If you’ve been on TikTok lately, you’ve probably heard of WaterTok, a rapidly growing corner of the internet where people share their favorite ‘water recipes,’ usually involving a mix of low-calorie flavored syrups or powders and, of course, water. WaterTok influencers have created such innovative concoctions as ‘Birthday Cake Water.’ The recipe? Four pumps of cotton candy-flavored syrup and three pumps of vanilla almond-flavored syrup. Oh, and water.

What’s wrong with WaterTok?

There are a couple issues with this trend. First of all, these names are setting people up for disappointment. Birthday cake and water are two totally different things, and if you expect your beverage to taste like birthday cake, you’re probably gonna be let down. I feel the same way about glazed lemon loaf tea. Sorry, but It just can’t live up to its name.

Also, as TikTok user @allinthemusic points out, this isn’t really water. Sure, it starts as water, but if you call any drink with a base of water ‘water,’ coffee is water. Soda is water. Juice is water. You get the point.

Additionally, this trend isn’t exactly innovative. Flavored water enhancers have been around for a long time. This is just people putting it in a fancy cup and slapping a fancy name on it. As TikTok user @evieonthetv pointed out, “It’s like gentrified koolaid.”

Is WaterTok really about hydration?

WaterTok is advertised as a movement all about hydration. But in reality it's not. It's about diet culture. It’s about not allowing yourself to have an actual birthday cake, so you have to pretend that your drink tastes like a birthday cake. As dietitian Abbey Sharpe points out in a TikTok comment of her video discussing the trend, WaterTok can be dangerous for those struggling with eating disorders. "It’s also actually a very common to use these sugar free drink mixes in excess when struggling w disordered eating," she wrote. "Enjoy in moderation, no different than Diet Coke. It’s not a replacement for water."

Personally, I would so much rather eat a slice of birthday cake and drink a glass of water than drink 'Birthday Cake Water.' It would be just as hydrating. Actually a little more, because birthday cake, like all food, contains water.

Some WaterTok influencers are more up front about the diet-y nature of the trend, arguing that the flavored beverages can help people lose weight. However, this claim is somewhat contradicted by a recent announcement from the World Health Organization advising not to use non-sugar sweeteners for weight control. 

I have no problem with people drinking whatever they want. You do you. And I understand that adding flavor to water helps some people stay hydrated. I even love those bougie spa waters infused with cucumber and mint and citrus and whatnot. They make me feel so fancy. But the issue with WaterTok is that influencers are claiming it’s healthy or normal to add tons of artificial sweeteners and syrups to everything they drink and sharing it on social media with thousands of people. And for many, these watery concoctions are replacing actual nourishing food and beverages.

So personally, the only WaterTok recipe I will be trying is this parody shared by Sharpe, better known as @abbeyskitchen. And I will be adding vodka. And I will call it what it is, a cocktail.