“Mermaid Skin” Is In, and Serum Makeup Will Give You That Oceanic Glow

Best Serum Makeup
Getty/Nick England, Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho/MECCA/Natasha Denona

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Have you noticed serum-style highlighters and foundations and wet-look eye shadows popping up everywhere this year? From water-weight complexion products and lustrous wet-look highlighters, 2022 has been all about the translucent glow. Handy, because there’s yet another viral TikTok trend that calls for exactly this kind of look: Mermaidcore.

@angeldreamgirl Reply to @surleybubbles i got u &lt3 #mermaid #mermaidcore #aesthetic #styleguide ♬ Good Looking – Suki Waterhouse

What Is Mermaidcore? 

Mermaidcore is trending on TikTok and it’s hit the runway with mermaid-inspired beauty looks everywhere at Fashion Week, from eerie creatures of the deep at Poster Girl to gold-plated goddesses in fish-tail denim at Blumarine. Is it inspired by the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid? Possibly, but this Mermaid-inspired beauty look is a little bit more “Shape of Water” than Disney princesses. It’s eerie, ethereal and, like many of the beauty trends we saw on the runways, a little spooky.

Mermaidcore at fashion week
Blumarine SS23, Image credit: Getty/Tristan Fewings

How is mermaid beauty different from dewy trends like “glass skin” and “glazed donut skin” we’ve been seeing since 2019?

Mermaid beauty is about a “wet” look with a slick opalescent glow. Frequently accented with pearls and coral tones, this look is about reflection and shine that pop in the club – an ethereal pearlescence that’s a little edgier than the Hailey Bieber glow we’ve been seeing this year. 

…What Exactly Are Serum Cosmetics? 

Before you get all “we know, mum!!!” on us, serum cosmetics aren’t the same as “skincare as makeup”, which has been around forever. It’s now standard to expect your foundation or concealer will have beneficial ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin C sprinkled in (indeed, brands like Bourgois have been doing this since 2010 – you can still find Healthy Mix on Amazon). 

Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation
The OG Serum Foundation: Bourjois Paris, Healthy Mix, Image credit: Bourjois

These new cosmetic products have a serum consistency, as well as the expected skincare benefits. They’re water weight products or gel products that are imperceptible on the skin, giving a wet look glow, or a tint of coverage while feeling like nothing. They’re also perfect for sweaty summer days at the beach, so we’re rounding up our favourites for you now. Plus, we’ve thrown in some eerie opalescent eyeshadows to top off your look.

What Are The Best Serum Foundations To Shop?

Serum foundations are complexion products with light coverage, and a fluid, watery consistency. Often they’re loaded with skincare benefits and have a skin-like finish. Here are our favourites.

Rose Inc, Skin Enhance Luminous Tinted Serum ($74) Image credit: MECCA

This totally transparent skin tint is hydrating enough to go on as your serum step. Plus, Rose Inc, Skin Enhance Luminous Tinted Serum ($74) and has serious skincare benefits. Pigment spheres that burst and blend on the skin provide light, luminous coverage, that’s never shiny. Your complexion will be replenished rather than weighed down with humectants like glycerin and sodium hyaluronate, and protected with antioxidants and acetyl tetrapeptide-2. 

Serum Cosmetics, Flower Beauty Get Real Serum Foundation
Flower Beauty, Get Real Serum Foundation, ($10)

Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty line is an affordable favourite — and their 2022 launch Get Real Serum Foundation ($10) has been spotted in the kits of professional makeup artists. Infused with lavender water and antioxidant olive oil this lightweight medium coverage foundation will have you glowing all day.

Best Serum Cosmetics: Ere Perez, Quinoa Water Foundation, ($48)
Ere Perez, Quinoa Water Foundation, ($48)

Vegan Aussie Skincare brand Ere Perez is one of our faves, and their Quinoa Water Foundation ($48) is a great option if you’re looking for a water-based foundation with a matte finish. Packed with quinoa, a natural anti-inflammatory, this serum complexion perfector is perfect for sensitive, oily skin types. It also contains blackcurrant extract for an antioxidant boost.

Beauty Blender, Bounce Always On Skin Tint, ($47)

This is perfect long-wear serum foundation is a great option for hot, sweaty days. The coverage of Beauty Blender, Bounce Always On Skin Tint ($47) complexion product is all in the name, keep bouncing that beauty blender for a medium coverage that won’t slip or cake. Packed with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide this keeps skin quenched and perfected all day long.

Chanel, Les Beige Water-Fresh Tint, ($110)

Want a straight-from-the-ocean look? Chanel, Les Beige Water-Fresh Tint ($110) should be your go-to. Yes, it’s expensive but Chanel has been perfecting “microfluidic” cosmetic technology for decades. Their Vitalumiere Aqua Foundation ($80) launched way back in 2010 and was one of the first water-based foundations. Chanel Les Beige contains a whopping 75 per cent water, making it perfect for oily skin types wanting a radiant, but not greasy finish. Plus, it comes with a specifically designed brush for the most even, natural-looking coverage you can imagine.


Tarte Hydroflex Sea, Serum Foundation ($64)

If you’re looking for a gym-worthy foundation, Tarte, Hyroflex Sea, Serum Foundation ($64) has you covered (literally). This medium coverage foundation contains 12-hour “sweat protect” technology along with thirst-quenching marine extracts, collagen, hyaluronic acid and daffodil complex.

Chantecaille, Future Skin Foundation, ($120) Image credit: MECCA

Oily? Dry? Combo? While the priciest serum foundation on the list is Chantecaille Future Skin, ($120). What makes it unique enough to be “worth it”? Because of its light-reflecting pigments Future Skin can be built anywhere from light to medium-full coverage, and is packed with anti-inflammatory skincare benefits that make it perfect for rosacea and acne-prone skin types.

