What Is Dolphin Skin? Experts Share Tips for Instagram Highlighter Look

If some sort of food or object has a shiny (or cushy) enough of a surface — glass, mochi, glazed doughnuts — chances are it’s only a matter of time before someone creates a way to bring the same effect to our skin. Now, animals are fair game for inspiration with the rising popularity of dolphin skin. 

Just like the smooth, plump, reflective skin of the aquatic mammal, “Dolphin skin is a new beauty term being used to describe a glistening, luminous, fresh-out-of-the-water makeup look,” makeup artist Mary Phillips tells Allure. “I think it’s a perfect way to describe this multidimensional aesthetic.”  

Contrary to what posts under the dolphin skin hashtag on Instagram may tell you, Phillips, who works with Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and Kendall Jenner, doesn’t take credit for coining the term. She too learned about it through social media and fell in love with it. “My signature look has always emphasized hydrated, dewy, radiant skin, so I’m happy to see it trending,” she adds. 

Let’s dive into the basics of dolphin skin. 

How to Achieve Dolphin Skin 

1. Base 

To create super shiny, wet, seemingly slippery skin, “You want to basically layer all your illuminating and hydrating products on top of each other to create dimension,” explains makeup artist Mai Quynh

More specifically, Phillips starts off her pre-makeup skin prep with La Mer’s The Concentrate to reduce redness (we also suggest the Sioris A Calming Day Ampoule), as well as a moisturizer. “This is best applied by warming up a pea-sized amount in between the fingertips then gently pressing it onto the skin,” she explains. 

After moisturizing, Phillips dabs a liquid highlighter, like the L’Oréal Paris Lumi Glotion, atop cheekbones and down the bridge of the nose to get skin glowing with a hint of pearlescence. She follows that up by blending an even layer of sheer, luminous foundation all over. (We love the Make Up For Ever Reboot Foundation.) For extra coverage, you can add concealer where needed. 

Quyhn, on the other hand, prefers to slather on the Weleda Skin Food first before the Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Hydrating Primer for dolphin skin looks. Then, she blends a foundation with a dewy or satin finish all over. 

2. Cheeks 

To add warmth and dimension to skin, Phillips reaches for the Nudestix Nudies Matte in Sunkissed (a coral-toned bronzer) and buffs it onto the hollows of the cheeks and “anywhere the sun would naturally hit,” she says. 

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