Follow these tips, look like this 

I’ve got a friend in James Molloy, dapper director of makeup artistry for M.A.C Cosmetics Asia Pacific, who says that – shocker! – the dewy K-Beauty look can be dicey in Singapore’s searing weather.

Take it from the man of the hour himself: “If you want to achieve the beautiful translucency of Korean skin, you need to understand that a full face of shine can be very challenging to pull off in real life.”

Translation? There’s an exceedingly fine line to tread between glowy and greasy.   


Give it up for the men in the beauty biz – James and yours truly included!

If you absolutely must ape the complexion of your favourite K-Drama idol, James has a couple of “illuminating” tricks up his muscly sleeve:

TIP #1. 5 MINUTES OF PRIME TIME.  First things first. Get your fundamentals right by prepping your skin with an intensive pre-makeup mask.

Here’s how. Do as James does and layer a generous gloop of M.A.C’s delightful Lightful Softening Lotion under your eyes or around your laugh lines: “I’m obsessed with this little baby because the vitamin C sloughs away dead skin in a jiffy: Especially good if your skin is feeling a little dehydrated and tired-looking.”

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Twiddle your thumbs for five minutes or so, wipe off excess and follow through with your usual unguents. The beautifying boost afforded by this express mask will give your makeup a “highlighting” head start; indeed, this speedy spot treatment is a tried-and-tested secret behind the subtle sheen that’s so coveted in today’s K-Obsessed world.

TIP #2. TRAIN THE “SPOTLIGHT” ON SPECIFIC AREAS. Modern makeup isn’t about blanket coverage. Indeed, as James very cannily puts it, “it’s all about being dewy at strategic spots and matte at the right places.”

How so? As I understand it, think of yourself as a cinematographer and your face as the frame; the secret to great-looking skin, then, is knowing where to direct your audience’s attention – where to “place” the light, essentially. Like so:

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Behold! Your incredibly instructive illustrated guide to highlighting. (Shout-out to my colleague Bernice for coming up with this vividly realised visual.) As per James’ advice: “If you have great skin, a bit of highlighter on the forehead could work, as would any area where light hits: Think nose-bridge, cupid’s bow and such.”

That’s all well and good, but here’s the kicker: “There are a few hot spots that don’t necessarily look good when shiny; any illuminating product placed there will only come off as oily.”

Asked to elaborate, James says you should steer clear of – and jot this down, please – the sides of the nose and between the eyebrows: “No woman will ever look good with a dewy nostril or any sort of shine between the eyebrows, because the light will actually distort the face.”

Brow raised in scepticism? Try experimenting by dabbing a shimmery fluid around said no-glow areas, then step back and scrutinise yourself in the mirror. You’ll find that the overall effect is oddly disturbing – you’ll look puffy or worse. Renee Zellweger, much. 


Now that you know where the no-go zones are, here’s how to highlight. For the purpose of this story, you’ll need at least two foundation formulas. Bespoke blends are par for the course, really: Mixing different textures together for a tailored fit is a favourite trick of backstage professionals, and it isn’t all that complicated.

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Here’s how. Start with a mattifying base by way of say, Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15. Blend well with a fluffy foundation brush, then switch to a light-reflecting liquid foundation. My recipe: One part M.A.C’s Mineralize Moisture SPF 15 to one part of my go-to serum. Use this extra-moist custom “highlighter” on your cheekbones for a sexy, out-of-the-shower look. Easy-peasy. 

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If you’re going for broke, consider using a pen-type illuminator, like the Prep & Prime Highlighter, and follow our illustrated guide: Swipe along the nose bridge and under the eyes to draw attention to the middle of your face; dot on your cupid’s bow for poutier puckers; and finish with a dab in the middle of your chin. The glimmering effect as light falls on your face masks fatigue and imbues your mien with a lit-from-within luminosity that’s very intriguing indeed.

Time for a quick recap, then. First, prime and plumpen with a hydrating mask; then mix and match your foundations: Matte first, luminous later. Finally, avoid highlighter between the brows and around the nose; but other than that caveat, go right ahead and illuminate the areas highlighted in our face chart above.

Let James’ #QOTD-worthy advice be the guiding “light” for us beauty buffs: “I think makeup is generally getting more refined. We’ll see less false and more real, you know? Women just want to look real – real-beautiful rather than fake-beautiful.”  

Indeed, follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to looking like one of those ruddy-cheeked, K-Drama lasses caught in a gentle garden drizzle – fresh, dewy and undone!

You can follow James Molloy on Instagram at @molloysie_makeup and on his personal website. For more information on the M.A.C Cosmetics products featured in this story, visit and follow the brand on Facebook.