The gel formula includes 60% water, infused with a seaweed complex that helps to regulate sebum production. Arnica, aloe and chamomile soothe, while rice bran and green tea provide antioxidant and skin-strengthening benefits. Application tips? For super light coverage, apply with a loose brush, for full coverage “paint” on with a flat brush.

The Ordinary, Serum Foundation, ($13)

We noticed this bargain foundation all the way back at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week where it showed up in countless MUA kits backstage. Available in 21 shades, The Ordinary, Serum Foundation ($13) also includes several “adjusters” that add a luminous or matte finish. Super lightweight and oil-free, this foundation provides something for everyone. You can read our full review here.

What Are The Best Serum Highlighters To Up Your Wattage?

As reported previously there was a snail secretion vibe going on at Fashion Week… and we were all about it. Serum highlighters are all about a skin-like finish, with a supernatural sheen that gives the requisite straight from the fairytale grotto to the club mermaidcore look we’re going for. Think iridescence over shimmer, glisten over glitter.

Natasha Denona, Hy-Gen™ Skin Glass, ($75) Image credit: Natasha Denona

Launched in September, Natasha Denona, Hy-Gen™ Skin Glass, ($75) is the ultimate serum highlighter. This multi-use product contains microalgae and powerful peptides that target fine lines and pigmentation. But its crystalline finish is so pretty you won’t want to hide it under skincare. Instead, use it as a hydrating priming step to create a glassy–glow under makeup, and as a highlighter that will give your complexion a glitter-free, opalescent polish.

Glow Recipe, Watermelon Glow, Niacinamide Dew Drops, ($51) Image credit: MECCA

Want a serum highlighter? Go for an actual serum. This juicy face serum is packed with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, along with humectants that give your skin a glassy, wet look. Glow Recipe suggest prepping your complexion with Watermelon Glow, Niacinamide Drew Drops ($51) and then tapping excess on the high points of your face for a long-lasting, translucent polish.

Mecca Max, Liquid Light, Illuminating Liquid Highlighter, ($26)
Mecca Max, Liquid Light, Illuminating Liquid Highlighter, ($26) Image credit: MECCA

As Radiohead moaned, “there’s always a siren singing you to shipwreck,” and with Mecca Max, Liquid Light, Illuminating Liquid Highlighters, ($26) that siren will be you. Intense enough to be seen from a rocky outlook at night, these “Liquid Light” illuminators more than live up to their name. Dab on cheeks for a light-catching, high-shine look or add a few drops to your foundation to create an ethereal, mermaid glow.

L'Oreal, Glow Mon Amour, in "Sparkling Love" ($30)
L’Oreal, Glow Mon Amour, in “Sparkling Love” ($30)

Pearly, translucent and magical these glow drops are made for mixing. Pop L’Oreal Glow Mon Amore, ($30) under your base, mix with your moisturiser or tap onto cheekbones for a translucent gleam. You can also mix them with your body products for luxe-looking limbs.

Kevyn Aucoin, Glass Glow Face Illuminator, ($47) Image credit: MECCA
Kevyn Aucoin, Glass Glow Face Illuminator, ($47) Image credit: MECCA

This high-gloss highlighter from Kevyn Aucoin, Glass Glow Face Illuminator ($47) gives a believable skin finish with a watercolour wash of tinted, translucent shine. It’s available in six shades — we love the suitably magical “Pixie Dust”, for a hint of holographic shine. Apply directly over freshly moisturised skin to add a little bit of magic to your no-makeup-makeup look, or layer under and over the foundation to give the appearance of “real” skin.

And Finally, The Best Lustrous Liquid and Foil Shadows To Glow In:

Want to take your mermaid magic and ooze your way to the club? These wet-look shadows will let you ditch your fins, head to land and party down.

Stila, Glitter & Glow Liquid Eyeshadow, in Wanderlust, ($36)

Stila, Glitter & Glow Eyeshadows ($36) are perfect a mermaidcore beauty look because they use water-infused formulas glide on, set and keep their wet look all day. There’s a generous array of shades to choose from in the line but we particularly love translucent shades “Wanderlust” a sheer gold with pink sparkle, and “Pearlina” a white shot through with blue, pink and pearl reflects for an eye-catching club look.

Charlotte Tilbury, Hypnotising Pop Shots, in “Cosmic Rocks($51)

You can trust Charlotte Tilbury to keep her finger on the pulse and her new limited edition Hypnotising Pop Shots, are perfect for creating a glistening, mermaid-inspired beauty look. These foil shadows are best patted on with fingers for a creamy, seamless gleam. We particularly love the oceanic vibes of “Cosmic Rocks” (above) and “Emerald Eyes” – but pick your poison.

Natasha Denona, Duo Chrome Top Coat for Eyes and Lips ($46) Image credit: Natasha Denona

Natasha Denona’s Duo Chrome Top Coats ($46) provide a multi-dimensional glimmer that will accent any look. Available in pictured “Burnt Terracotta and Green” or “Lavender and Gold/Silver” these top coats shift with the light, adding a mesmerising, multi-dimensional glimmer to your look. To up the supernatural vibes, top your lip gloss with them.

Morphe 2 Gloss Pop Face & Eye Gloss ($18) Image credit: MECCA

Hot tip: you can turn any shimmer shadow into a wet-look eye polish with the addition of an eye gloss. Before you ask, eye glosses are preferably to clear lip glosses as they’re ophthalmologically tested. The Morphe 2 Gloss Pop Face & Eye Gloss ($18) is one of the best.

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