TikTok’s ‘Celeb Skin’ Hack Made Me Ditch Highlighter For Good

Photo Courtesy of Jacqueline Kilikita
Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
Happily for everyone in need of a little assistance when it comes to makeup, TikTok's beauty experts aren't precious about sharing their tricks of the trade. Sure, some hacks are questionable (like enlisting brow gel as semi-permanent lip liner or using lube as foundation primer). But every once in a while, something comes along and makes me ask: Why didn't I think of that?
If you want dewy, glowing makeup but dislike the glazed donut/dolphin skin/glass skin/[insert random makeup trend name here] effect, TikTok's clever serum trick is probably your best bet. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly who dreamt this up but TikToker @yannalinnaa has the most views at 342.8k. In the video, captioned "Things I learned from a celeb makeup artist masterclass", Yana ditches glittery highlighter and cakey powder. Instead, they finish off their makeup by bouncing a pump of serum (Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops, £31, in case you were wondering) over their skin using a round sponge with a focus on high points, like cheekbones. The result isn't gleaming skin that can be seen from space but skin that glows in a truly natural, believable way.
TikTok's beauty enthusiasts were intrigued to say the least. Influencer @amelia0livia racked up 192.2k views having also given it a try, and 196.7k more in another video where they enlisted the same hack for a different makeup look. Even Hailey Bieber took to TikTok to try it using the Peptide Glazing Fluid from her Rhode Skin collection, gaining an even more impressive 2.7 million views.
During such a scorching summer, lots of us stripped back the makeup — myself included. Highlighter was the first thing to go, blurring the line between glowy and downright sweaty. Heading into autumn, though, skin gets a lot drier and shimmery highlighter, blush or powder accentuates rough texture. So is a dab of serum all you really need to achieve naturally gleaming skin all year round?
I applied my trusty Gucci Beauty Natural Finish Fluid Foundation, £46, over moisturised skin and did the rest of my makeup as usual, applying Rose Inc Solar Infusion Soft-Focus Cream Bronzer, £30 (on par with Chanel Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream, FYI) and a dusting of Lacura Translucent Setting Powder along my T-zone to mop up any oil. Luckily I had the aforementioned Glow Recipe serum to hand but I also love Garnier Vitamin C Serum, £11.99, Olay Glow Regenerist Serum For Glowing Skin, £29.99, and if you have a lot less to spend, Boots Glow Dewy Facial Serum, £4.
I made my first mistake applying the serum to a dry Beautyblender, which seemed to soak up the product immediately. TikTok's Amelia recommends pumping the serum onto a slightly damp sponge (remember to squeeze out the excess water) and bobbing it over the skin with a light hand so as not to shift your makeup.
I concentrated the serum to my cheekbones, Cupid's bow and the centre of my nose where the sunlight would typically hit and reflect. The effect was so much more convincing than a shimmer-laden highlighter. 'Lit from within' is an overused phrase in the beauty industry but the serum lent my makeup a subtle sheen, making my skin look supple and hydrated. I love layering the viral Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter Illuminator, £36, under and over makeup. But serum is persuasive and great if you prefer an understated beauty look.
I wanted a pro's take so I asked Tilly Ferrari, London-based makeup artist and TikToker, for her verdict. "It's a trick of the trade," says Tilly. "Using skincare products over makeup when you don't want to add glitter or shimmer to the skin instead creates a sheen." Tilly confirms this can be done over minimal makeup, like a little concealer, as well as a full face of foundation, but says to avoid putting powder on the areas where you'd like to apply the serum, for example your cheekbones. This could cause the makeup to separate.
It also depends on whether the serum you are using is oil- or water-based, adds Tilly, and this goes for your makeup, too. Applying an oil-based serum over a water-based foundation won't mesh well, as they repel each other. "I would recommend avoiding using anything oil-based over makeup," says Tilly. "Instead opt for something light and water-based so you don't remove any of your hard work." Tilly rates anything with an existing glowy quality or gel-like texture. She says that Glossier Futuredew, £23, was made for this hack but she also rates Byoma Hydrating Serum, £12.99, Typology Hydrating Serum, £24.90, and Bloom Effects Tulip Dew Drops, £54.
The key is to work in light layers. "Going with a full pump of serum directly on the skin is asking for trouble," says Tilly. "Work the product into your fingers or a sponge and then apply lightly in dabbing motions."
Despite being impressed by the initial result, the serum pretty much absorbed into my skin towards the end of the day. TikTok's beauty obsessives had my back, though, and suggested doing the exact same thing with a more substantial skincare product, like a moisturiser. TikTok loves Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream, £75, and I'm a huge fan of Allies of Skin Peptides & Antioxidants Firming Daily Treatment, £105, which makes skin twinkle. If you'd rather spend less, you can't go wrong with UpCircle Face Moisturiser With Vitamin E, £18.99, and Byoma Moisturizing Rich Cream, £13.99, both of which have nourishing skin benefits.
Highlighter has its place in makeup but this trick is pretty perfect for beauty minimalists who want glowing skin without the glitter. Would I try it again? It has actually replaced the highlighter step in my makeup routine but I'm gravitating towards a thicker moisturiser heading into autumn and winter, for longevity and souped-up skin benefits.
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