I’ll be honest, kids or no kids, I am a perpetually tired person. In fact, I genuinely don’t think I could ever get enough sleep. Bed is my happy place but there’s no denying that sharing a house with a toddler and a baby means I am currently spending way less time in my dreamy king-size than I would like – and when I look in the mirror at 6am each morning (thanks kids), it undoubtedly shows.
Dark under-eye circles, dull skin and a general aura of dehydration and disarray is how I’d describe my early morning complexion these daysmu – much like when you’re nursing a hangover, just with none of the fun memories of the night before.
Thankfully, though, I have plenty of experience in both hangovers and interrupted sleep and as such I have tried basically every product on the market that promises to make you look more awake. And while there were plenty of duds, I now have a comprehensive SOS kit of skincare and makeup that genuinely brightens skin, boosts glow and disguises dark circles in minutes.
Plus, one of the most hotly discussed topics among my mum friends is which products will stop you looking like an extra from The Walking Dead, so lots of these recommendations have been tested and approved by absolutely shattered parents.
So, take it from a sleep-deprived millennial, if you really want to know what products will make you look awake then keep scrolling…
1. Vitamin C skincare
I am very much into my skincare ingredients, but even my mum friends who couldn’t give two hoots about what they slap onto their face are obsessive about getting as much vitamin C into their routines as possible. Why? Well, it’s a bit of a does-it-all ingredient – working to protect skin from environmental aggressors, while reducing dark spots, fine lines and, crucially, adding glow.
Ole Henriksen Banana Bright+ Eye Creme, £37, Boots
I started using this eye cream religiously when I had my first child and I’ve never looked back. In fact, I recommend it to every new mum I know. As well as a triple vitamin C complex to reduce the appearance of dark circles over time, it contains light-reflecting banana powder, so you get an instant brightening boost.
The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow-Boosting Moisturiser, £20, The Body Shop
My mum friends have a lot of love for this affordable skin-brightening moisturiser, which gets its glow-boosting power from crushed camu camu berries (turns out, they contain over 20 times more vitamin C than oranges). Plus, it contains hyaluronic acid, which helps to give your skin a juicy finish.
Erba Glow + Flow, £24, Erba
I’ve never really been into supplements, but I’ve been converted to Erba for the fact that they’re flavourless and you can add them to your usual drinks (for me, that’s my morning coffee). It’s a plant-based collagen supplement that contains a whole host of good-for-you ingredients, including amino acids, peptides and, of course, vitamin C to help you glow from the inside out. And I have to admit that I do feel and look brighter when I take this.
Concealer and brightener
Without a doubt, concealer is my best friend when I’m sleep-deprived. It hides under-eye circles, brightens sallow skin and generally helps you look like you’re back in the land of the living. But texture is key – it has to have plenty of slip as anything too thick or cloying can cling to dehydrated skin and actually make me look more exhausted. Not cute.
Glossier Stretch Concealer, £17, Glossier
In my opinion, this is the holy grail when it comes to under-eye concealers. Controversial, I know, as Glossier is renowned for sheer coverage makeup, but there’s something about the dewy, glowy finish of this concealer that gives my skin life. I apply it under my eyes to take the edge off dark circles and to brighten my eye area, but it also works well applied all over.
Rare Beauty Positive Light Under Eye Brightener, £23, Sephora
This product went viral on TikTok, which means that it always sells out fast, but it really is worth the hype. While it’s not technically a concealer, I’m including it because it’s so damn good that some days I’ll forgo concealer entirely when using this. Essentially, it’s a lightweight liquid that you apply to your under eyes using the cooling metal applicator (which feels amazing) and it magically makes you look like you’ve had eight hours sleep. You can use it alone or under concealer.
Tarte Shape Tape Contour Concealer, £27, Sephora
I’d forgotten about this once much-hyped concealer until a fellow tired parent was singing its praises and damn, it’s effective. If you’re after heavy-duty coverage, then this truly covers everything—from eye bags to blemishes—and it stays put for hours and hours. This is one to keep in your stash on mornings when only the big guns will do.
The third and final category of products to make you look more awake is slightly vague, but every tired mum I speak to has some iteration of the same thing in their makeup bag – a brightening product with a dewy finish that can be swiped on in seconds and blended out with fingers to help you look a little more polished when you’re feeling anything but.
Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter, £39, Cult Beauty
After I’ve done my skincare, this is the first product that I apply every morning: I just swipe it all over and rub it in like a moisturiser for an instant hit of radiance and the appearance of bloody good skin. It’s great for days that I can’t be bothered with other makeup, but also works as a great base for other products.
Merit Flush Balm Cheek Color, £30, Merit
After vitamin C, a good cream blush was the product that my mum friends couldn’t live without in their tired morning routines. This new one from Merit is my current favourite (along with every other beauty editor in the land) as it’s so creamy, has just the right amount of pigment and blends in seamlessly. Beverly Hills, a soft peachy-pink, is on my face every day.
Jones Road Miracle Balm, £36, Jones Road
This multitasker has everything that I look for to make me look more awake: moisture, luminosity and a fool-proof formulation. It’s unusual – you have to break the waxy seal on the top to get to the creamy balm below – but once you’ve warmed it up with your fingertips you can apply it to cheeks, lips and anywhere you want to impart a sheeny wash of colour.