When you look exhausted, it doesn't matter whether you were up all night working or dancing—dark circles, puffy eyes, and wan skin look the same either way. Try these easy ways to fake it until you wake it.
The repair work that's supposed to happen in the skin at night includes the natural whisking away of dead cells that leave your complexion looking dull and ashen. A good face exfoliation in the morning can do much the same thing quickly (and inexpensively)—just be sure to choose one with soft round grains rather than a chemical agent such as glycolic or lactic acid, which can increase sun sensitivity and leave you a little blotchy.
It may not sound appealing, but it works: A cool shower stimulates circulation in your body and can have a toning effect on your face, says Jeannette Graf, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City—and research has shown that lowering the temperature just a few degrees can make you feel more awake. (Consider using a peppermint body wash, too, since multiple studies have shown that its scent increases alertness and even improves performance on cognitive tasks.)
Lack of sleep can compromise your skin's barrier and make it tough for it to retain water. "That dehydration then accentuates any fine lines you already have, which just makes you look even more tired," says Ranella Hirsch, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Boston University Medical Center.
The old tea-bag-on-the-eyes trick works for a reason: The caffeine constricts blood vessels, the tannins reduce inflammation, and the pressure tamps down the puff. But if that sounds like a pain (or a mess), a chilled compress is just as effective. "Cucumber slices, an eye gel you keep in the fridge, or a bag of frozen peas all work the same way," says Anne Chapas, assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical School. "It's really the cold that shrinks the capillaries and stimulates lymphatic drainage." (She uses the peas on patients to take down swelling.)
Still bloated? Try ten jumping jacks followed by ten deep breaths (then repeat). "It sounds kind of hokey, but I swear, it really works," says Leslie Baumann, professor of dermatology and director of the University of Miami Cosmetic and Research Institute at the Miller School of Medicine. Because vessels in the lymphatic system lack their own muscles, the body relies on external movement and breathing to keep fluids from pooling in areas like under the eyes. "Because of the emphasis on your breathing, yoga is great for dispersing these fluids, too," Baumann says. "But when you're already running late, jumping jacks will only take a minute."
Don't OD on foundation
When skin is looking lifeless, the answer is actually less foundation rather than more. "Choose a creamy formula that contains light-reflecting particles and apply with your fingers, so it can really melt into the skin," says makeup artist Aaron De Mey. "And be sparing—your face will look much more awake if you can still see you skin." If you wear powder, he recommends applying it only to the chin, forehead, and the sides of the nose. "Having a little glow on your cheeks and the center of the nose is more natural," he explains.
Curl your lashes
Makeup artists are pretty much unanimous about the best way to wake up your eyes. For the most fresh-eyed look, "hold the curler as close to the base of the lashes as possible," says makeup artist Chrisanne Davis. "You only need to squeeze once to maximize the curve and length."
While there are a zillion eye creams that promise to help dark circles, none of them offer an instant fix. Concealer, on the other hand, is a sure thing—so start by choosing a creamy formula that is slightly lighter than your skin (but be careful: Go more than one shade lighter, and it can look ghostly). Davis recommends applying it after foundation—"since you want to use the bare minimum, and your makeup will have already given you a head start." Cover just the dark areas, not the entire under-eye, and resist the urge to overblend.
Pop a pill
If your eyes look bloodshot and puffy even if you went to bed by 10 o'clock, the culprit could be allergies. "I've probably recommended more Claritin than any pharmacist," jokes Hirsch, who advises her patients with recurrent puffy eyes or dark circles to consider taking an antihistamine as a preventive measure; you should know in a week or two if it's working on circles.
Don't skip your lids
If you're focused on undereye circles and puffiness, it's easy to look right past another dead giveaway of exhaustion: pink eyelids. Baumann tells patients to dab them with a cotton ball soaked in (of all things) Afrin. "Nasal sprays contain something called oxymetazoline, which addresses both redness and swelling," she says—and notes that it's particularly effective when you've been crying. If they still look pink, makeup artist Troy Surratt recommends applying an eye-shadow base. "One that's peachy will neutralize blue, purple, and gray tones," he says. In a pinch, yellow-based concealer will work on purple circles—just be sure to pick a formula that isn't thick or drying.
While makeup artists agree that you generally want to avoid iridescence around the eyes when you're tired ("It just draws attention to the area," says De Mey), there's one exception: "Put just a tiny touch of shimmer cream right in that little hollow in the inner corners of the eyes. Use a golden color if you have dark skin, silvery or pearlescent if you're pale, and then blend well with a Q-tip," instructs De May. "It instantly makes you look refreshed."
Draw the liner
Once you've done everything you can do for the skin on and around the eyes, pull out your eye pencil. "Take a nude-colored pencil and line the inside rim of the lower lid—it will cover any redness and brighten the eye. It's an old Hollywood trick that really works," says Giordano. To define your upper lashes, "go with something a little less severe than black, like a charcoal or a chocolate brown, and push the point into the lash line as you go," says Davis. "Then wing it outward and upward just the tiniest bit at the end—it really does have the effect of opening up the eyes."
When you consider that another synonym for tired is "drained," adding color to your face with blush makes perfect sense. Makeup artist Susan Giordano likes cream formulas in shades like sheer wine, which, when blended, will "create a transparent flush like when you pinch your cheeks. A light layer of bright blush that has melted into your skin looks more natural than lots and lots of a lighter pastel," she says. De May recommends applying the color slightly higher on the face than usual when you need to look more awake. "Use your fingers to rub it on the highest point of the apples, right over the edge of the orbital bone," he says. "Blurring that line a little will help draw attention away from any darkness or puffiness there."
Whiten your eyes
The most artful makeup in the world won't do squat if your eyes are bloodshot. Usually caused by dehydration, it's easily treated with drops like Visine, which contain ingredients that will shrink the blood vessels. If you're willing to spend a little more (and you don't wear contact lenses), Graf swears by Collyre Bleu from Alcone. "They have the slightest blue tint that also counteracts any yellowness you may have in the eyes and makes them incredibly white," she says. "I use them before I go on TV." Just don't use whitening drops every day—opthalmologists warn that over time, they can have a rebound reddening effect.