What is 'boyfriend air'? The meaning behind the *gross* phenomenon going viral on TikTok

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

Boyfriend air: a couple embrace, with swirls of orange and red around them/ in a blue check template
(Image credit: Getty Images/ Paper Trident)

The 'boyfriend air' theory is currently going viral on TikTok, with users sharing the before and after effects of spending time with their partners—but what on earth is 'boyfriend air' and what does it mean? Here's an explainer on the ick-worthy term...

Now, we've come across our fair share of weird and wonderful trends on the app, from style movements like the clean-girl and vanilla-girl aesthetics to NSFW code terms like the 'mascara' trend—but this latest boyfriend-related phenomenon really takes the cake.

'Boyfriend air' is the newest entry to TikTok's growing vocabulary and it's understandably sparking a bit of discourse and a whole lot of confusion. So, allow us to clue you in on the theory currently going viral—but be warned, if you've got a boyfriend this might be a glass-shattering read for you...

What is 'boyfriend air'?

Well, it's definitely not a cutesy trend like the golden-retriever boyfriend dating term, that's for sure. From our TikTok sleuthing, we've deduced that the 'boyfriend air' meaning is that 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?'"

@taylordonoghuee (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - Taylordonoghuee (opens in new tab)

The term also links to the whole 'school air' theory, which was seemingly coined by TikToker, @carlazombek (opens in new tab)—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 the hypotheses, by showing their makeup looks and hair before seeing their boyfriends and after. As you can see, their makeup has all but evaporated into thin air—or should we say, the 'boyfriend air'...

@officialrosiegallardo (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - a (opens in new tab)
@laramitr (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - 222 (opens in new tab)

The strange happening then begs the question, is it just an unexplained 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.'

@janette.xzeto (opens in new tab)

♬ Sneaky Snitch - Kevin MacLeod (opens in new tab)

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

Despite it being a pretty commonly shared experience—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...

@madisonvschramm (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - Madison Schramm (opens in new tab)

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, icky event.

@eleeenab (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - a (opens in new tab)

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

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

Skincare expert and founder of Bedew Skin, Rachael Robertson (opens in new tab), 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."

Robertson also 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 other might ruin your makeup forever and condemn you to a life of greasy hair 24/7—perhaps first quiz them on when the last time their sheets were washed...

Naomi Jamieson
Lifestyle News Writer

Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team and has recently earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ. She has a background in design, having studied Illustration at Plymouth University but has taken a leap into the world of journalism after always having a passion for writing. She currently writes pieces on beauty, trends, fashion, and entertainment for GoodTo and My Imperfect Life. She also tests and reviews beauty and skincare products and tries out the latest TikTok hacks for My Imperfect Life.

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.