TikTok has a brilliant way of giving a name to the phenomena we all seem to experience but no one ever talks about, and it's done it again with 'boyfriend air'. With 103.3 million views, the trend shows people recording themselves before they head over to their partner's place (usually cishet men) looking fresh, beautiful and glowy, and leaving looking dull, dishevelled and greasy. The cause of this transformation? Boyfriend air.
Boyfriend air refers to the elusive and unexplainable nature of our boyfriend's place, which makes people come out looking and feeling a bit worse for wear. It seems to affect people who have been at their partner's place for a while — but sometimes even only a matter of hours. People have been taking to TikTok to lament and prove the existence of boyfriend air by showcasing their random breakouts, their three-day-old hair they only just washed, and the makeup that seems to have slid right off.
This phenomenon is akin to 'school air', which did the rounds on TikTok last year, referring to how good you look before going to school, and how your looks seem to have deteriorated by the time the bell rings.
There are many theories about why this happens. Some are more obvious — sorry cishet men, but as a group, you tend to not be the cleanest. The cliche is that their sheets and towels are rarely washed, their windows are never opened and the general state of the air in their homes is just a bit icky. There's definitely a strong case to be made for this being the main reason behind boyfriend air, and the effect it has on our appearances. Some even use this explanation to debunk boyfriend air, telling us that it's not anything inherent, but "your boyfriend just doesn't wash his bedding". Ew.
But there are some other theories that hold up too. When we stay at someone else's home, we rarely pack our whole skincare and hair routine, mostly because it's cumbersome and inconvenient. So when we stay at our partner's place, using the bare minimum of products or the non-premium stuff we decide to leave there, it makes sense that our appearance might change as a result.
Another explanation is less about the literal effects of our partner's space, and something more subconscious — namely that as we get more comfortable with our partner, we care less about how we look while we're in their presence, meaning fewer touchups and refreshes than perhaps is usual for us.
A lot of our habits also tend to change when we start dating someone, including but not limited to our eating and drinking, sleeping patterns and exercise routines — and we also tend to spend a lot more time curled up on the couch or in bed (wink, wink). The effect that all that extra lounging and rubbing up against materials can have on your hair oil levels and acne is well documented.
In defence of our more hygienic, clean partners, it also might not be so much a matter of them not keeping their house fresh — you might just be having an adverse reaction to the different products and materials that your partner uses that you don't, including laundry detergents, colognes, body washes and so on.
But one thing is for sure: all the girlies are loving the fact that this seemingly universal phenomenon finally has a name, and that they can all commiserate together. A few TikTokers have even started some pretty lengthy (and unusual) overnight beauty routines to see if they can combat boyfriend air and document the results — and some of them seem to work! Well, sort of. Maybe we won't really ever escape boyfriend air, but at least we can always share in our misery with the TikTok sisterhood.