Why the quarantine Glow Up doesn’t really exist

Supposedly, many people came back from COVID-19 with a quarantine glow up. However, did everyone really have a “glow up,” or did they just grow up? 

According to dictionary.com, a glow up is “an informal term for a positive personal transformation, typically one involving significant changes in appearance and style and often also growth in confidence and maturity.” Essentially, a glow up seems to be simply defining growing up. 

When COVID-19 was at its height, I was in the midst of my eighth grade year, preparing to transition into high school life. When school shut down, I had an awful side part and no sense of style. I came back with blonde highlights, a new makeup routine, and a whole different closet. 

This transformation is what many people would categorize as a quarantine glow-up. At the time, I thought this was the biggest compliment ever. Looking back, I don’t really think I glowed up: I think it was just a phase of growing up. 

Quarantine glow ups were a popular topic of conversation on different platforms of social media. There was a trending hashtag on Instagram saying #quarantineglowup with over 5000 posts. Additionally, there were multiple trends on TikTok where teens would show pictures of themselves before quarantine (with the caption “Two weeks off from school”) followed by beautiful pictures of them after lockdown. However, the pictures weren’t comparable: the photos after quarantine were so much older and more mature then the pre-quarantine ones. 

This is due to one simple fact: COVID-19 lasted more than a few months. We didn’t go back to school until the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year: two years after the pandemic started. Obviously, we’re going to age. We’re not going to come back with the same middle school face we went into lockdown with.

According to hopkinsmedicine.org, most teenagers grow the most between ages 13-18. I was 14 when quarantine started and 16 when we returned to normalcy. Two years of prime growth was done in lockdown, so obviously when people saw me again I’d look different. 

The definition also states that a “glow up” involves a change in confidence. This personal development is also a huge part of growing up. Very few people feel confident during their middle school years, especially combined with the adolescent changes occurring at this time. We were all still in our awkward stage when quarantine started and we returned with the confidence that comes with simply growing up. 

Essentially, the quarantine glow up is a mask for just growing up. We transformed from our middle school bodies into our high school persona, all throughout lockdown, which made each change more shocking. But in the end, the same changes would have occurred without lockdown. We never glowed up, we just grew up.