Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Retailers
TikTok has a way of making even the most ridiculous ideas sound perfectly normal. Using sexual lubricant as a make-up primer? Sure, why not. Dotting eight dots of eyeliner around your eyes to hypnotize men? Anything is fair in the search for love. Applying your foundation with a jade roller instead of a brush? Don’t knock it until you try it.
As we look back at 2021, The Cut rounded up 15 of the products that went viral on TikTok and spoke to the creators who had a hand in their success. Read on for a perfume that makes you “smell rich,” an eye cream that impressed even Gabrielle Union, and a lipstick that’s been around since 1971.
Model Caitlin Lawson, who shares beauty tutorials and product reviews with her over 253,000 followers on TikTok as @blueyedcai, posted a six-second video applying Dior Lip Glow Oil in the shade Mahogany. “It blew up,” she said of the video that has over 3.7 million views and over 193.1k likes. “Before I knew it, I kinda became the Dior lip oil girl.”
Lawson wasn’t sent the product or paid to try it out; she was initially turned on to Dior’s Addict Lip Tattoo by other creators on the platform, but when she realized it was sold out, she went for the Dior Lip Glow Oil instead. She says, “I instantly knew it was gonna be bomb — it’s not sticky at all.”
Just 1.2 ounces of Maison Francis Kurkdijan’s Baccarat Rouge 540 sells for $142, but that hasn’t stopped TikTok from becoming obsessed with the perfume. It has notes of jasmine, saffron, and cedar wood and is often described as the scent to wear if you want to “smell rich.”
TikTok creator Charles Gross first heard of the perfume years ago when he learned that the Baccarat Hotel in Manhattan, where he likes to go for tea, uses the fragrance in the lobby. But like Gross told his 722k followers on TikTok, even though he believes it’s well worth its hefty price because of its complexity, it’s now a “polarizing” scent. “Too much of anything can spoil it,” he explains. “And I smelled it so much it amalgamated into a cloud with other cult favorite fragrances in New York City like Le Labo’s Santal 33, Glossier’s You, and some Maison Margiela fragrances.”
Melissa Nacional, who reviews fragrances on TikTok, agrees with Gross. She goes as far as to say it’s not worth the cost if you’re expecting it to set you apart from the crowd. “Its greatness is its downfall,” she told her following in September. “It became so popular to the point where the uniqueness of it is almost obsolete,” she explains to the Cut. “You can walk into a club or bar and smell that scent profile on a few girls there. Is it Baccarat? Who knows, but it smells similar enough.” And she’s right. For every video talking about Baccarat, there’s another dedicated to finding cheaper dupes — Ariana Grande’s “Cloud” is perhaps the most recommended.
Peter Thomas Roth is now practically synonymous with Trinidad Sandoval. In a TikTok shared on August 25, the 54-year-old applied the brand’s Instant FIRMx Eye Temporary Eye Tightener to her right under-eye bag, which then diminished in seconds. The video was only meant for her then-70 followers, but it went viral, even grabbing the attention of actress Gabrielle Union a day later. Sandoval now has over 172k followers, and her original video has been seen more than 33.9 million times and earned 5.5 million likes.
“I first came across the product two and a half years ago,” Sandoval told the Cut. “I went to Sephora to ask if they could show me how to apply lashes, and while the glue was drying, I told the girl helping me, ‘Too bad you don’t have anything for these ugly bags of mine.’”
While Peter Thomas Roth declined to share exact sale numbers, the brand did confirm that Trinidad’s video “resulted in an immediate spike in sales” on their website and continues to sell out across retailers.
TikTok was flooded with videos recreating Madison Beer’s make-up routine after the singer appeared in Vogue’s Beauty Secrets series in February. She applies Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Highlighter Wand in the color Pinkgasm on the apples of her cheeks and on the bridge of her nose. The blush was sold out from April through October of this year, and the restock earned a waitlist of more than 50,000 shoppers globally, according to the Charlotte Tilbury team.
Jaclyn Forbes, a make-up artist and content creator who tried Beer’s routine, understands why. “It’s rare that I ever say a product is worth the hype, especially with the level of attention and praise that this one is getting, but yes, it really is that good,” she raves. What makes the product so unique is its hybrid formula: “It’s basically a liquid blush and liquid highlighter all in one.”
