I Tried Using Aquaphor As A Highlighter Like Zendaya & It Was A Greasy Glow-Up

by Jamie LeeLo
Instagram/Zendaya, Courtesy of Jamie LeeLo

You've been there before: You're scrolling through your Instagram feed when you see your favorite celeb post about their favorite new product — a face serum, vitamins that will make your skin brighter, or a specialty food service. You can't help but want to be like the stars, but are the products worth it? In Elite Daily's new series, I Tried, we put it all to the test. We're trying those products as well as celebrities' health and wellness tips, recipes, and life hacks. We'll do the leg work and tell you what living like your fave star is really like.

I liken myself to somewhat of a makeup protégé. I mean, I have a Birchbox subscription, folks. Let's be real. The experimenting that goes on in my studio bathroom is top-notch. That said, I was skeptical when I heard about the big Aquaphor highlighter trend. Famous folks like Beyoncé and Zendaya reportedly swipe on the clear jelly in place of, or in addition to, glittery highlighters and get some mega shine. Obviously, if it's good enough for them, it's gotta be good enough for me... but Aquaphor? Really? Buckle up, kids, because I gave it a whirl. I tried using Aquaphor as a highlighter like Zendaya and while it definitely gave me that glam shine, it mostly felt like goo on my cheeks. There, I said it.

Listen, I'm up for any kind of makeup hack that saves me money and is highly applauded as "easy." That's what drew me to this trend in the first place. Zendaya revealed her Aquaphor tip on her app. She explained, "I dab Aquaphor where I want my highlight to be, then I put my highlighter on top and boom!" Girl, you had me at "boom."

Though I can't tell you when in my life I've ever physically purchased a tube of Aquaphor, I still had one handy. It's definitely one of those toiletries I somehow always have nearby, much like floss, nail clippers, or bobby pins. Sure, no one actually knows when and how we acquire these items. We just know if we think hard enough, we surely must have them somewhere.

For me, I found my Aquaphor tube laying capless in the bottom of my nightstand drawer among my asthma inhalers, expired allergy medicine, and loose contacts.

Courtesy of Jamie LeeLo

Checks out.

Here was my first mistake. Even though I read Zendaya's tip, I had it in my mind she used Aquaphor on its own to get the sheen she was looking for. The first few times I gave it a go, I placed the gel right on top of my blush and bronzer like I would with a powder highlighter. At first, I noticed it worked as a makeup remover and mostly dragged my foundation around. Once I learned to "dab, baby, dab!" I definitely noticed a more pronounced gloss factor.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment, $9, Amazon

Hot tip: Look at yourself wearing the product in multiple lighting scenarios! The glean I got thanks to standing in front of a sunny window and the barely-there shine I saw in my bedroom were two totally different looks. The photos below are from the same day and same application.

Courtesy of Jamie LeeLo

Finally, I experimented with adding powdered highlighter on top of the Aquaphor (ya know, like Zendaya said to do in the first place) and that was the glow-up I really needed. Suddenly my cheekbones were like "BA-BAM!" and I was like, "Oh!" Still, during my video documentation of the process, I mentioned how uncomfortable the gel/powder combo felt, likening it to "sand in sunscreen." Truthfully, the product was very heavy on my pores and I felt like I needed to scrub it off dearly at night.

Courtesy of Jamie LeeLo

BUT! Once I learned how to work the Aquaphor/makeup magic, I kind of went wild. As much as I didn't love how it felt on my skin, I did love how it made me look like a glowing baby cherub. At times, I got carried away trying to use the thick serum like a chisel to give my face the angles and lines I've always dreamed of. In these instances, I looked GREAT on Instagram but I had to be careful to not rest my face in my hands or rest my head on, well, anything, so as to avoid leaving grease marks and residue.

Courtesy of Jamie LeeLo

Eventually, throughout the day, it would sort of soak in. I usually use Aquaphor on severely chapped skin that really needs a boost of hydration or as a healing ointment. I tend to avoid heavy products on my delicate, acne-prone face. After experimenting with the product for a few weeks, I noticed I had a few of those white bumps known as milia that pop up when your skin doesn't shed itself correctly. To be biologically correct and gross about it, VeryWellHealth.com explains, "These hard bumps on the skin develop when a plug of keratinized dead skin cells and oil becomes trapped just beneath the skin's surface. The white bump you see is this plug showing through a thin layer of skin."


Courtesy of Jamie LeeLo

However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't prone to these babies anyway.

Final Thoughts

All of this to say: Yeah. This sh*t works. If you're in a pinch and want to add some oomph to your shine without digging deep into your pocket, the Aquaphor trick is the way to go. Pro tip from me (not really, from Zendaya), add your powdered product on top of the gel for an extreme glow-up. My own totally nonprofessional opinion on this is: Don't use Aquaphor as a highlighter more than two or three days a week to avoid clogged pores.

Instagram / Zendaya & Courtesy of Jamie LeeLo

Glow on, babes.

Victoria Warnken/Elite Daily