Welcome to TikTok Debunked, a series where Yahoo Canada digs into the truth behind popular TikTok health, beauty and food trends.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
One of the most recent — and alarming — viral videos declared that apricot kernels are an effective remedy for acne.
However, the kernels contain amygdalin, which converts to cyanide. So, is the hack even safe?
Read on for everything you need to know, according to a dermatologist.
The claim — and how it started
In a video posted by TikTok user Grace (@gracattackk), which has since been deleted, the TikToker claimed her clear complexion could have stemmed from her eating at least five apricot kernels a day since childhood.
"One of the reasons my skin is so good now might have been because I consistently ate poison when I was child," she recalled.
In a follow-up video, Grace warned others not to try it out for themselves due the possible deadly effects. It is unclear when she learned that the kernels contain cyanide.
Apricots have been used in skincare for many years, with apricot scrub being a common product.
The TikTok search "apricot seed acne" has a whopping 705 million views on the app. Videos from social media stars and vloggers reveal the kernels have the potential to give you smooth, glowing skin.
However, some videos from dermatologists and doctors explained that using apricot kernels as an acne remedy can can cause irritation, or other harmful side effects.
What TikTok users are saying
In the comments of the two TikTokers' videos, many people were shocked that apricot kernels contain a compound that converts to cyanide.
"This is wild! The amount you had probably wasn't deadly though," someone wrote.
"Ummmm is this real?" questioned another.
"Googled it! You shouldn't exceed past two [kernels] a day to be safe," said one user.
However, other TikTokers didn't seem to care about the potentially dangerous effects.
"Girl as someone who struggled with acne for 10+ years, I'm desperate at this point," penned a fan.
"I wanna try it right now," commented someone else.
Expert weighs in on science and safety
According to Asai, apricot scrub might have been previously used to treat acne in the form of ground apricot seeds, which could be where this TikTok fad stemmed from.
From a general point of view, the oil, oleic acid, tocopherol and vitamin E found in apricot kernels make this trend seem skin-friendly.
However, the dermatologist wants people to know that this trend has not been clinically tested.
"Apricot kernels as an acne treatment hasn't been explored in a way that looks at their efficacy on a clinical level, for topical or oral therapy," she explained.
"The significant downside is of course amygdalin which converts to cyanide. The risk-benefit ratio of potentially helping acne, even theoretically, versus possibly harming your body with cyanide doesn't make sense to me."
The risk-benefit ratio of potentially helping acne, even theoretically, versus possibly harming your body with cyanide doesn't make sense to me.Dr. Yuka Asai
While apricots and their kernels have reportedly been used in cooking and amongst different cultures without harm, Asai is curious if all apricot kernels are made the same.
"I saw some papers where amygdalin levels were found in different parts of the apricot and it might vary depending on the growing phase of the fruit and where it was grown generally," Asai said.
"So just because your friend tried [the trend] and was fine, doesn't mean you will be too."
For example, Asai revealed the results might differ if you take it with Vitamin C or have a B12 deficiency, risk of which is often seen in vegans and vegetarians.
"Also, it may depend on enzymes and how the amygdalin is metabolized to cyanide, your size, how much you eat of it, and how it is prepared (e.g. if it is ground up or not, extracted)," she said.
There's also been talk that apricot kernels have been used to treat wrinkles, aging and even certain skin cancers.
And while this might seem like an enticing prospect, the expert says it's not something she recommends in her practice.
Specifically, there's been "some cases" of cyanide poisoning in cancer patients who are taking apricot kernels as complimentary or alternative medicine.
Instead of risking your skin and even your life, just go see a dermatologist.Dr. Yuka Asai
"Instead of risking your skin and even your life, just go see a dermatologist. We are available by referral and can find you other ways of treating and dealing with your acne," she said.
Is it debunked?
After investigating the trend and speaking to Asai, Yahoo Canada has debunked using apricot kernels to treat acne.
While Asai says that acne "can be extremely distressing for some people," there are other safer and effective ways to seek relief, including topical treatments, oral medications and procedures.