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Beauty Look to try: dolphin skin

Oct. 2, 2020
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It seems there’s no end to the highlighting trend in sight. Just when you think it’s fading away, a twist on the classic look will spring up and reinvigorate our love for the shiny stuff. But the latest update on highlighter might just be the most intense yet—and it’s surprisingly easy to recreate at home.

Dolphin skin—named thanks to the wet, reflective look of our favorite sea mammals (sorry, whales)—is all about a high-gloss look that almost suggests recent emergence from a body of water. Glitter or shimmer has no place here, but a smoothed-out, super hydrated, and positively gleaming complexion is where it’s at.

Like with any intense skin look, you’ll need to put in some prep. Exfoliation is key to getting that high-shine finish, as you want to start with as smooth a base as possible. If you have a little time on your hands, the Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant mixed with a little baking soda is the most intensely smoothing at-home treatment I’ve tried. But for scrubbing in a hurry, I love the Omorovicza Refining Facial Polisher.

To further boost skin smoothness, an exfoliating toner is perfect. If you’re really sensitive to scrubs, you can skip the prior steps and just go in with something like the Inkey List Glycolic Toner on a cotton pad. This skincare bargain is comparable to many high-end acid toners I’ve tried.

After exfoliation is done, it’s time for hydration. To get wet-looking skin, it needs to be as moisturized as possible. Again, if you have some time, a hydrating mask like the Drunk Elephant F-Balm Electrolyte Water Facial will give your skin the drink it needs. 

If you’re crunched for time, an oil can be the perfect route to a juicy, dewy complexion. I love the Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil, which plumps and smooths without causing irritation. Mix it with a moisturizer (I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the Elemental Herbology Moisture Milk) to give an extra boost of glow.

To get the shiniest complexion possible, layering is key. Putting something glowy underneath your base can help fake a “lit-from-within” glow. The Tula Face Filter Blurring & Moisturizing Primer is a nice, subtle option. I also love the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter, which can be added just to the high points of your face. But for ultimate gleam, the MAC Strobe Cream is hard to beat—and it gets bonus points for that almost silvery, dolphin-esque hue.

To add some coverage where needed, I love using a small kabuki brush with the Kevyn Aucoin Foundation Balm or Glossier Stretch Concealer. These products both offer a good amount of coverage but with a smooth, hydrating texture. They can also be used in a targeted manner, covering up what’s needed but allowing the rest of your skin to shine (quite literally) through.

After you’re happy with your coverage, spritz your face liberally with a hydrating mist like the Heritage Store Rosewater with Glycerin. This will help seal everything in, and add yet another layer of dew.

Speaking of dew, you surely didn’t think we were done, did you? You’ll next want to add a layer of an uber-reflective liquid highlight to the high points of your face—cheekbones, brow bones, inner corners of the eyes, and cupid’s bow, in particular. The Glossier Futuredew and the Kevyn Aucoin The Glass Glow Face and Body Illuminator are both perfect for this, combining a hint of shimmer with a lot of wet gloss. Tap on with fingers and start slow, as it can be easy to overdo these products.

On top of that, you can add even more targeted gloss with a highlighting stick. I think the best way to get a truly multifaceted look is by opting for something with a cool, slightly bluish reflect. Both the Westman Atelier Lit Up Highlight Stick and the Glossier Haloscope in “Moonstone” offer an ethereal, ultraviolet vibe.

Another option, if going for an iridescent gloss isn’t for you, is a simple, clear balm. Adding just a dab to the highest points of the face can accentuate them further, plus boost the wetness of your highlight look. My favorite is the Frank Body Lip Balm, which is nice and shiny but doesn’t feel sticky or heavy, even when applied outside of the lip area.

To complete the look, I vote to keep things simple—kinda. When your skin is such a look, you really don’t need to opt for much more. I think a small dab of iridescent glitter on the lids can help complement the shininess of the face—the Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Gel in “Distortion” is perfect in this case. Add a swoosh of lengthening mascara (Glossier Lash Slick is the go-to) and brow gel (Glossier Boy Brow, but you knew that, right?) and you’re good to go.

Well, almost. There’s just one more thing—a liberal dousing of a glow-giving spray like the Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist. We’ve come this far, so why not add one more layer of glistening dew, right?