People are always DM-ing me their beauty questions, which makes sense because (a) I’ve learned a few things in my years as a beauty journalist and host of Fat Mascara, a podcast that takes a closer look at beauty culture, and (b) the internet is a soup of conflicting advice and Google ads that feeds our worst insecurities without providing much assistance. And if there are two things I love, it’s calling out b.s. and helping people feel better about themselves. So that’s what this new biweekly column is for. No concern is too vain, trivial, obscure, or embarrassing — I’m here to help. Send your questions to AskABeautyEditor@nymag.com.
To start things off, this question is probably the one I hear most often. And I can relate. I remember waking up hungover in the bed of a (now ex-) boyfriend, who looked over at me and started singing, “Tired eyes, they’re watching you …” to the tune of Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes.” Emphasis on the ex. It was disturbing on many levels, but what sticks with me now is how quickly he zeroed in on the problem area. The truth is, when you’re tired, it shows up in your eyes first. Because of that, you’re probably thinking of putting on some eye cream literally right this second. But I’m convinced most eye creams are just expensive face creams in tiny jars. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love a good face cream.
But if you want to look less tired, my guess is that you want to immediately — not 28 or so days from now, which is the amount of time it usually takes to see noticeable results from a new skin-care product. Sure, some topical ingredients have an immediate effect, like sodium silicate, found in TikTok viral products like Dr. Brandt No More Baggage Eye De-Puffing Gel ($42) and Park Perfection 2-in-1 Instant Eye Lift Serum ($90). The ingredient performs Skims-like magic on under-eye bags, but, says dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch, if almost anything else comes in contact with the tightening latticework the sodium silicate creates, the effect is lost. “Less than ideal for someone who wants to wear makeup,” she points out.
There’s also caffeine, which beauty companies love touting in their marketing campaigns. But I suspect they only put it in eye cream for its associative power (caffeine = awake!). A dermatologist will tell you: Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, so it may reduce the appearance of dark circles temporarily by tightening the vessels to restrict blood flow, but that only works if your circles are caused by skin that’s thin enough and pale enough that your blood vessels are visible beneath it (i.e., not caused by hyperpigmentation, shadows cast by puffiness, or genetically inherited bags). If you belong to the tiny percentage of the population for which that might be true, you have my permission to spend your money on eye cream with caffeine.
If not, pour the caffeine down your throat instead so we can get to the root of the problem.
When you’re tired, you need more blood flow, not less. That’s probably why several of the experts I spoke with want you to focus on skin prep, things that improve circulation, hydration, vitalization — you get the idea. Makeup artist Carola Gonzalez, who counts Kerry Washington and Mindy Kaling among her clients, likes to wake up her face with a $710 electrostimulation device. I find that just massaging my damp skin with a face oil for 60 seconds brings plenty of life back, and can even de-puff a little. (I’m into anything with rosehip seed oil. My all-time favorite is Vintner’s Daughter, but the one from Trilogy is great too.)
Next, apply something balmy and glowy to even out your skin tone and warm up your complexion. “Everybody wears sunscreen now, so their faces are lighter than their bodies,” says Gonzalez. “You need some color to refresh you.” She turned me on to Iris & Romeo Best Skin Day, a genius serum-tint-moisturizer-sunscreen thing that’s great on all skin types and tones. But cream foundation works, too.
Makeup-wise, you can do what you like, but there’s one nonnegotiable: Blush. It’s a sleight of hand that redirects attention away from the tired-eyes issue. Plus it signals to co-workers in your godawful morning status meeting that you did not wake up like that, and, in fact, you have been alert and productive for hours. “It makes you look flushed, and that’s the trick — think about all the things that make you flush,” says makeup artist Vincent Oquendo. He’s into the sunburned blush look that went viral on TikTok this summer (I’ll save you a doomscroll; it’s blush applied to both cheeks and the bridge of your nose, then blended together into a diffused “W” shape). But an easier trick is to do your regular blush application and add whatever’s left on the brush or your fingertips to the tip of your nose. As for your blush color, most makeup artists suggest revitalizing with complementary shades that are on the warm end of the spectrum. Stay away from the bright pinky pinks and ashy mauves. “Brown-y and rosy hues tricks everyone into thinking you’re naturally flushed,” Oquendo says.
Last resort? If you’re too tired to bother with any of the above, or you don’t like wearing makeup, there’s always Lumify drops. They make the whites of your eyes look super-bright, like you just slept eight hours and you’ve never seen a screen in your life.
This buildable formula is super-easy to apply. Dot the applicator on your cheeks and then blend with your fingers. Add more until you look sentient.
“I like to make the skin pop with something creamy that looks like a suntan,” says Gonzalez. This is one of her all-time favorites.
“This looks good on literally every skin tone,” says Oquendo. “It’s effing beautiful.”
If you like powder blush, pick one with a sheen. “I’ve recently fallen in love with this palette,” says Oquendo. “The blushes have some shine, and they look dewy without being shimmery.”