The bare-bones essentials for a polished face.
You wake up and move into sun salutations, followed by meditation. After a long shower and a healthy, homemade breakfast, you have all the time in the world to select an outfit and accessories, and do your hair and makeup.
Sounds like an absolutely blissful dream—but far from the usual AM reality. For most of us, mornings are hectic and rushed. Foundation is applied in front of a steamy bathroom mirror, and on particularly chaotic days, you may wield a mascara wand during your commute. But even the pros aim for a trimmed-down morning routine. "I'm a working makeup artist that favors sleeping over spending a lot of time in the morning doing my makeup," says makeup artist Margina Dennis. "I can get a face on in five minutes, ten if I am looking to do a bit extra."
A five-minute makeup routine? Yes! With a little bit of prep, and a streamlined routine, it's totally doable. First, it's important to do some essential prep. Start with your makeup bag—fumbling through an overstuffed one will slow you down. Slim it down to essential products (more on those later). "Lay out the products you want to use the night before," says Hillary Kline, a Minneapolis-based makeup artist and beauty blogger. Or, lose the bag entirely. "I have my makeup on a vanity in Lucite organizer instead of in a makeup bag where you have to dig around to find everything," says Dennis.
Make sure you have tools, too. It's tempting to use your fingers to put on makeup, but most experts say it's an ill-advised shortcut. "I tell my friends, family, and clients to use some sort of tool to apply makeup," says Kline, since fingers can have germs and bacteria. Use brushes or a Beautyblender to apply makeup instead.
Finally, make sure your face is clean. Your canvas matters! Apply moisturizer and SPF if your foundation or BB cream doesn't serve those needs. "Skin prep is essential to making my makeup look good and long wearing," says Dennis.
Here are the products and tricks that makeup artists recommend to clients—and use themselves—for applying makeup in a flash.
Apply six (or fewer) items for a fast face
When it comes down to it, you only need a few items—six, to be precise—to make your face look primed for the day. But even with this pared-down list, some products are optional. You should let your preferences, and your face, steer your choices.
"Just remember, there’s no need to add extra steps to your routine," says Jared Lipscomb, celebrity makeup artist for Deck of Scarlet. "If you have a naturally rosy complexion, don’t waste time covering your skin then adding blush on top, embrace the natural color!"
Choose your base (foundation, BB cream, or tinted moisturizer)
Look for multipurpose products—like a moisturizer that’s tinted and also has an SPF, or a foundation with SPF—to cut steps from your morning routine. “A multipurpose base is crucial when you're getting ready fast,” says Gala López, founder of The Beauty Effects. She recommends INIKA Loose Mineral Powder Foundation, which has SPF 25 protection, reduces redness, and controls oil. Celebrity makeup artist and Share the Glam founder Mickey Williams likes FAB Ultra Repair Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 or MISSHA M Perfect Cover BB Cream—both, she says, are hardworking dual beauty products.
Find your concealer
Consider concealer your best friend, says Williams. It can do far more than simply cover up a blemish (although it does that well!)—concealer hides under-eye fatigue, serves as a highlighter or eyeshadow primer, and can be used as a lip base if you need to take off lipstick and reapply, Williams points out. "It really comes in handy,” she says.
In fact, for day-to-day makeup, Lipscomb says you can skip a BB cream, tinted moisturizer, or foundation and simply apply concealer to any imperfections, and “let the rest of your skin breathe." We like Glossier Stretch for this; it's super blendable, so you can build up more (or less) coverage depending on what you need.
Mascara is a must
The appearance of full lashes is universally flattering, says Lipscomb. “A couple coats of mascara defines the eyes quicker and easier than any other technique,” he says. Kasey Adam Spickard, makeup artist and creative consultant, agrees: "Mascara is a must-have to make you look polished in a snap." Look for one that lengthens and volumizes without requiring tons of layers, he says. "L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise is one of my favorites that won't break the bank," says Spickard.
Opt for eyeshadow
If you’re slammed for time—or would rather have a few more gulps of coffee—skip the shadow. But if you’ve got even 30 extra seconds, apply some to further define your eyes. Dennis recommends Laura Mercier Caviar Sticks, which she says are long-wearing, work as both an eyeliner and shadow, and are easy to blend.
Lipscomb says to opt for a neutral-toned matte eyeshadow. “It’s a very quick way to add depth to your eye without wasting any time. You can dust a darker tone through your crease for a bit of structure, or a lighter tone all over the lid to keep your eyes looking bright.” Our pick: Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette in The Dolce Vita.
Add a little blush
A little glow on your cheeks can have a big impact. “Whether it’s a soft pink or a bronzy apricot, a flush of cheek color gives your complexion an instant radiant glow,” says Lipscomb. Go for a cream-based product for a more natural finish, recommends Liscomb. To reduce the volume of products in your collection, use lipstick on your cheeks, he says. Or, look for a multitasking cheek- and lip-tint, like RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek.
Finish with lipstick or gloss
Like mascara, a pop of color on your lips makes a big difference. "Whether you’re rocking a bold red or just a tint of balm, healthy and hydrated lips will make you appear youthful," says Lipscomb.
"“If you're in a hurry, a lip tint is your best friend because they are more forgiving if you don't get the lip line exactly right," says Spickard. "Any fresh, nude shade will work. I'm currently loving peachy, pinky nude colors like the Becca Cosmetics Beach Tint in Grapefruit or Watermelon.” Bonus: You can use this multitasker on your cheeks, too, she says.
If you only have time to apply one makeup product, Kline says to go bold and apply a red lipstick. “By doing this, it looks like you spend time doing your makeup when really you didn’t spend much time on it at all,” she says.