Move Over Glass Skin, Pearl Skin is the Latest Makeup Trend Taking Over TikTok

luminescent and iridescent

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pearl skin, seen on lupita nyong'o, emma stone and vanessa hudgens at the 2024 academy awards
Mike Coppola/Staff/Jeff Kravitz/Contributor/Jeff Kravitz/Contributor/Getty Images

Another day, another beauty trend. First it was the clean girl aesthetic. Then, soft goth burst onto the scene thanks to Wednesday. Ethereal makeup peaked for wedding season, with the “glazed doughnut” look permeating throughout. Everything evolved into glass skin, which is now ceding its position as the TikTok trend du jour to pearl skin. (A perfect complement to the coquette fashion trend making the rounds.) Whew. The good news is that unlike its predecessor, pearl skin is a much more attainable fad. “Pearl skin is relatively easy to achieve and looks so polished. You probably already have the products you need at home already and it’s just an easy shift in placement,” Smashbox Cosmetics Director and Global Pro Artist Lori Taylor Davis tells me. Below, I chat with her and makeup artist and author, Jenny Patinkin, about what defines the trend and how you can get the look.

Meet the Experts

  • Jenny Patinkin is a Chicago-based makeup artist, founder of an eponymous beauty brand and the author of Lazy Perfection: The Art of Looking Great Without Really Trying. Her brand has created an award-winning line of beauty tools loved by the likes of Allure, Cosmopolitan, Oprah and Better Homes & Gardens. Patinkin has contributed her expertise to outlets such as Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Rachael Ray Show and Martha Stewart.
  • Lori Taylor Davis is the global pro lead artist at Smashbox Cosmetics. She has over 30 years of industry experience, working events like New York and Paris Fashion Week and the MTV Movie Awards. Davis has also worked with celebrities such as Sandra Bullock and Bruno Mars.

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What Is Pearl Skin?

Pearl skin is a nod to the precious, iridescent stone from which it draws inspiration. “It’s satiny, silky, glowy, but not wet,” Patinkin tells me. It’s been making its rounds on the red carpet, notably the Academy Awards, with celebrities including Emma Stone, Emily Blunt, Lupita Nyong’o, Jennifer Lawrence and Vanessa Hudgens all showing up with iridescent cheekbones. TikTok is also taken with the look, and #pearlskin has racked up over 40 million views. Davis explains that “The difference really is in how that light reflection happens. Glass skin is a hydrated reflection, it is all about that skincare base. Pearl skin is creating that reflection with the use of pigmented highlighters and bronzers, and very strategic placement. Because the glow isn’t exclusively reliant on hydration, creams and fluids, there’s a little more wiggle room with the type of products you can use.” Patinkin notes that pearl skin beelines for the cheeks (although you can also experiment with the eyelids and nose—more on that later). “It’s like the guest star, not the whole show,” she says.

Who It Works For

Anyone can do pearl skin, no matter your skin type, texture and age. “Pearls [have complex colors]. When you look at the inside of an oyster shell or the pearl itself, it’s got a million different colors in it, ranging from gray to bronze,” Patinkin notes. Taupe, champagne, peachy pink, lavender, mermaid green—the color range is vast. “Most of [the colors] are very sheer, and they’re going to be flattering on a lot of different skin tones.” Patinkin says that rose gold is the pearly finish that will be flattering on most people.

She adds that because you achieve this look with luminizing powders, which have tiny shimmer particles, they won’t accentuate fine lines the way a setting powder might. “They’re all about reflection and the complexity of the color. They’re not necessarily blurring [or] mattifying. It’s all about that beautiful reflection of light and glow.”

How to Achieve the Pearl Skin Look

“I think that pearl skin works better with powders than it does with creams,” Patinkin says, recommending that you limit placement to one or two, maybe three areas of your face. Her top picks: Westman Atelier’s highlighter stick, which has what she calls an “opaline” luster. Guerlain’s Meteorites Powder, Mac Mineralizer, Laura Geller’s baked foundation and Hourglass’s ambient finishing powders round out the list. The best products will be baked powders because of the complexity of their colors. “When you look at a pearl, it’s a little soft white, it’s a little pinky beige, it’s a little champagne-y, a little rose gold. Sometimes there’s a hint of lavender in. It’s much easier to get a transfer of that complex mix of colors from a baked powder than it is from a cream,” she advises.

To apply, grab a contour brush (or any big, fluffy brush) and do a light sweep on your whole cheek. Patinkin emphasizes the importance of a loose bristle brush that will float the product on your skin for an ethereal look. You can also dab it on your eyelids, nose and the bow of your upper lip. Davis adds: “When creating pearl skin, it’s about bringing the center of the face forward and concentrating on key areas. The highlight is amplified, you may layer a liquid/ cream highlight and layer on a pigment-packed highlight powder on top, focusing the placement along the bridge of the nose, above the brows toward the center of the forehead but the special focus area is the cheekbones. The highlight should sit on the cheekbone but centered intentionally under the eye, use your pupil when looking straight ahead as a guide, build the product up, layering as needed then diffuse out.”

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