Whether you’re dealing with a fussy baby who doesn’t nap more than ten minutes at a time or a high-energy toddler bent on exploring the trash can, some days you might wonder if you can even justify putting makeup on as a mom.
Of course, you shouldn’t feel obligated to wear any makeup on the regular, especially at this stage of life. You have enough on your plate. But if you see makeup as your game face, as a way to boost your confidence and help you feel more put together, you might be looking for ways to better incorporate makeup into your lifestyle or improve your morning or before-work routine.
So I’ve compiled a few helpful tips for busy young moms or moms-to-be, with special attention to the situation in which you’re doing makeup while your little one is awake (or could wake up at any moment), since nap time or pre-wake-up time is usually reserved for showers, your own nap, or tasks that require intense focus.
1. Always Start With the Most Essential Makeup First
A lot of makeup gurus will tell you to apply your eyeshadow before moving on to foundation and the rest of your face products, but they’ve blocked out upwards of 45 minutes for makeup and you probably don’t have that kind of time. Babies and toddlers can require frequent check-ins, and if yours are as mischievous as mine, you might end up with three minutes to do makeup instead of 15.
So as a rule of thumb, start with the most essential products. Unless you’re blessed with very good skin, that’s your complexion. Apply your foundation, concealer/corrector, blush, and/or bronzer (if you wear those things) first.
Then, after priming your lid (this e.l.f. primer works and is quick to apply), use a transition shade (a neutral shade that you blend into your crease) to contour your eye, which will look good on its own. Build your eye look from there if you have time, maybe adding a shimmer shade to your lid and a quick smudge of eyeliner. If you’re really crunched for time, you might even put your mascara on before shadow (for instance, if you hear baby start to wake up), or skip shadow altogether if you plan on a really minimal “no makeup makeup” look.
2. Try Color-Correcting
You might not be getting a lot of sleep these days, and your under-eye circles are going to show it. Instead of spackling on layers of concealer and getting frustrated when it gives you cake-face or makes you look like you’re 350 years old, use a tiny bit of a peachy, pink or yellow color corrector (depending on your skin tone and whether your dark circles are blue or purple) over the dark area, then apply concealer over it with your finger or a sponge.
Those with very fair skin will have a tough time finding a corrector (sometimes marketed as a “neutralizer”) that’s light but pigmented enough to cover darkness. That said, given the right shade, color correcting really does work.
Don’t let mascara smudges ruin the beautiful effect, though: set your concealer with a dusting of translucent powder. If powder tends to make the concealer on the inner half of your under-eye area look bumpy or crepey, just set the outer half (from the middle of your pupil to the outer corner) and the sides of your nose. That will take care of most of the smudging and minimize the textured look over your dark circles.
3. Avoid Products That Require Extra Precision
Try to avoid using highly pigmented liquid products like liquid eyeliner and liquid lipstick. It’s not a hard and fast rule—if you really like it, keep it. But these liquids tend to be messy, dry quickly, are hard to remove if you make a mistake, and require more focus to apply properly.
Not only do they take a bit more time to get right, an interruption in the middle of application could turn makeup into a debacle. Being interrupted is just part of motherhood, and you want your makeup to make you happy, not exasperated. The first is great for mothering, the second, not so much.
4. Buy a Few Quality Shadows
One of the most common eyeshadow problems is fallout—powder that falls off the brush and onto your under-eye area. Invest in a few neutral colors of good quality that don’t have a lot of fallout. It could be taupe, rust, a dark brown, or bronze—pick what flatters you.
All powder shadows will kick up a little bit of powder, so for quick looks, avoid powder shadows much darker than your skin tone. If you’re accustomed to using a push-liner brush to stipple brown or black eyeshadows into your lash line instead of using a pencil liner, dampen your brush to minimize the risk of unsightly black or brown smudges under your eyes, or just grab a pencil that’s soft enough not to irritate your eyelids or pull your lashes out (this Milani one is nice).
Two more quick tips: apply some translucent powder over your crease area before going in with the shadow to make blending a breeze. If you’re using a shimmer on your lid, apply it with your finger or a damp brush to minimize the fallout.
If you want a slightly bolder look that’s still low-fuss, you could spring for a creme shadow, like Revlon’s ColorStay creme shadows, L’oreal’s Infallible shadows, or, if you’re willing to make your wallet cry a little, Mac’s Pro Longwear Paint Pots. Stick eyeshadows like Maybelline’s Color Tattoo Concentrated Crayon accomplish the same thing. They’re easy to blend, don’t have fallout, and don’t require a primer, so you can skip a step. Plus, they last all day.
5. Get Low-Effort, Multitasking Products
You shouldn’t have to babysit or struggle with your makeup. It should be quick, easy to apply, and enjoyable, so here are a few tips on low-effort products that multitask or can be used with a wide range of looks.
Nude lip color. While the vibrant lip shades are beautiful and fun to wear, they don’t go with everything. If you like the polished look of lipstick but are too frazzled to pick a bright color from your stash to go with your look, make sure to have a beige nude or pinkish nude lipstick on hand, which complement virtually any look. The same logic applies for glosses, the ultimate “pretty in a hurry” product. For sheer glosses, any pink or beige (depending on your skin tone) should do the trick.
Nude blush. Grab a peachy-pink or “nude” blush that resembles a natural flush (on the pink side) or like you’ve gotten some sun on your cheeks that’s just turning to a tan (i.e., on the tan side). A light sweep across the cheeks won’t clash with whatever colors you’ve picked for your eyes or lips.
Medium-pigmentation is best for effortless bronzer, blush, and contour application. Too pigmented, you can easily overapply (especially if you’re rushing) and have to spend time blending out. If it’s too pale, you spend too much time layering it on, plus it could give a white cast on people with deeper skin tones. If all your current blush is Barbie pink or way too pale, find a more muted color in the middle of the range.
Bronzers don’t come in too many shades, but the Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzers are massively popular and worth trying out. Whatever you pick, make sure it doesn’t have too much of an orange “fake tan” tint. For contour shades, make sure they aren’t too gray or too bronzy; they should be roughly the color and depth of the shadow under your chin.
As for highlighter, I question whether we even need this in our lives. But if you love it, save it for last and pick one that’s not too powdery and easily blendable. If you crave a glowy finish, you could also try a shimmer blush and achieve a similar effect without looking like your cheekbones are trying to guide ships into a harbor. Alternatively, ladies with normal to dry skin could try a radiant finish foundation like L’oreal’s Infallible Pro Glow.
You can fill and define your brows with the right color of matte eyeshadow. Powders are generally easier to work with than pomades and can be much cheaper than brow pencils. It’s a good option if you can’t find a brow pencil in your shade.
A BB cream or tinted moisturizer provides moisture and sun protection, and blends easily with your fingertips. If your skin problems are minimal and you tend toward the dry side, it’s a good natural-looking, everyday alternative to foundation. Complexion Rescue from BareMinerals and Dream Fresh BB Cream from Maybelline are popular choices. If you prefer foundation, try applying with a damp Beauty Blender or similar sponge for a quick and flawless application.
You probably don’t want to have to touch up during the day, and if your foundation breaks down badly it can look worse than if you weren’t wearing any foundation at all. So if your favorite foundation doesn’t last, consider a setting spray to lock it in. Milani’s Make It Last Setting Spray is a popular option.
Whether you’re getting ready for work, primping for a rare date night, or just want to look a little better than you feel on a Thursday morning, I hope these tips are helpful. And whether your beauty routine is extensive or minimal, remember that motherhood is beautiful on its own.