Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
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I wear makeup most days so I like to think I've got the skill down to a T. Smooth foundation application isn't the same without a glycerin-packed moisturiser like CeraVe Moisturising Cream, for example, and applying blush through your fingers (trust me on this one) is the best way to achieve sculpted cheeks. But when it comes to highlighter — the kind that's meant to lend skin a dewy, lit-from-within glow — I happen to fall short.
Most highlighter products (whether powder or liquid) contain some sort of sparkle. A lot of brands favour finely milled glitter, while others lean towards synthetic mica (a shimmering powder made of microscopic, twinkling flakes). There's no denying that both catch the light at every angle but on my oily, acne-prone skin they always look frosty and settle into my pores, no matter how well I blend. It seems I'm not the only one. According to Google, 'why does my highlighter look chalky/grey/bad on me' are all common makeup queries — and it looks like TikTok's makeup artists might have the solution.
@katiejanehughes Try this if you like no makeup makeup! #FYP #BeautyHack #convealer #makeupartist ♬ original sound - Katiejanehughes
If you're a beauty lover with a TikTok account, you'll know that white concealer isn't exactly a brand-new product. It went viral not long ago for minimising the appearance of dark under-eye circles better than any green, lilac or orange colour corrector (and even better than flesh-toned concealer). "White concealer is more effective for achieving a bright and lifted appearance," confirmed Saffron Hughes, makeup artist at FalseEyelashes.co.uk. "This concealer trick can be used on all skin tones because when blended together with foundation, it creates your own custom concealer shade." That said, it does require the rest of your base products (for example, foundation or skin-coloured concealer) in order to blend and complete the full look, said Saffron.
Enlisting the product as a highlighter is different. This time, it goes over your makeup rather than under it, as demonstrated by makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes and TikToker Sierra Cannon, whose video has gained an incredible 8 million views and counting. Taking a teeny tiny brush, Katie strategically applies little dots of concealer above her Cupid's bow, on the tip of her nose, underneath each brow arch, on her chin and the tops of her cheekbones. "Anywhere you want to bring more light," said Katie.
Clean the excess concealer away so that you're not blending in more product than you've already applied, advised Katie, then carefully pinpoint-blend all those little highlights. "You will be left with a brightened, more awake complexion," she promised. The comments underneath Sierra's video suggest that white highlighter can be transformative. "Fav part when doing makeup," wrote one follower. "It gives such a refreshed look."
Katie uses a shade from her makeup artist's palette but Sierra enlists the viral NYX Professional Makeup Jumbo Eye Pencil, $11.69. I used Makeup Revolution Conceal & Define Concealer in shade C0, $10, which has been a staple in my makeup routine since discovering the under-eye hack not long ago.
@blendsbypouja Safe to say there are better shades in the collection, HOWEVER this shade is soooo unique on my skintone & im kinda in love #beautyhacks #beautyreview #makeup #viralmakeup #fyp #sephora #selenagomez #rarebeauty #fullfaceofrarebeauty #viral ♬ come and get it - <3
After applying a little foundation (I recently pivoted to Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear Care & Glow Foundation, $69, which is lightweight but provides great coverage) and perfecting my blush, I dotted the concealer onto the high points of my face straight from the concealer wand. This was a mistake. I ended up using way too much, which meant blending it out took a while and almost ruined my painstakingly applied makeup. I went back in with the remainder of the product on my foundation brush to cancel out the striking white tones, which worked a treat, and headed back to the drawing board.
Like Katie, the key to nailing this trend is investing in the smallest fluffy brush and applying minimal product. It could be a brush you already use for eyeshadow, for example, or even lipstick. I used the Crown Deluxe Blending Crease Brush, $13.20, which has served me well for such a long time. (Beauty editor tip: pro makeup artists love this brand and the brushes wash really well, year after year.)
This time, blending was easy and as the product melted into my foundation base, any worries or fears that I would end up looking peaky or like a Van Gogh painting dissipated. My skin glowed but not in the unnaturally glinty way that is typical of a swathe of shimmer highlighter. There were no obvious glitter particles to settle into my pores or appear stripy on my skin, but any lighter tones are bound to accentuate skin texture a little. And anyway, texture is our friend.
To make sure this wasn't just a fluke or a good skin day, I incorporated white highlighter into my beauty routine for a couple of extra days. Every time, I was just as pleasantly surprised at how normal it looked on my skin. My partner couldn't tell, either. Without letting him in on what I'd done, I asked if anything appeared different. He mentioned that my cheekbones looked more elevated — I'll take that! One thing I wouldn't do again is highlight my nose, though, as the white concealer accentuated my peach fuzz here. It pays to choose a hydrating moisturiser as a base, too. I'm currently using La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume, $22.95.
I had to ask London-based makeup artist and TikToker Tilly Ferrari for her honest thoughts on this trend. "I think it always looks great on TikTok because of the lighting," said Tilly. "A matte white concealer reflects the light and brings forward the areas of the face you want to highlight." London-based makeup artist Famida agrees, and told me that white concealer simply brightens the area it is applied to, which gives the illusion of a glow. However, it's not something she would do on a client. Tilly says it's always worth remembering what lighting setup someone has on video, though, as direct daylight and studio lights will always make someone look flawless.
@jacquelinekilikita If you hate sparkly highlighter, try this! @Katiejanehughes @tilly ferrari #whiteconcealer #highlighter #highlighterhack #beautyinatik #makeuphacks ♬ Dreamy Vibes - Ocean Bay Jazz
"Mattifying textures will always look this way under direct light," adds Tilly, "as there is nothing shimmery, glossy or glittery to reflect the light, therefore giving a smoother look." She says that the result may vary in natural light. Tilly doesn't think that this is an everyday hack for everyone. In fact, she thinks it's a bit risky, particularly if the product isn't blended very well (as I found out the first time I tried it).
Tilly suggests testing your makeup with a camera flash if you're headed anywhere where pictures are being taken, and she shares a great tip on her TikTok page: applying a highlighting serum underneath your makeup instead. Tilly doesn't go anywhere without a slick of the virtually undetectable e.l.f. Halo Glow Liquid Filter, $30, and I really rate both Saie Glowy Super Gel, $43.56, and Vieve Skin Dew, $37.62, under makeup for lending skin a subtle, dewy effect.
So does the white highlighter hack work on all skin tones? I asked makeup artist and self-proclaimed "dewy skin maker" Mira Parmar for her take. "Anything light accentuates features, making them pop, and anything dark pulls features back in, like a contour," says Mira. "Highlighter is a makeup product that reflects light, so it comes in all light colour forms." It is typically used on the highest points of the face like cheekbones, bridge of the nose and Cupid's bow, says Mira, so using white concealer or pencil is just another way of highlighting.
"Make sure you really blend this in to give that perfect flawless finish," she advises. "A white pencil will look more like skin without sparkle. It works on most skin tones but the darker your skin, the more you may want to use a cream or beige tone to suit your colouring." Famida echoes this: "To create something that is more skin-like and realistic, it's best to use a tone which is two shades lighter [than your skin or foundation base] to highlight the areas you want."
There's a reason why white highlighter has achieved viral status: it divides opinion. On the days when I don't want to wear much makeup, I'll make like Katie and pop a minuscule amount onto my high points only, just to dial up the glow. And if it's not for you, that's okay. Just like aura blush and ice cream contouring, TikTok makeup trends are meant to be a fun experiment.