A Deep Dive into Looksmaxxing and Glowing Up

By Shaunamay Martin Bohan

Pretty Privilege

The notion of “pretty privilege” is something every woman is familiar with. It suggests that the more conventionally attractive you are, the smoother your path in life becomes. You’re expected to receive more respect, earn higher wages, attract better partners, and, inevitably, enjoy complimentary drinks during a night out. But what’s often overlooked about this privilege is the hidden cost: the pressure to conform to society’s standards of beauty. The patriarchy subtly shapes women into this idealized image of beauty, promising a happier life in return. However, what they fail to disclose is the expectation placed upon women who are perceived as pretty. There’s an unspoken demand to perform, to cater to the desires of the onlooker, and to sacrifice one’s own autonomy. The price of being seen as a “pretty woman” comes with strings attached, demanding a constant sacrifice of individuality and agency in exchange for fleeting societal approval.

The Glow Up

The quest for “pretty privilege” has given rise to a pervasive trend known as “Glow Up” culture online. While some proponents of glow-up accounts argue that the transformation is about inner healing, it’s difficult to ignore the emphasis on superficial changes like teeth whitening, abs challenges, chlorophyll water, and lash serums as means to achieving personal growth.

Glow-up culture has long been a presence on the internet, particularly evident in teenage girlhood experiences. From Twitter threads offering “Hoe Tips to Glow Tf Up” to YouTube tutorials on transforming from “fugly to fab,” and the emergence of high-standard influencers like TheWizardLiz and Alivia Andrea, the message is clear: adhere to certain habits and rules to enhance attractiveness, both mentally and physically, and astound the world with your transformation.

The ideal qualities propagated by glow-up content include a slim, yet curvy body, long healthy hair, consistent fashionable outfits, soft clear glowing skin, white straight teeth, long eyelashes, full brows, clean-shaven appearance, and an aura of captivating beauty. However, these standards often intersect with racist beauty ideals, socioeconomic privilege, and heteronormativity, presenting problematic expectations.

Despite these challenges, glow-up culture positions itself as friendly and supportive, striving to distance itself from terms like “ugly” and instead promoting the idea of becoming “the best version of oneself.” However, the underlying pressure to conform to narrow beauty standards remains a pervasive issue within these communities.

Glow Up culture is predominantly targeted towards women. However despite this constant societal stress that the woman should be beautiful to be happy in recent years a new group has emerged to challenge this ideology, The Looksmaxxers.


The notion of looksmaxxing is akin to the glow-up phenomenon, but with a focus on men. It revolves around the belief that to achieve the ideal life – including the dream partner, job, and overall fulfillment – one must conform to society’s expectations of masculine physical appearance. Originating from corners of the internet like the “manosphere” and “incel” forums, looksmaxxing initially sought to help “incels” transform into what they termed “chads”.

If you think you’ve never heard of looksmaxxing some of these terms may sound familiar :

Mogging: Derived from “dominant” or “mogul,” this term denotes the act of one individual asserting superiority over another in terms of looks, status, or dominance.

Mewing: Popularized by Dr. John Mew, mewing involves tongue posture exercises purported to enhance facial symmetry and sculpt jawline aesthetics.

Canthal Tilt: Referring to the angle of the inner and outer corners of the eyes, this is believed by Looksmaxxing adherents to be a crucial determinant of attractiveness

Communities dedicated to looksmaxxing, often found on sites like incel.org and Looksmaxxing.org, are far from nurturing environments for self-improvement. While Looksmaxxing.org primarily serves as a forum for users to solicit advice on enhancing their physical appearance, its underbelly reveals a darker reality. Amidst discussions on facial aesthetics and grooming techniques lurk disturbing threads delving into far-right ideologies, including misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. Shockingly, the platform also hosts reprehensible content such as doxxing, non-consensual images of women, and grotesque discussions on age gaps. Despite the toxicity associated with these spaces, it’s surprising to see elements of looksmaxxing culture seeping into the mainstream and influencing concepts like the glow-up, despite their dark origins.

Movement to Mainstream

As the phenomenon of Looksmaxxing traverses the vast expanse of the internet, its once-concentrated extremism finds itself diluted across various platforms. While boards like Looksmaxxing.org has expanded as a host for incel extremism the spread of the community has birthed diverse iterations, each with its own nuances and shades.On Tiktok and Instagram you can even submit photos of yourself to accounts that will photoshop your “looksmaxxed” self , with an extra fee for advice on how to get there.

Testing the boards 

One such iteration that caught my attention was the Looksmaxxing boards on Reddit. Intrigued by their apparent sincerity and commitment to the topic at hand, I decided to submit a series of photos of myself for public review to r/Looksmaxxingadvice and R/Howtolooksmax .I’ll be the first to admit that staring at this content for too long can make the idea of strangers telling you how to fix yourself feel appealing ,but the results were far different from the tips I expected.

Within moments, my phone erupted into a cacophony of notifications. However, the initial rush of excitement was swiftly dampened by a torrent of comments questioning my authenticity. Accusations of being an OnlyFans bot or a mere attention seeker flooded the thread, casting doubt upon my genuine intent. Yet, amidst the sea of scepticism a wave of sexist commentary emerged.

Remarkably, the advice offered, whether positive or negative, seemed to adhere to age-old gender stereotypes with alarming consistency. The suggestions ranged from losing weight to gaining weight, from toning down makeup to wearing more of it, to becoming more goth or less goth ,to show more skin or less. I was a fraud, a whore ,a goddess and the ideal woman wrapped in one available for public discourse. The majority of photos of submitted to the site were straight faced, including my own. However the difference between male submissions and my own was obvious ,”Smile More “,You look like a bitch”. The age old comments that every straight faced woman hates to hear.

In the midst of all the discussions, one thing became clear: there was no agreement. No one could decide what I needed to change to be beautiful or if i was beautiful at all .

Why you don’t need to glow up/looksmax

My journey through looksmaxxing communities has opened my eyes to the toxicity and futility of both glow-up and looksmaxxing cultures. It’s become abundantly clear to me that there is no singular path to beauty. When groups dedicated to transforming individuals into society’s idealized versions of men or women can’t even agree on the approach, it exposes the inherent falsehood and superficiality of their ideologies.

Communities fixated on altering appearances thrive on insecurity. Whether it’s the allure of the plastic surgery industry, the endless array of self-care products, or the promise of self-help courses, they all capitalize on our dissatisfaction with ourselves. They lead us to believe that if we just dislike our reflections enough, if we’re willing to pay for a change, our lives will miraculously improve.

But the truth is far simpler and more empowering. True happiness blossoms when we stop fixating on our perceived flaws, when we cease scrutinizing every blemish in the mirror or obsessing over the minutiae of our appearance. More often than not, the flaws we hyper-focus on are invisible to others. They’re imperceptible to the people around us who see us through eyes not clouded by self-criticism.



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