Fast beauty routines
Photo: Nicolai Grosell

Recently, a reader e-mailed us to say that she didn't have the time for any kind of beauty regimen—the idea of styling her hair or putting on even a little makeup was completely overwhelming when she thought of everything else she had to do. We understand. But we wanted her to know that often the smallest thing—something that takes almost no time at all, like slipping on a headband or applying a tinted moisturizer—can make a big difference in how you look and feel. So we tracked down a few impeccably put-together experts—makeup artists, dermatologists, hairstylists, and colorists—and asked them how they save time. Here's what they said.

1. Set up an area on your vanity or bathroom counter to lay out your makeup and tools. They'll be easier to find than in an overstuffed bag.

2. When you brush your teeth, also brush your lips to remove flakes. Then swipe on a tinted lip balm or gloss with SPF (like Clinique Long Last Glosswear SPF 15, $14); you'll get moisture, protection, and color all at once, without needing a lipstick and liner (or even a mirror).

3. Switch to a tinted moisturizer with SPF. It hydrates, evens out your skin tone, protects against UV rays, and is easier to blend than foundation (try Smashbox Sheer Focus SPF 15, $30).

4. If you like face powder: Pressed formulas are easier to use than loose ones and give good coverage quickly (Lancôme Dual Finish Versatile Powder Makeup, $36, is terrific).

5. Choose big, fluffy brushes to apply face powder and blush. They will deposit a sheer wash of color that's easy to blend.

6. Instead of using a separate concealer and brush, dip a Q-tip into your liquid foundation and tap it on blemishes.

7. For the quickest hit of radiance, skip foundation and powder; instead, dust bronzer on your cheeks, chin, and around your hairline.

8. Or skip the bronzer and apply a facial self-tanner every few days to give yourself a healthy glow and even out your skin tone (L'Oréal Sublime Bronze Towelettes are fast and easy, $10).

9. Use a cream blush or bronzer as both a cheek color and eyeshadow.

10. A three-in-one product for eyes, lips, and cheeks (like Wet 'n' Wild 3-of-a-Kind Twist Up Stick, $4) shaves off a few seconds of switching between products; choose a warm rose or berry shade, which looks the most natural.

11. A pencil eyeliner is easier to handle (and so, quicker) than a liquid or gel (try MAC Pearlglide Eye Liner, $15).

12. If you like the look of a dramatic, smoky eye but don't have time to build layers of shadow, line the rims of your upper and lower lids with a black eyeliner pencil. Then smudge it all the way around with a Q-tip.

13. On mornings when you need a fast eye brightener, trace a creamy nude liner pencil on your lower inner rims, or dip a Q-tip in a light taupe shadow and run it under your lower lashes.

14. Before you apply mascara, roll the brush on a tissue to get rid of clumps so that they won't end up on your lashes (where you'll waste time getting them off).

15. Don't use mascara on your lower lashes. It smudges, and takes time to clean up.

16. It's more important to groom and smooth your brows, line your upper lids, and apply a coat of mascara than to wear eyeshadow. If you want color on your lids, after you apply blush, sweep the brush over your eyelids. Or smooth on concealer—it covers redness, adds a touch of color, and doesn't require careful blending.

17. Sweep a light-colored eyeshadow under your brows and near the inner corners of your eyes. It will create enough contrast with your skin tone that you won't need to use a contouring shadow.

18. Choose neutral rather than trendy makeup colors so you don't have to spend time trying to coordinate them.

19. Look for long-wearing formulas. You won't need to touch up as often.

20. Instead of reapplying your makeup halfway through the day, spray on a finishing mist (like Sephora Makeup Setting Mist, $12), and then pat your face with a dry makeup sponge.

21. Dab a rich night cream (like Aveeno Positively Ageless Night Cream, $20) on the tops of your cheekbones and along your browbones for a fast, natural-looking sheen.

22. Wear your hair between chin and shoulder length so it's short enough to air-dry and style quickly but long enough to pull back if you need to.

23. It takes a lot of time to fight your hair's natural texture, so choose a cut that complements it.

24. When you don't have time to style your bangs (or they're just not cooperating), use a wide (two-inch) headband to smooth them back. The band will look most stylish positioned close (about half an inch) to the hairline.

25. After you've applied body lotion, hand cream, or sunscreen, smooth whatever is left on your hands over your hair to tame flyaways.

26. If your hair looks dirty, spray the roots with hairspray—the alcohol in it absorbs excess oil.

27. If you have longish, wavy hair and want pretty, frizz-free waves: Wash it at night, apply a curl-defining product (like Bumble and Bumble Curl Conscious Holding Foam, $26), and let it air-dry while you sleep. In the morning, pull it back into a low ponytail. Or, if you need your hair to look good in the evening, wash it in the morning and tie it in a low bun to air-dry. When you take it down a few hours later, you'll have soft, smooth waves.

28. While you work out, twist your hair into a bun and secure it with bobby pins above the nape of your neck. As you heat up, so will your hair, which will set into big, loose waves. Wear a cotton headband to absorb moisture, and keep shorter layers and bangs pinned back.

