What is the 'boyfriend air'? An explainer on the *icky* TikTok theory and how to combat it IRL

Feel "dirty" and not in a fun way after seeing your partner? It could be TikTok's 'boyfriend air' theory at work...

Boyfriend air: an illustration of a couple embracing, with an aura around them/ in a pink and cream textured template
(Image credit: Getty Images: Paper Trident)

What is the 'boyfriend air' theory, you ask? Well, the phenomenon is proving to be quite the shared experience on TikTok, with users filming the before and after effects of spending time with their partners and no, it's NOT cute...

Now, we've come across our fair share of weird and wonderful trends on the app, from style aesthetics like the 'Tomato Girl' and Barbiecore to NSFW coded terms like the 'mascara' trend and 'speed bump' sex position—but this latest boyfriend-related occurrence truly trumps them all. 

'Boyfriend air' is the newest entry to TikTok's growing vocabulary (joining the likes of 'side-eye') and it's understandably sparking quite a bit of discourse. So, allow us to clue you in on the viral and rather ick-worthy theory—but be warned, it might leave you looking at your partner in a whole new light...

What is 'boyfriend air'?

Don't be fooled into thinking it's just some cutesy dating trend, like the golden-retriever boyfriend term, that we're dealing with here. In fact, it couldn't be further from it as, from our TikTok sleuthing, we've deduced that the 'boyfriend air' meaning is basically where spending long periods of time with a partner (particularly male), can affect your physical appearance—and not in a good way.

As one TikToker explained: "I am so happy people are now talking about boyfriend air because I actually thought I was going crazy. I spent a lot of time at my boyfriend’s apartment in New York, and I remember taking a full-body shower every morning, waking up and thinking, ‘I feel so dirty.'"

Adding, "My hair was getting greasy like crazy. My skin was looking different, like… everything, my makeup wasn’t staying on right. I was like, ‘What is going on?'"


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The term also links to the whole 'school air' theory, which was seemingly coined by TikToker, @carlazombek—whose video has now racked up millions of views—and sees her share her skin before school and a few months in when she was dealing with breakouts. This was also clearly a shared experience as the hashtag now has over 100 million views.

Now, users are taking to the app to share evidence of this so-called 'boyfriend air' hypothesis at work, by showing their makeup looks and hair before seeing their boyfriends and after. 

As you can see, their makeup has seemingly all but evaporated into thin air—or should we say the 'boyfriend air'. While their freshly washed and styled hair after just a few hours in their significant other's presence, already looks like day three hair! 


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The strange happening then begs the question, is it just an unexplained, icky aura around your beau that seems to melt away even the best non-comedogenic foundations—or is something else at play here?

While some seem to think it's down to the air itself contaminating their partner's apartments and bedrooms, there's also another meaning behind the term, with some TikTokers using it to describe their experience of almost "glowing down" or becoming less attractive or not caring about their appearance as much after entering a new relationship because they've gotten comfortable. 

As one TikToker commented: "I think what boyfriend air really is, is the fact that we tend to lose focus on ourselves when we get into a relationship"—as opposed to the more instantaneously, physical effects some users are attributing to 'boyfriend air.'


♬ Sneaky Snitch - Kevin MacLeod

Though this doesn't really explain how many TikTokers reported spending time perfecting their makeup for instance, only for it to seemingly dissolve in the presence of their partners...

So, is the 'boyfriend air' theory actually real?

Despite it being pretty common—some individuals have been quick to try and debunk the theory, claiming that if you're experiencing 'boyfriend air,' it's because your partner needs to step up their hygiene regimen...

As one video simply put it: "boyfriend air isn't a thing, your boyfriend just doesn't wash his bedding."

With another TikToker also supporting this possible explanation for the makeup melting and breakout sparking environment...


♬ original sound - Madison Schramm

Others though are pretty adamant, it's a thing: "Two seconds with my boyfriend and suddenly I have no makeup on, my face is puffy and breaking out, I haven’t showered in weeks and my hair looks like a creature has been living in it"—with many girlfriends and significant others voicing how relieved they are that they're not alone in experiencing this unexplained event.


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So, to try and get to the bottom of this whole gross debacle, we asked a skincare expert if there's really anything to this boyfriend air theory...

A skincare expert weighs in on the 'boyfriend air' theory

Skincare expert and founder of Bedew Skin, Rachael Robertson, has shed some light on why many might be encountering some adverse effects from being around their boyfriends and partners.

