Our Guide For Getting The Glowy 'Dolphin Skin' Look

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We're suckers for a good skin effect. Whether it's a matte finish on our makeup or a satin finish with sunscreen, we love switching up how our skin reflects light. Lately, we — and probably the rest of the world — have been really into dewy, luminous skin. From glass and mochi skin to Hailey Bieber's glazed doughnut look, we want all the misty look. So it's no surprise that we are once again obsessed with another food-themed, your skin-but-better effect. Our latest favorite is dolphin skin, and we promise that no animals, cute dolphins especially, were harmed in this one.


If you've ever been to an aquarium to see the dolphins, we bet one of the first things you noticed was the slick, iridescent sheen on their skin. Well, that sheen is what the dolphin skin looks replicated on your skin: the illusion of wet, glistening, no-makeup makeup. The goal is to make your skin look glowy, supple, and luminous, almost like you just stepped out of the pool. Popularized by celebrity makeup artist Mary Philips, dolphin skin merges skincare and makeup techniques to achieve that glossy, all-around pearlescent finish.

To help you achieve your dewiest look yet, here is our all-in-one guide to the dolphin skin trend. Let's dive right in.

Cleanse and exfoliate for your brightest skin yet

If there's one thing we've learned from a year of wearing glass skin and other dewy looks, it's that proper skin prep is the key to fantastic makeup looks. Dolphin skin is all about your skin but better, so you need to start with clean skin. For this look, it's best to go with hydrating products. Start by cleansing your face with a hydrating cleanser, like the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser, which has a rating of 4.6 stars at Walmart. While we prefer to double cleanse with a balm or oil and with a hydrating cleanser after, using your cleanser alone will do.


Next up, exfoliate. Want to know one thing that's not so luminous? Dead skin cells. Exfoliating, whether with a physical or chemical exfoliator, helps to lift dead skin cells off and clear debris from within your pores, giving you softer, smoother, and instantly brighter skin. Now, we live for a good scrub, but it's crucial to be wary of microtears from the harsh edges of the scrub grains. As such, it's best to prep your skin with a chemical exfoliator instead. 

Once you're done cleansing and exfoliating, it's time to moisturize.

Moisturize, protect, and prime for that perfect skin prep

What better way to get that healthy, wet look than moisturized skin? Try a moisturizer with deeply-hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ectoin, and even polyglutamic acid for that hydrated glow. These will plump up your skin and make makeup application much smoother. You can also add a skin-enhancing serum like the Farsali Liquid Glass Serum, made specifically for the dewy skin look and retails for $54.


Now with all that glow, you'll probably be spending some time in the sun. And in this house, we do not skip sunscreen. To follow the hydrating theme you've got going on, swap your regular satin-finish sunscreen for one that leaves a dewy, glowy finish. For this, we've tried and love Supergoop's Glowscreen SPF 40 Sunscreen, which has a rating of 4.1 stars at Sephora and doubles as an illuminating primer. Primer creates a better canvas for your makeup to sink into, and using an illuminating one instead of a mattifying option will further enhance your glow.

A luminous base for your shiniest sheen yet

Now that your skin is fully prepped, it's time to have fun with your makeup. First off, this is a dewy party, and that means matte products get zero entry, except in cases like for people with extra oily skin. For your complexion products, try a dewy or sheer luminous foundation like the NARS Sheer Glow Foundation or the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, both of which have a rating of 4.2 stars on Sephora. Again, dolphin skin is about letting your skin peek through, so using sheer, glowy complexion products is a sure way to achieve that soft, barely-there glow.


While it can be tempting to apply the same amount of product you're used to (especially if you're like us and love full glam), it's essential not to be heavy-handed with your foundation and concealer. Instead, apply a portion of what you usually would and focus on blending for that barely-there makeup look. Or better still, you can skip foundation entirely and try a dewy tinted moisturizer or a self-made mix of liquid highlighter and moisturizer for that iridescent glow.

Once you finish that, it's time for some color and shine.

Put on some blush and light it all up

The base is done, but you can't go glowy without some cream blush and liquid slash balm highlighter. Where blush adds warmth and color to your skin for that healthy, sunkissed effect, highlighter adds the much-desired radiance to your face. Like your foundation, the trick is not to be heavy-handed but apply only at strategic points on your face. Knowing the best blush and highlighter placement for your face will maximize your glow, as there's a thin line between having dolphin skin or just looking like a shiny ball of sparkly highlighter.


For highlighter, apply mainly to the highest points of your face. These include the tip of your nose, a little on the bridge of your nose, your cupid's bow, your cheekbones, and a light swipe on your temples. For blush, use the pads of your fingers to apply on the desired area of your cheeks. You can apply it directly on the apples of your cheeks, across the bridge of your nose, or up toward your temples. Whichever area you choose to apply it on, knowing your face and what placements work best is crucial to nailing this look. For recommendations, we are ardent fans of the fan-favorite Soft Pinch Liquid Blush from Rare Beauty and the ILIA Multi-Stick Cream Blush.

For some more warmth and shadows, apply some bronzer to your cheeks and around your jaw and forehead.


Time for your eyes and lips

And now for the cherry at the top: your eyes and lips. For these, you do not have to do elaborate techniques like a smoky eye, a cut crease, or a lip lift. All you need is a swipe of your favorite iridescent eyeshadow shade, whether cream or liquid. You could choose a shade closer to your skin tone for a soft gradient between your base and eye and gently swipe it onto your lids with a finger. For an even more wet look even on your eyes, try the glossy eye technique by using a blending brush to lightly apply some clear gloss on top of your iridescent skin-toned eyeshadow. Wondering what our eyeshadow pick is? We're big fans of the Danessa Myricks Beauty Colorfix Eye, Cheek & Lip Cream Pigment with a rating of 4.4 at Sephora.


A quick reminder that dolphin skin is all about a glistening, pearlescent finish, and what better way to go pearlescent on your lips than with some lip oils and glosses? Lip oils tread the line between makeup and skincare, making them the perfect choice to finish your look while keeping your lips plump and hydrated. For recommendations, the cult-favorite Clarins Lip Comfort Oil is pretty high on our list.

Set your face, and don't leave out your body

You did it — you achieved dewy, sun-kissed skin! But it doesn't end there. You need to set your face to ensure your look stays fresh out of the water and does not get greasy throughout the day. To maintain the glossy look, switch your mattifying setting spray for a hydrating dewy one like the Iconic London Prep-Set-Glow. This primer contains light-reflecting particles which guarantee a beautiful, even glow.


Now that you're done setting, it's time for your body because the glow does not end with your face. Moisturizing and sealing are essential for a healthy, dewy sheen on the rest of your body. A body lotion with deeply-hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid or body butter with essential oils is a great way to moisturize and refresh your skin. Follow this up with a sealing oil like our forever fave, the Osea Malibu Undaria Algae Body Oil, which has a rating of 4.7 stars at Ulta. And finally, sunscreen. You can use a sunscreen lotion or a spray sunscreen, whichever works for you and your skin.

And that's how to achieve dolphin skin!