On darker skin tones, TikTok creator Nasrin Sampson says it gives a lit-from-within glow but is too light to wear alone. “It’s more like a blush topper for me,” she explains. “I wish they made a deeper shade of it because it’s honestly the perfect blush consistency.”
For months, TikTok insisted that make-up artist Ariel Tejada used Dior’s Backstage Rosy Glow Blush in Pink on Kylie Jenner, but the youngest Jenner debunked the rumor in a YouTube video she filmed with Tejada in August. “I’ve never used it or owned it,” she said. Tejada added, “Me and Kylie have forever mixed colors to create the most perfect shade of pink. We would mix some of her original [Kylie Cosmetics] blushes with this pink eyeshadow to create a really pretty blue-pinky color.” But the blush was already appearing in video after video and is still sold out at Sephora.
Even without the Kylie Jenner stamp of approval, make-up artist Alissia Christidis, who has over 520,000 followers on TikTok, says that although it’s $37 for a small pan, it’s worth the cost because it “adds the perfect pop of pinky flush to my cheeks.” She adds, “It looks beautiful on everyone I’ve seen try it.”
“I had been on a witch hunt, asking for the universe to send me a blush that complimented my olive skin tone, and I was never a fan of liquid blush until I tried Rare Beauty,” says Ferny Zambrana, who posted about the product on TikTok in April. “You really only need a little.” And that’s exactly what others, like actress and creator Mireya Rios, like about the blush, too. “It is extremely pigmented so one bottle will probably last forever,” Rios says.
According to Ashley Murphy, the director of digital integrated marketing at Rare Beauty, the brand saw sales of the Soft Pinch Liquid Blush increase 100 percent from April to May. Among the eight shades in the collection, Happy, a dewy cool pink; Joy, a dewy muted peach; and Bliss, a matte nude pink, are the top-sellers.
Make-up artist Mikayla Nogueira tried Em Cosmetics’ So Soft Blushes in October — along with the brand’s So Soft Multi Faceplay and Bronze Sculpt sticks (which she says are the “best” she’s ever used) — and true to its name, the texture is incredibly creamy and easy to blend. “Impressed is an understatement,” the make-up artist says in her video. “I just fell in love with a product. I love when that happens. Fuck! I’m so glad I bought every color.” On their end, EmCosmetics.com saw a 300 percent increase in traffic after Nogueira posted her review.
In late August, creator Wendy of @WendySkin went viral after sharing the products she uses to get a close shave on her bikini line. The first, and most crucial, step involves exfoliating with First Aid Beauty’s KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub With ten percent AHA to “remove dead skin skills” and “reveal a very clean surface.” The video, which has over 5.4 million likes, has been seen over 35 million times and resulted in the “highest-ever weekly sales” of the product, according to the brand.
Dr. Shah, a dermatologist who goes by @dermdoctor on the platform, says the product is especially effective because it has both glycolic and lactic acid to chemically exfoliate, in addition to pumice to physically exfoliate.
If you’re specifically looking to treat KP, or keratosis pilaris, as the product was originally meant for, he recommends following up the scrub with moisturizers made with lactic acid or urea, like First Aid Beauty’s KP Smoothing Body Lotion with 10% AHA, Cetaphil’s Daily Smoothing Moisturizer for Rough & Bumpy Skin, and Skinfix’s Resurface+ AHA Renewing Body Cream.
When one of Kena Tchiteya’s over 335,000 followers asked the skincare enthusiast and founder of soon-to-launch Kena Skincare, who goes by @misskena on TikTok, what product she would recommend “for a dark neck,” she didn’t expect her response to blow up the way that it did. Her recommendation? Urban Skin’s Rx Even Tone Smoothing Body Treatment, which targets conditions like hyperpigmentation and keratosis pilaris with a mix of glycolic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, retinol, and lactic acid. “There are only a few products that cater to body care issues such as hyperpigmentation,” she says. “And Urban Skin Rx has definitely stood out from the crowd with their formulas.” Tchiteya’s now collaborating with the brand after her video resulted in “a 500 percent uptick in sales week-over-week” and since November 3, has over 2 million views.
