What is dolphin skin? Inside the beauty trend sweeping social media

Move over glass skin—dolphin skin is the latest complexion trend to take over Instagram

model with glowing skin
(Image credit: PeopleImages via Getty Images)

The friendliest mammals are now a source of beauty inspo: dolphin skin has been making the rounds on social media, and everyone's dying to achieve that dewy style à la Flipper. 

Bet you didn't expect that from the latest TikTok beauty hack or Instagram hashtag, right? To nail the popular new look, let's dive in!

As it turns out, the aquatic cuties are not just beloved for their cute demeanor, but their glistening aura as well. Beauty experts are currently channeling that sleek look with natural-toned products. The new trend, which has garnered over 3,000 posts under #dolphinskin via Instagram, is a hit amongst Hollywood heavyweights, including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and J Lo. And let's be honest: when is J Lo not setting trends? (You did see her Touch of Toffee hair shade, right?)

Although stacking our makeup routine alongside J Lo's may seem daunting, the dolphin skin effect is actually fairly simple to replicate. When you think about it, what's easier than highlighting your features naturally?

What is dolphin skin?

"It's a beauty term to describe a glowy, hydrated, fresh-out-of-the-water makeup look that's natural," according to the experts at Vera Clinic, Turkey's leading cosmetic hospital. "The look is very easy and affordable to achieve and anyone of any makeup level can create the look."

Likewise, UK-based makeup artist Adeola Gboyega writes on Instagram: "Dolphin skin is the latest highlighting technique to give you smooth, plump and luminous skin, just like a dolphin." 

Makeup artist Mary Phillips is particularly known for decking out her clientele in this polished manner. Have a look at her handiwork below! See, not too difficult to copy, right?

How to get dolphin skin

"Once you have completed your base makeup, the last step is to apply a highlighter on the tip and bridge of the nose, temples, brow bones and chin, as well as blush on cheeks to give the appearance of high cheekbones, says the pros over at Vera Clinic.

Additionally, Adeola Gboyega has provided step-by-step tips on Instagram to help you get in the groove.

  1. Exfoliate – "get those dead skin cells off, guys!"
  2. Hydrate – "go in with your favorite hydrating serum"
  3. Moisturize – "go in with a glowy moisturiser, love this stuff!"
  4. Foundation – "choose a radiant base; I mean, come on, look at my skin with this Pat [McGrath] foundation. It's everything!"
  5. Highlighter – "I recommend using a cream because it gives that skin-like luminosity"
  6. Lip balm – "which I absolutely love to use on my cheeks and lips"

Shop these MUA-approved dolphin skin products:

Kate Somerville Liquid ExfoliKate| $60 at Sephora, £52 at Lookfantastic)

Kate Somerville Liquid ExfoliKate| $60 at Sephora, £52 at Lookfantastic)

A triple acid attack against dullness and dryness, this liquid exfoliant sloughs off dead skin cells to reveal a healthy-looking complexion.

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair| $75 at Sephora, £60 at Lookfantastic)

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair| $75 at Sephora, £60 at Lookfantastic)

It's the stuff that sells 22 times per minute, this serum is hailed by many as the best in the business. 

Sunday Riley CEO Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream | $65 at Sephora, £60 at Space NK)

Sunday Riley CEO Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream | $65 at Sephora, £60 at Space NK)

Sunday Riley's CEO products have many a celeb fan, and this moisturizer brightens and evens out your complexion for a radiant finish.

Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Foundation | $68, £61

Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Foundation | $68, £61

Up there with the holy grail of foundations, this 36-shade, buildable formula has a silky finish for your best skin ever. 

Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Balm Duo | $48, £45

Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Balm Duo | $48, £45

Available in three different shades, think of this as a supermodel glow in stick balm form.

Who knew that 2021's beauty muse would be a creature of the deep? BRB, off to perfect our dolphin skin routine...

Lucy Abbersteen

Lucy is a beauty journalist who has written for titles including Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, OK!, woman&home and Women's Health, as well as regularly contributing to My Imperfect Life. Her work covers everything from skin and haircare tips to trying and testing the latest beauty launches, and interviewing celebrities and experts. A certified dog person, her other interests include mental wellbeing, books, piña coladas and not getting caught in the rain.