Lecia Bushak
Jan 30, 2024

Reese Witherspoon and TikTok’s ‘snowcream’ craze: Is eating snow healthy?

A viral ‘snowcream’ trend on TikTok has users—including Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon—scooping snow from outside and making it into a creamy dessert. But is it safe to eat?

Reese Witherspoon and TikTok’s ‘snowcream’ craze: Is eating snow healthy?

Over the last couple weeks, there's a new TikTok trend: ‘snowcream,’ or making homemade ice cream out of snow.

All over TikTok, people are scooping up snow from their backyards in bowls or mugs, bringing it inside—and mixing it with vanilla, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate syrup, sprinkles and anything else they think looks good.

In one video with more than 40 million views, TikToker @janelleandkate shows a woman excitedly making snowcream on a snowy day.

“It’s that time of year, I am going to make ice cream snow,” the woman says as she scoops snow off her car into a big pot. “And this is perfect—look—it hasn’t even been touched.”

@janelleandkate Snow cream coming in hot. #snowicecream #snowcreamrecipes #snowday #snow #recipes ♬ Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
@lakynsappalachianlife Snow cream is a core memory growing up in Appalachia. Just make sure your snow isnt yellow! �� #snowcream #snow #appalachia #appalachianlife #kentucky #eky #winter #snowday ♬ Little Maggie - Ralph Stanley
@tommywinkler Replying to @Requin That snow just creamed in my mouth #foodhacks #snowcream #foodiefam #thefoodguy #fyp ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys - Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

The TikTok videos about snowcream have gathered millions of views and an enraptured audience trying to make the most of the winter. These videos have also sparked a debate over whether eating snow is healthy or safe. 

The Reese Witherspoon effect

However, this undercurrent of interest became mainstream when Academy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon posted a snowcream video several days ago.

That TikTok took off, generating more than 5.2 million views by Friday afternoon. In it, she makes a coffee treat out of snow scooped off her car, calling it a “snow salt chococinno.”

“OK, so we got a ton of snow over the last few days, we decided to make a recipe,” Witherspoon says. “We scooped the snow into cups and we put it on top… and we decided to add some cold brew. A salted, snowy cappuccino.”

@reesewitherspoon

Snow days were made for Chococinnos ❄️☕️

♬ Let's go - Official Sound Studio

Witherspoon’s video prompted plenty of comments, questions and backlash online, with many people questioning whether it’s safe to eat snow.

“Can you put snow in a clear cup and let it melt, I just want to see if it’s safe to eat first,” one commenter asked.

“No no no… snow is not made to eat… [you] can get seriously sick,” another commenter warned.

Others pushed back, defending the snowy treat as a staple of their childhood: “The people saying snow is bad, have clearly never made snow ice cream!”

Another commenter noted: “You only live once. I remember eating snow as a kid.”

Witherspoon herself responded to the backlash, posting another video in which she explains that she did not drink filtered water as a kid and believes the snow is clean.

“So there’s so many people on here saying snow is dirty, so we went and took snow from the backyard, we microwaved it and it’s clear,” Witherspoon says. “Is this bad? Am I not supposed to eat snow?”

@reesewitherspoon Replying to @Mel ♬ original sound - Reese Witherspoon

Is eating snow healthy?

While in most cases eating a little bit of freshly fallen snow is harmless, experts note that there are possibilities for it to be dangerous—so you want to make sure you’re eating the right kind of snow.

Eating snow may be common among people who grew up in certain parts of the country but eating snow may go as far back as thousands of years ago, with legend saying Roman Emperor Nero enjoyed snow with honey as a treat.

Of course, the world is far more polluted today than it was back then, with the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) noting that snow captures pollution that exists in the atmosphere.

“As snow falls through the sky, it can lock in pollutants into its intricate latticework,” the NSIDC says on its website. “The most common is black carbon from coal-fired plants and wood-burning stoves. In a sense, that is why it is better to wait until a few hours into the snowfall to eat your first batch. Snow acts like a scrubbing brush as it falls through the atmosphere. So, the longer the snow falls, the cleaner the air, and also the snow.”

Snow closest to the ground is also the most likely to contain droppings from wild animals, rock salt filled with chemicals and pollutants scraped from the air as it falls down. According to The Washington Post, researchers have found newly fallen snow can contain pesticides, soot and chemicals like mercury.

@janelleandkate dangers of eating snow. #snow #psa #cooking #nowyouknow #facts #knowledge ♬ Murder On The Dancefloor - Sophie Ellis-Bextor

To be extra safe, experts suggest scooping up the freshest layer of snow after several hours of falling, as this is the most likely to be the cleanest. You can also place a bowl on a picnic table or patio to collect snow.

“The safest snow to consume will be the whitest, fluffiest top layer of fallen snow, furthest away from the ground,” a blog post by Nationwide Children’s Hospital notes. “[F]or safest consumption of snow, choose later-fallen or falling snow, on less windy days, that is white… never plowed snow or snow in direct contact with the ground.”

With this safety information in mind, people can—in theory—enjoy an occasional snowcream on a snowy day.

@cassidy_brooke_ #fyp #snow #snowcream #snowstorm ♬ Fantasy X Feel So Close Carter Walsh Mashup - CarterWalsh
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