After beauty and lifestyle vlogger Haley Pham, who has more than 1 million followers on TikTok, shared her love for Tower 28’s ShineOn Milky Lip Jelly in Coconut — a “semi-sheer, milky mauve pink” — in February, the brand saw a 340 percent increase in sales of the shade at Sephora. The following month, the brand saw a 700 percent increase in Coconut sales on Tower28Beauty.com. The lip gloss makes Pham feel like she has lip injections, she says in her video: “It’s just my exact lip color but better, and because it’s a gloss and it’s so milky, it makes them look plump. It’s my holy grail.”
Nogueira picked up KVD Beauty’s Skin-Perfecting Foundation Balm after seeing fellow TikTok creator Carla Del Rey test it out. Nogueira said at the beginning of her video, “I cannot even tell you the last time I was impressed by a KVD product.” But that quickly changed when she applied the first stroke of foundation to her cheek. “Holy shit!” she exclaimed. “It’s extremely full coverage but very light. It doesn’t feel like anything is on my face.”
When Rocio Soria tried L’Oreal Paris’s Infallible Fresh Wear Foundation-in-a-Powder in early February, she had around 850,000 followers on the app, where she goes by @rocio.roses and shares make-up tips, reviews, and dupe recommendations. Her video, in which she compares the powder foundation with Dermablend’s Intense Powder Camo Foundation, went viral — it currently has more than 1.3 million likes — and also catapulted her following to over a million followers. “This [review] very much set off my career,” she says. “I have since been able to become a full-time content creator and been given the opportunity to work with brands I could only dream of prior to my video going viral.”
As for the foundation? “The hype is warranted,” she says. “I like how the product is full coverage, and in one clean swipe, it covers redness and dark spots. It makes my skin look airbrushed, and it feels like I have nothing on!”
Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey originally made its debut in 1971 and was a freebie in makeup gift sets in the ’80s. The brand’s founder and former Vogue editor Carol Phillips created the shade in an attempt to make a “black turtleneck” for the lips, one that would look good on every skin tone. Dark in the tube, the color goes on quite sheer, allowing its wearers to build it up to their desired intensity. According to Clinique, the shade began to sell out across retailers in July after Lord of the Rings superfan Shannon Johnson discovered that Liv Tyler wore the lipstick in the movies.
One of its many, many fans is Kensington Tillo, better known as Kensy to her over 913,000 followers on TikTok. “It became one of my staples, which is hard to do considering my makeup collection is overflowing,” she shared with the Cut. “I think what makes me like it so much is how versatile it is — no matter what lip liner I pair with it, it blends in seamlessly.”
Stephanie Valentine, better known to her over 1.3 million followers as @glamzilla on TikTok, says she was using Glow Recipe’s Dew Drops six months before the product went viral and was constantly asked how she achieved her glow. “This serum is formulated with niacinamide, and over time your skin will get better and better and it will look polished just naturally,” she said in her February video, which now has over 158,000 likes and over 1.9 million views. Other creators, like Nogueira, took notice and began testing out the product themselves. Just four days later, Glow Recipe saw a 600 percent spike in daily sales.
Valentine is still tagged in videos about the product and receives messages praising the find “every day.” Want a pro-tip? Valentine tells the Cut, “Mix the Dew Drops with your foundation for a glowy complexion.”
Caudalíe credits the early 2021 virality of their Instant Detox Mask to creators like Rios and Valentine. The latter says she was four years early to the mask, which purifies and brightens the skin with grapeseed polyphenols that are rich in antioxidants, clay, and caffeine, but shared it with her audience in a March video that now has over 2.8 million likes.
When the mask went viral again at the end of September and at the beginning of October, the brand attributed it to Amelia Olivia, who tries to use the mask twice a week and says she’s never seen a mask “pull this much stuff out of her pores,” and Nogueira, who says she relies on the mask to clear the congestion around her nose.
Caudalíe shared with the Cut, “the brand sold 14 times more of the Instant Detox Mask than we used to sell before the mask went viral. This went on for seven weeks in a row, starting September 29 [when Nogueira posted her video], and has continued at this pace.” At one point, they were entirely out of stock for two months.