She says it can actually have a lot to do with the change in habit or coming into contact with someone else's skin or personal care products. 

Robertson explains: "When we start dating and spending time with a new person our habits change. This may include our eating habits, drinking habits, and our schedule can change—which includes our skincare routine—that we have just spent so long getting consistent! We tend to fall asleep later, go out more and sleep over more which affects all these things. 

"Also, our skin coming into contact with facial hair, new laundry detergent, aftershaves, and personal care products that we haven’t been exposed to previously when kissing/cuddling /sleeping. All of these things can cause flareups/breakouts or rashes and rub off makeup without us even realizing."

So, while this boyfriend air sitch doesn't always boil down to hygiene, it can definitely be a factor in some circumstances, as Robertson adds: "It also goes without saying they may not wash their sheets/pillowcases as much as you, which can be another culprit as you’re now laying in the dead skin, sweat and bacteria of two people! Lovely."

So, before you start fretting that your significant might condemn you to a life of ruined makeup and greasy hair 24/7—perhaps first quiz them on when the last time their sheets were washed and go from there...

Your 'Boyfriend Air' tool kit—to help you ward off the icky effects

As we've now sussed out, 'boyfriend air' can be the result of many things, from your face reacting to new products or ahem, friction from your partner's face and facial hair, to unwashed bedding and even your eating habits.

But just because we're now aware of some of the contributors, doesn't mean we can't try and ward them off! So, behold—we've put together a few essentials for looking after your skin, body and hair during your next sleepover...


SLIP Pure Silk Pillowcase

RRP: $89

Bring your own pillowcase to your lover's house and make it a silk one at that! If they ask, you can simply use the excuse of wanting to prevent skin irritation and hair breakage—as opposed to letting slip that you're concerned about their stale bedding...

These Slip pillowcases are said to help with anti-aging as well as combating sleep-induced creases and bedhead and are soft on your skin and hair.


SILKE Hair Wrap 

RRP: $65

A silk hair wrap is also a great way to keep your hair safe, especially if you have a curly hair type! They help to protect your hair and prevent breakage and split ends—caused by friction between your hair and pillowcase—while also stopping grease from settling on the top of your scalp. Available in eight gorgeous shades, including pink and green!


SKIMS Stretch Silk Pajama Top

RRP: $138

Sticking with the silk theme, if you're feeling really luxurious (and extra wary of the bedding sitch), then we'd recommend investing in a pair of silk pajamas, which are gentle on the skin and will help you nod off into sweet, silky dreams. Plus they look darn cute so win-win! Shop the matching bottoms here, also at Nordstrom!


Tower 28 Beauty SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray

RRP: $28

If you're suffering from skin irritation, this Tower 28 spray is a great option and is actually a staple in Hailey Bieber's makeup routine

Its vegan formula features Hypochlorous Acid—which is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. It helps to defend your skin from harmful bacteria, reduce redness, and soothe irritation. 


The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser

RRP: $19.90

If you live with your partner or are staying over be sure to cleanse your face before bed. This squalane cleanser helps to combat dryness and blocked pores and is vegan and paraben-free.


MILK MAKEUP Hydro Grip Hydrating Makeup Primer

RRP: $38

If you find your makeup doesn't sit right, or your foundation keeps piling, the Milk Hydrogrip primer is a must-try. 

This primer is silicone free and helps to hold your makeup in place for up to 12 hours while preventing any melting or caking!


Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo


If your hair suffers around your beau and seems to get greasy fast, a dry shampoo could be a godsend. This one from Living Proof cleans the hair by absorbing oil, sweat, and odor while leaving behind a crisp, time-releasing fragrance.


Touchland Glow Mist Rejuvenating Hand Sanitizer

RRP: $16

If you find you're touching your face a lot around your partner, perhaps try keeping a hand sanitizer on hand, especially for when you're applying makeup or doing your morning beauty regime at their house.


Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Room Spray

RRP: $62

If you're not necessarily facing adverse skin effects from the 'boyfriend air' theory but want to make your beau's space a bit fresher or comfier for you—try a room spray.

This one from Jo Malone has notes of citrusy lime and earthy sage, for a cozy but uplifting aroma.

Fingers crossed that a few of these beauty staples keep the dreaded 'boyfriend air' at bay!

Naomi Jamieson
Lifestyle News Writer

Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team, where she covers everything from entertainment to fashion and beauty, as well as TikTok trends for Woman&Home, after previously writing for My Imperfect Life and GoodTo. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but lept into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing and earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ.

Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.