What’s ‘dolphin skin’? The makeup trend explained – and, how to nail it

Admittedly, when I was first informed of the latest beauty trend, ‘dolphin skin’, I was concerned. Was Flipper and her family the latest ingredient promising clear, plump, wrinkle-free skin? It seemed unkosher and wildly regressive. With a quick Google search I was delighted to find out my worries were unwarranted, and that the dolphin skin trend is the next-level evolution—and makeup-centric adaptation—of the glowy, dewy, and glassy skin trends (no dolphins harmed—especially this one).

Take note of this trend: as we come closer to spring (and closer to finally leaving our homes, fingers crossed), you can bet it’ll be the inspiration behind the glow on everyone’s faces. Here’s everything you need to know about dolphin skin, and how to achieve it yourself.


Like a dolphin leaping gracefully out of crystal clear seas, this look—coined by makeup artist to the stars Mary Phillips—is inspired by the iridescent, wet-look highlight effect created as the sun beams across the wet, slippery curves of a dolphin. The idea is for your skin to look crystal clear, satisfyingly smooth and hyper-radiant. While this may sound like what we know as dewy or glass skin, the difference is simple: dewy and glass skin are achieved with your skincare, and dolphin skin is achieved with makeup—pair them together for glow-getting harmony.

Before you start: This trend works best on recently exfoliated, ultra-hydrated skin. So glide those Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Daily Peel pads all over your face, followed by a coating of Tatcha’s Beauty Election-winning Dewy Skin Cream, or let Glow Recipe’s new Dewy or Glass Skin Sets be your all-in-one cheat-sheet.


Go light, go luminous. If the bottle says matte or its form is powder… don’t even think about it. This trend can be adapted to both high-glam and no-makeup makeup looks, but either way, you’re going to want your skin to look like skin, while delivering a lit-from-within-ness from the get-go. Start with a primer that promises to illuminate—Laura Mercier’s Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer and MECCA MAX’s Bring On Bright Illuminating Primer will not fail you.

For light (but buildable!) coverage—your ‘no-makeup’ choice—opt for Morphe’s new Hint Hint Skin Tint from their new, more low-key collection, Morphe 2. It’s hydrating with a water-like texture and a radiant, second-skin finish.

For medium coverage, try Chantecaille Future Skin—it has a unique oil-free gel texture and a super fresh, dewy finish. It’s actually formulated with 60 percent charged water and seaweed, making it not only hydrating, but an oceanic no-brainer for this look.

And for wearable full coverage, go for Hourglass Illusion Hyaluronic Skin Tint. Like the above, it’s filled with juicy hydrators, but has a slightly thicker, whipped cream texture that provides extra coverage without heaviness or an impacted glow.


By now your skin should be radiant and typically, you might stop there. But here’s where the dolphin skin trend truly comes to play, and all the fun begins. Before you go wild with the highlighter, bring some lively colour back into your cheeks with a cream blush—let the new MECCA MAX Off Duty Blush Sticks be your first port of call for an instant, soft-focus flush, or Morphe’s Wondertint Cheek & Lip Mousse for a slightly stained finish. A soft cream contour would work well here too, especially if your features are on the rounder side.

Now for the dolphin dew: the end goal is gleaming, glistening skin that looks wet and dimensional—not drenched in oil—so be strategic in the placement of your highlighters, which, for best results, should be cream or balm based, layered beneath a gloss. Bench those powders and glitters.

As you already have done in your base, you want to layer up to build that dimension, paying closest attention to the highpoints of your face—your cheekbones, tip and bridge of the nose, temples, brow bones, chin. A pop of shimmer in the inner corners of your eyes will elevate the look too (try Morphe’s new Jelly Eye Shimmer in ‘Bright Idea’.

For your first layer of wet-look sheen, go for a swipe of MECCA MAX Off Duty Glow Stick, an iridescent, dewy, wet-look cream highlighter that’ll deliver a hint dolphin-esque glow with microscopic shimmer particles. If you prefer a liquid to a stick, try Kevyn Aucoin’s coveted Glass Glow Face in the shades ‘Crystal Clear’, ‘Solar Quartz’ or ‘Pixie Dream’.

For your second and final layer go for gloss with Morphe’s Gloss Pop Face & Eye Gloss. Free from shimmer, it will ensure the light does all the work, amplified by the highlighted layers underneath. And ta-da: you have slick, slippery-looking skin, as though you’ve gracefully emerged from crystal clear seas.


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