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TikTokers Are Selling Miles of Mouth Tape, Despite Little Scientific Evidence It Does Anything

Lauryn Bosstick wearing The Skinny Confidential Mouth Tape<p>Photo: Courtesy of The Skinny Confidential</p>
Lauryn Bosstick wearing The Skinny Confidential Mouth Tape

Photo: Courtesy of The Skinny Confidential

Welcome to Sleep Week! We're dedicating five days of content to one of our absolute favorite activities, and the products that make catching zzz's that much more enjoyable. Get ready to sleep tight. 

The most pervasive social media "sleep hack" trend of the last year may also be the most controversial: mouth taping.

That is, the practice of taping one's mouth shut before bed in order to breathe through the nose instead of the mouth. Interest in mouth taping has skyrocketed over the past year, peaking in late 2023, per Google Trends. Man of the hour Dr. Andrew Huberman and other passionate mouth taping advocates often cite James Nestor's 2020 New York Times bestseller "Breathe: The New Science of a Lost Art," which traces the benefits of nasal breathing back to ancient Indigenous communities and chronicles the writer's own experience blocking his nasal passages for 10 days and the negative effects that mouth breathing had on his overall health. These included developing obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure and low blood oxygen levels.

Common claims around mouth taping's (or, more generally, nose breathing's) purported benefits include: better quality sleep, reduced sleep apnea and snoring, more focus and wakefulness during the day and improved dental and cardiovascular health. There are even claims of aesthetic effects, like a stronger jaw line. However, there is still very little scientific research that confirms any of these benefits, aside from a study that did show less snoring in people with mild obstructive sleep apnea.

"There is some clinical evidence that breathing through one's nose while sleeping allows the nostrils to warm and filter the air inhaled prior to its reaching the lungs, improving oxygenation overall, while reducing intake of particulate matter and bacteria," says Dr. Peter Lee, a board-certified plastic surgeon and CEO of Wave Plastic Surgery.

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The practice of mouth taping is still controversial, even among some of the experts I spoke to. "Hard pass on that," says Melanie Goldey CEO of longevity-focused biotechnology company Tally Health, citing the lack of scientific evidence. Los Angeles-based cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Mariana Vergara worries that it could be dangerous for those with allergies or serious sleep apnea. "Listen. We have to try to do things as much as we can to live a healthy life, but I don't think the one upstairs that sent us here will agree with taping our mouths," she says. "We have to keep it real."

The Sleep Foundation recommends speaking to a doctor before trying it, especially if you're having trouble breathing through your nose. The organization also points to more trusted alternatives to mouth tape that can also encourage nasal breathing, like nasal strips, sleeping on your side and allergy treatments.

That said, the abundance of emphatic anecdotal claims like Nestor's and Huberman's can be hard to ignore, and have have radicalized many wellness- and beauty-focused TikTok creators, who use the platform to document their nighttime routines and have helped turn mouth taping into a viral trend. (The hashtag #mouthtaping currently has over 200 million views on the platform.)

One of them is Isabelle Lux, who consistently garners hundreds of thousands of views on posts documenting her many "beauty sleep" products and practices. She discovered mouth taping early in her TikTok journey, which began in 2020.

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"I gave it a try for a month, two months. I never slept better. I never felt better energy, deep sleep. Incredible. Life changing," she says. "Then I shared a few videos about it, and those videos really blew up, especially the first ones. I don't think anyone had really talked about mouth taping at all."

Another is podcaster, influencer and purveyor of her own line of trendy beauty products Lauryn Bosstick (a.k.a. The Skinny Confidential), who read "Breathe" and had Huberman as a guest on her podcast, which made her want to try mouth taping. An early TikTok post of hers about it in September 2022 has garnered nearly 40K likes.

"After a few weeks of mouth taping, my energy was through the roof. After two months I noticed the biggest difference in my face. My jaw was stronger and more defined, the whites of my eyes were whiter, I wasn't thirsty in the morning. I felt incredible," she tells Fashionista. "Now 10 months into mouth taping I can see noticeable changes in my chin profile and face overall." She, too, calls the practice "life-changing."

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In February, Bosstick launched her own branded mouth tape by posting a single Instagram selfie with it on. "Genius," commented noted wellness enthusiast Spencer Pratt. Without any official announcement (the caption was just three emojis), her $35 tins of 30 pink, lip-shaped stickers were quickly discovered by fans and sold out in 48 hours. A subsequent drop sold out in four minutes. There is currently a waitlist for the product, which has already brought in seven figures in sales, according to a press representative.

Of course, Bosstick isn't the only influencer profiting from the mouth-taping craze. Many creators' posts feature links to tapes on TikTok Shop, Amazon and LTK, through which they receive a commission on sales. As we should all know by now, anytime someone is selling the item they're raving about, there is a reason to be skeptical.

"Now it's this whole TikTok shop thing, which is such a scam. Oh my God. If I can say one thing, those TikTok shop mouth tapes are so damaging to your skin. The adhesive is way too strong," says Lux. The one she uses, a silicone medical tape, costs about $10 for a 54-inch roll — and, yes, it's linked in her LTK "Sleep Essentials" shop alongside her favorite pillow, sleep mask and hair bonnet, and has "definitely sold the most units," though she says it's too inexpensive to generate significant revenue. "I mean, I would get three cents per sale."

If you're set on trying mouth taping, a 1" x 1" square of weak medical tape placed in the center of the lips will do the trick. According to Nestor, "The point is not to hold your lips shut, it's to train yourself to keep the jaw closed in its natural position and breathe out of your nose." Bosstick's product, clearly designed to pop in selfies and "go to bed with me" videos, costs more than $1 per night, but it does have the added benefit of a small hole in the middle just large enough to take a late-night sip from your bedside water bottle. (Though some argue that such openings defeat the purpose of mouth tape, potentially allowing air to pass through the mouth.) And the tin container it comes with is objectively cute.

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Even if you've found the right tape, I can attest that taping your mouth shut at night can be a difficult habit to adopt, and I don't typically have trouble breathing through my nose. It just feels weird. Of the many things Lux places on her face and head each night, she says mouth tape was "the most difficult to get used to."

"I physically woke up with that tape on my eyeball, in my hair, on my pinky toe for weeks because your mouth will try and wrench itself open or you're drooling," she recalls. "Your mouth, when it's used to being open, it doesn't want to close. But even the nights that I woke up with it kind of on my leg, I still slept better. I think it just helps you get into a deep sleep. So even if you can only wear it for half the night, I'd say it's better than none." My own (very few) mouth taping attempts have resulted in me ripping it off around midnight or 1 a.m. in most instances, and one in which I fell and stayed asleep all night without any issue. So, I'm not giving up just yet.

Lux and other experts suggest wearing mouth tape at home during the day a few times, just to get used to the sensation, before trying it at night. Even now, she wears it in bed for half an hour or so to acclimate to nose breathing before going to sleep. Another tip she has for the skin-care girlies: "You have to do your skin care at least 30 minutes before bed, otherwise your tape will just slide off — and no lip balm. You don't need it."

Alleged health and beauty benefits (or drawbacks) aside, mouth taping just may not be for everyone. Ultimately, if it's disrupting your sleep rather than enhancing it, it's not worth it.

"Some people tolerate taping their mouth shut at bedtime and can enjoy a full night's sleep in this manner. For others, mouth taping is uncomfortable, and it actually impedes their ability to sleep," says Dr. Lee. "Our view is that the overriding goal of our patients should be to maximize the duration and quality of their sleep first and foremost."

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