29. Work a dollop (golf-ball size) of mousse through your just-washed hair, whether you blow it out or let it dry naturally. The alcohol content speeds up drying.

30. For a quicker, easier blow-out, wait until your hair is nearly dry before using a round brush to straighten each section. (A superabsorbent towel, like the Aquis Hair Turban, $12, will expedite the air-drying process.)

31. Or, if you have just a few minutes, blow out only the top and front sections of your hair. Then pull it back into a bun at the nape of your neck. No one will be able to tell that you ignored the bottom layers.

32. Straighten and defrizz your hair as you blow-dry by holding the dryer vertically and keeping the nozzle pointed down. The direction of the air will flatten the cuticle so hair looks smoother and more shiny (with less effort on your part).

33. To boost volume or disguise your roots, zigzag your part or move it to the opposite side.

34. For quick volume, flip your head upside down, spritz your roots with hairspray, lift your head up, and then massage your scalp for a few seconds.

35. Want to get the exact haircolor you want—the first time around? Give your stylist a photograph of the shade you have in mind. Describing it will take a lot longer than showing it, and a small miscommunication can cost you many hours (and dollars) in color correction.

36. Cut down on highlight appointments by finding a stylist who does balayage (painting the hair) instead of using foils. The results are more subtle and natural looking, so you won't need a touch-up for at least three or four months (rather than one or two).

37. Choose a haircolor only two or three shades lighter than your natural one. Anything more dramatic and you'll have noticeable roots in a matter of weeks.

38. If your hair is less than a third gray and you want to cover it, ask your stylist to use a demi-permanent dye. It takes less time to apply, and the color slowly washes out, so there won't be an obvious demarcation as your hair grows.

39. Your face doesn't get dirty while you sleep; splash it with water instead of using a cleanser in the morning (unless you're very oily).

40. Skip toner. You may like how it feels, but it doesn't improve your skin.

41. When you're too pooped for soap and water, reach for a cleansing wipe to take off your makeup. (Payot 3-in-1 Cleansing Wipes, $16, even remove mascara.)

42. Replace your regular soap with a foaming shower oil (like L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil, $22) or hydrating body wash (Olay Body Wash Plus Crème Ribbons, $4) so you can clean and moisturize at the same time.

43. Don't bother with body scrubs or peels—use a damp washcloth (with a little pressure) to exfoliate in the shower.

44. Always use shaving gel. It gives you a closer shave so you won't have to use your razor as often, and it's hydrating.

45. Shrink a pimple fast with a dab of hydrocortisone cream. It brings down swelling and soaks in quickly, so you can apply concealer immediately.

46. If you're prone to breakouts, don't apply an acne treatment to every blemish (especially on your chest or back); instead, use an acne cleanser (like Rodan + Fields Unblemish Wash, $30) on your face and body in the shower. Let it treat your skin while you shave or condition your hair out of the shower stream, then rinse.

47. Skip nail polish. Use a buffing block that files, smooths, and shines your nails. You won't have to wait for the polish to dry or take it off later. (The Kiss Mylar Magic Shine File, $1.50, is gentle and buffs quickly.)

48. If you do want to wear nail polish: The ones that come in pen form (like Sally Hansen Color Quick Fast Dry Nail Color Pen, $8) are easy to apply yourself, and they dry faster because the formula is thin.

49. Light, sheer polishes won't leave streaks (so you can skip the second coat), and chips won't be very noticeable. (Try Essie Nail Color in Allure, $8.)

50. Doing your own nails? Don't waste time soaking your hands or feet. Simply file, brush on oil, and push back your cuticles. For calluses on your feet, use the PedEgg ($10), a foot file that effectively removes dead skin without cutting.

You'll save time in the long run if you:
  • Wear sunscreen every day so you won't have to conceal dark spots and wrinkles caused by UV exposure later.
  • Get a good pedicure—your polish should last about a month.
    Commit to four to six laser hair removal treatments to reduce hair growth so you may have to shave only once a week (or every other).
  • Wash your makeup tools every few weeks with shampoo. Clean brushes apply makeup precisely and evenly.
  • See a dermatologist for troubled skin. Prescription products have a high percentage of active ingredients; they typically work faster than over-the-counter ones.
  • Exfoliate your face once a week with a gentle scrub that contains small, smooth beads (try ZO Skin Health Offects Exfoliating Polish, $75). Your skin will look healthy and feel smooth, and you'll need less makeup.
    Our Experts
  • Carmindy, makeup artist
  • Doris Day, MD, dermatologist
  • James Edick, Wella Professionals Master Colorist at Arrojo Studio
  • David Evangelista, creative director, David Evangelista at Cornelia, NYC
  • Laura Geller, makeup artist
  • Ranella Hirsch, MD, dermatologist
  • Sandy Linter, Lancôme makeup artist
  • Mally Roncal, makeup artist
  • Eva Scrivo, hairstylist and owner of Eva Scrivo Salon, NYC
  • Jin Soon, manicurist and owner of Jin Soon Natural Hand & Foot Spa, NYC
  • Donna Tripodi, hairstylist Maria Verel, makeup artist

    — Research by Kate Sandoval


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