Posted on February 21, 2022 in Technology

Resin Is For Professionals (And Other Issues with Online Trends)

Epoxy Resin (and other assorted resins) had a big surge on TikTok, followed by a lot of backlash. Resin encompasses a ton of different materials, but the kind trending right now is plastic epoxy resin. The stuff has a ton of different uses – boats use a form of it. Dice, small figurines, and collectibles can be made out of it. Kitchen counters and floors can be coated in it.

The issue isn’t in the resin itself, even though people are right about the product’s longevity: this stuff is indestructible, and it can last decades, centuries even, in a landfill. Some forms of it leach in water, others turn yellow with excessive exposure to sunlight. Not every resin is food-safe, not all resin is scratch-resistant. It’s serious stuff! And yet it’s cheap, widely available nature means that some people online were treating it like air-dry clay instead of the very serious, often carcinogenic chemicals the resin family is.

Criticism for making toys out of the wrong type of resin, using unethically sourced mica powders, without gloves or a mask was warranted. Those people could really end up hurting someone with their final product if they used the wrong kind of resin on a cutting board or in a bowl. They could also end up really hurting themselves while they’re making it. This shouldn’t have been a trend.

Other trends on TikTok use far more innocuous chemicals: you got your Borax skulls and your acrylic paint pours, your furniture renovation with both Citri-Strip and varnish. The chemicals in all of these projects are generally nice enough to hurt you when you inhale them, and so you don’t do it again. Resin, on the other hand, produces fumes that can be odorless and colorless, but not any less dangerous to lung health. Which is why it should have stayed in the hands of the experts.

Demand Vs. Suppliers

Even knowing all of the downsides, resin is still a good product for many things! It was just being misused as a result of trends online. What about the people who were looking to preserve things indefinitely, and knew how to do it? What about the people making products like countertops and jewelry out of the right stuff?

A lack of context and a sudden burst of newbies meant that even experts were getting hounded about their products ending up in a landfill in a year, with complaints by commentors who only knew ‘thing bad’. Of course ‘thing bad’ when people misuse it! While that was often the case for the stuff that newbies made (those gigantic themed resin pyramids come to mind) it’s not necessarily the case for everyone else doing resin-work. You can’t trap a real flower in glass, for example, but you can with resin – and so someone looking to preserve a real flower would turn to someone who uses resin.

This also highlights a critical issue with the comments about landfills and un-biodegradable stuff. That person with the forget-me-not has to choose to keep it after a year. The person who ordered a sunflower themed pyramid is choosing to get rid of it. Comments coming after the supply and not the demand aren’t actually solving the issue the way they hope they are. Sure, some of the people using resin were producing things that wouldn’t sell, but many more were working with resin’s incredible customizability to offer one-of-a-kind, made-to-order products – especially the pros.

The issue is multifaceted, and not every piece of resin art or every resin toy ends up in the trash. It is ultimately up to the end consumer to stop asking for resin jewelry, resin shakers, resin pyramids, resin dice, resin coasters, resin… and use something more sustainable instead. If, say, small wooden cubes took off on Pinterest and Instagram, there wouldn’t have been so much of a fuss about the product’s ultimate fate when the owner was done with it, whether that was the garbage or Goodwill.


Which leads into the next point – why did resin become a trend? It’s smelly and hard to work with, most of the time, and the plastics (gloves, masks, molds, glitter, etc.) that go into making small resin items can really add up over time.

However, resin, in all of its glory, is very easy to buy and very cheap depending on what brand you get. It’s insanely customizable. Experts were showing off incredible works of art, and newbies were thinking ‘I can do that too!’ The same way an inexperienced artist thinks Van Gogh’s Almond Blossoms was easy to paint. In the case of resin, they were somewhat right – molds and glitter are easy. Mixing is easy. Anything else? Even getting those pours bubble-free? Is painfully difficult. Resin went back to being a dice and countertop thing, with a small fraction of the original crop of sellers continuing to sell little resin toys and pyramids alongside the people who’d been making cool stuff all along.

Resin was subject to the content generation trend cycle. Once something is trending, people want to try it, and they want to try and sell it, too.

Lipgloss was the first one I personally noticed on TikTok – other companies sell lipgloss bases that only leave coloring and flavoring up to the purchaser, and so many people thought they could just buy all the lipgloss stuff and start cranking out orders. Well… no. Facilities are a huge part of cosmetics manufacturing. Lipgloss is a cosmetic item, and people are very picky about hygiene; anyone obviously trying to mix product in an unsanitizable paper bowl and then bottle it up on a kitchen counter got ripped apart in the comments. For clear reasons, hopefully.

Bath bombs followed a similar trajectory, and content generators went back to pre-made bath bombs for their photoshoots once they realized how tough it was to keep them fresh and ready to fizz without any preservatives. For the people trying to sell them, a lack of professional fragrance oils meant that most of these bath bombs from trend sellers smelled like the classic set of essential oils available at craft stores. When everyone is making lavender and orange scented bath bombs, everyone is flooding out the market for those scents, and demand died down. There’s nothing wrong with DIY bath bombs – but they are very simple to make and therefore difficult to sell without some special gimmicks or scents.

Then, it was candles (and it still is candles sometimes). “WitchTok” in particular got the short end of the stick when it comes to candles, because people were trying to sell to well-meaning practitioners of the Wicca religion candles coated or filled with herbs. Dried herbs.

Dried herbs are flammable.

Candle jars are only designed to handle so much heat from the wick and wax. Generally, a cheap glass candle won’t tolerate being literally filled with flammable objects and then set alight, and many folks had issues with out-of-control flames, foul-smelling smoke, and cracked glass. Unluckier people had their candle literally explode the glass container it was in. Experts know all of this; experts were telling TikTokers that their candles were dangerous. Unlike resin (which isn’t associated with religion) many commentors told the experts to shut up and go away, until glass jars started doing what the experts said they would do.

Trends are fun, and they can be a great way to pick up a hobby. Many other harmless trends like arm-knitting and baked soup recipes come and go, and nobody gets hurt by them. Some like the trend so much it becomes a new hobby for them, and some simply fizzle out. The issue is that there’s no clear dividing line between things like arm blankets, things like DIY screen printing, and more dangerous things like DIY resin projects.

Further complicating these trends is a desire to make money off of the products, and inexperienced beginners for any trade – candle-making, lipgloss-making, resin-making, blanket-making – may think they’ll start making purchasable-quality items right away! As such, they go hard into marketing, overstating their expertise and promising the world to their audience to try and make sales, which further clouds how difficult a certain hobby appears on the surface. I don’t think anybody really wanted to make exploding candles or unsanitary lipgloss – I think that happened because the selling itself became a trend, and the interest in the product only lasts as long as the trend does.

In this way, consumption is what generates the sub-par products. It’s not the resin’s fault. It’s not the bulk lipgloss manufacturer’s fault. It’s a culture that uses microtrends to justify tossing perfectly good items to replace them with the next hot thing. Who can blame someone for wanting to be that thing, even for a second?