any images from the Instagram challenge here: the photos are disturbing. Very young girls — significantly younger than Kylie, who is only 17! — are participating. They are battering their mouths in order to look like their favorite reality star. While I used the soft rubber CandyLipz device to create a vacuum around my lips (which draws blood to the surface and gives a pucker a swollen look), most of the participants are using shot glasses. After placing their lips into the shot glass, they suck the air out of the glass, creating a vacuum. However, because the glass isn't flexible like the CandyLipz device, the shot glass can break under all the pressure, causing serious injuries that require stitches to repair.
The challenge is also under fire for discriminatory reasons. Women of color on Instagram are pointing out that until Kylie made supersize lips a "trend," naturally lush-lipped ladies were taunted for their big features. Remarked Instagram user melissad071988, "Big lips have been a source of ridicule for black people for practically forever, and now because this little girl comes on the scene with her fake lips, you want to pretend like it's the new 'It thing?!'" Instagram user officialblackbeauties wrote, "It's funny how these same full lips were mocked less than a century ago. It's funny how this same brown skin was mocked before the invention of tanning beds. My features have always been beautiful. It doesn't take the recognition of someone else to decide whether or not you're beautiful or not." These types of comments are making the challenge go even more viral.
Listen, I am not against body modification by any means. I am against young women — who aren't fully developed (physically or mentally) — making uninformed decisions that could change their looks forever. If you're looking to try this big-lip trend, I recommend doing so by overlining your mouth with lip liner (that's what Kylie claims she does!). In fact, Kylie herself doesn't endorse this challenge. "I'm not here to try and encourage people to look like me or to think this is the way they should look," she shared on her Twitter account. "I want to encourage people like me to be YOURSELF and not be afraid to experiment with your look."
None of us knows the truth behind how Kylie actually gets her bee-stung pout, and we may never find out if she secretly got injections, had implants, or uses this cupping technique. But maybe we need to accept that as real girls, we probably can't keep up with the Kardashians. And it's time to love the lips you were born with!
— Additional reporting by Lauren Levinson
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