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Mewing: what is the YouTube craze that claims to reshape your face?

The internet is rife with beauty tricks and trends, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s skincare routine to $265 anti-aging cream. But tongue placement is not often involved. Mewing, one of the latest internet beauty crazes, focuses on just that. It’s a practice thought to improve looks, claiming to non-surgically shape the jawline and face.

It’s a simple premise that has attracted many fanatics. The practice of mewing involves keeping the tongue on the roof of the mouth, the maxilla. Consistent tongue placement on the maxilla apparently renders it malleable, thus changing face shape. Those who mew adhere to other habits, including a wave-swallowing technique, as well as gum-chewing to strengthen the jaw muscles.

A quick YouTube search for “mewing technique” brings up 7,000 results. It’s “the new health craze taking over Instagram and YouTube”, according to one UK news site. Joseph Saavedra, a 21-year-old YouTube vlogger, said the tongue placement is crucial. “A few [commenters] have said that they have been doing this all their life and they all have really nice facial structures.”

Mewing is named after the British orthodontists Dr John Mew and his son, Dr Mike Mew. The latter is most associated with the popularity of mewing, a result of his YouTube videos. Since 2012, he has posted more than 600 videos about the subject.

But his outspoken attitude has come at a price. In November 2018, the younger Mew claimed to have been expelled from the British Orthodontic Society because of his fervent posts. He said the board claimed his “social media statements have misled or have the potential to mislead patients and the public”.

The British Orthodontic Society refused to comment on the status of Mew’s membership, citing data protection laws. Their spokesperson provided a statement: “As part of our Articles of Association, our executive body may suspend any member whose conduct, in its opinion, is contrary to the interests of the society.”

Even so, his fans remain faithful. On one particular subreddit, he is heralded by users who post photos of his face with Photoshopped halos. The subreddit in question, r/orthotropics, has more than 6,300 subscribers. In the forum, the users earnestly seek advice on how to gain their desired facial features, which includes (but is not limited to) “hunter eyes” or deep-set almond eyes, more pronounced cheekbones and defined jawlines.

There are some skeptics who point out the alleged benefits of the technique have yet to be substantiated by science. Others worry mewing may be symptom of dysmorphia. “Mewing has led some down a new road of obsession,” one Redditer says.

Saavedra says mewing for looks is a misuse of the technique. “I think [looking for improvements] is the wrong mentality to look at this with, because if you’re just trying to chase facial improvement by doing this, it’s going to a few years before you see some real results, especially if you’re older.”

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