Calling all tired mums! I'm a beauty editor and these 39 products will help you look and feel fresh (even when you've been up all night)

These Beauty Editor-approved products will help busy mums fight tired skin

A woman looking in a mirror and applying concealer under her eyes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are plenty of mums who want to know how to look less tired. That's why we've asked beauty experts to reveal their top tips, along with the best products for tired mums that will keep you feeling fresh.

We all know that not getting enough sleep can affect the body, and parents know that better than anyone - dealing with lack of sleep is pretty much part of the job description, after all. Even when the night feeds are over, you can still struggle to get a proper night's rest. Keeping a tiny human alive is an exhausting task, and while no one should be put under pressure to look their best while caring for a baby, some of these products might help you feel a bit more put together when the tiredness takes over.

As celebrity facialist and aesthetician Abigail Oleck notes: "Lack of sleep, stress and tiredness all cause the skin to look dull, as well as accelerating the ageing process." This can leave us reaching for a good eye cream to help get rid of dark circles or one of the best facial oils, and these little luxuries can make a great treat for tired mums who need a moment of self-care.

Abigail and other beauty gurus swear by a number of  smart skincare swaps to help target the initial tell-tale signs of tiredness and we've shared their results below, some of which make the best gifts for new mums in need of a pick-me-up.

How to look less tired - tips from the experts

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Try a facial massage with oils

The benefits of facial massage are three fold, especially when enjoyed as part of your pre-sleep or morning routine. It’ll not only help to reduce puffiness, but help you to unwind too. And, when adopted in the mornings, it'll help boost circulation for wider awake appearance. 

“At its core, facial massage uses the potent power of touch to help transform a person’s face, giving a sense of deep connection and peace,” says massage expert Beata Aleksandrowicz. “Face massage boosts blood circulation, firms the skin, and tones the muscles. It relieves tension and stress too. It also helps to encourage the flow of lymph and releases endorphins, which is one reason why, after a facial, we look, and feel younger.”

All you need is a facial oil or moisturiser and five minutes. A quick YouTube search will reward you with a barrage of how-to videos and guides, but the following is a great place to start. 

“Gently press the flat part of the fingers of each hand into your temples and start to make mindful circles breathing regularly,” advises Beta. “Go slowly and intentionally - you will feel the tension release with every movement. Any soothing strokes that use the fingers of both hands in long brushing motions across the face will also bring a sense of calm. Make sure that your hands are light and you stroke gently.”

Reduce puffiness with an eye cream 

The skin on our faces is thinnest around the eye area, and really takes the brunt of a bad night’s sleep. While the experts are in agreement that everyone should be treating this delicate skin, they’re divided as to whether this needs to be with a dedicated eye cream, or your normal moisturiser. 

“A dedicated eye cream will help to reduce the look of puffiness, illuminate the appearance of dark circles under the eyes, reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and crow’s feet,” says Abigail Oleck. 

“There’s no reason why you can’t use your regular moisturiser around the eye area if you choose to do so, assuming there are no active ingredients which may cause irritation such as exfoliating acids,” adds Dr Anjali Mahto. “However, many people opt to have a separate eye cream because the formulation is often lighter and therefore better for the delicate skin around the eye area. An additional reason why someone may opt for a separate eye cream is you’ll often find ingredients specifically included for their benefit for the area, such as caffeine.” Look out for nourishing ingredients such as vitamin E and hyaluronic acid too.

Rehydrate your skin 

Dry skin tends to be low in lipids, the fatty acids that help give skin its bounce. “You can tell if your skin is lacking in oil or lipids by the following characteristics: dull, irritated, flaky, and lacking in glow,” explains Abigail Oleck. Not only are these characteristics frustrating and at times uncomfortable, but they serve to make you look tired too. The problem then becomes two-fold, as fatigue can cause you to neglect your skincare regime, exasperating these issues.

“To remedy this, we need to use products such as hyaluronic acid, take supplements such as Omega 6 and Omega 3 and eat foods such as oily fish, fruit, vegetables and seeds,” continues Abigail. Drinking plenty of water will help too, working from the inside out. 

Add a flush of colour with blusher

If you’re not using a blusher, you’re missing a trick. “Our skin is made up of a multitude of shades and tones,” says Kaytlin Scott, Senior Pro Artist at MAC Cosmetics. “When we apply foundation and concealer we are blocking this variety of tones from being visible. This is why we have highlighter, bronzer, contour and blush: to bring that dimension and life back to our faces! Blusher replicates the natural blood flow we get when our cheeks are flushed and so makes us look perky and youthful.  For a lifted look, apply your blusher starting just behind the apple of the cheeks and blend up to the temples.”

Powder formulas are the longest lasting, while cream and liquid formulas provide a softer, more diffused pop of colour.

Hide dark circles with concealer

Slap-dash or heavy-handed concealer application can unfortunately undo all your good intentions, drawing attention to the very dark circles you were trying to hide. Choose a light, buildable formula and apply with a light touch. “Fingers and a light buffing brush are great for under the eye,” says make-up artist Ruby Hammer

In some cases, a flesh coloured concealer won’t be enough to fully disguise purple-toned rings. “A pink, peach or red colour corrector will take away darkness and allow your under eyes to look bright and awake,” advises celebrity make-up artist Bryony Blake. Wear the colour-corrector beneath your normal concealer for maximum blurring potential when you want to look more awake. 

Avoid heavy eye make-up

When it comes to eye make-up to help you look less tired, less is more. “If you desire a brighter look, the best place to start is swapping your black eyeliner for a soft or reflective brown,” explains Kaytlin Scott. “You will obtain the same definition of the eye, but in a much gentler way.”

“Finish off your eye look with a touch of your highlighter or a light eyeshadow right on the inner corners of your eye, as well as wrapped around the first third of your lower lash line for a bright and open appearance.”

Try a lighter foundation

Have you been wearing the same foundation for years? It might be time for a fresh start. High-coverage formulas can look mask-like when you’re tired, so swap for something lighter and dewier. “Heavy matte bases can sit very dry on the skin which will instantly make texture and fine lines look more prominent on the face,” advises Bobbi Brown Pro Artist, Zara Findlay. “You want to look for a base that looks and feels like skin.” 

Committed to your full coverage? No problem. Just rethink your application instead to stop your makeup looking cakey. “My favourite way of applying a full coverage foundation is with a firm bristle brush and I like to press the product into my skin - especially in areas you want more coverage,” says Bryony Blake. “I then buff it out in the areas that need less coverage. By doing it this way you will get the coverage you want but, at the same time, it won’t look caked on or too heavy. Beauty blenders are also a popular tool to apply foundation with as you can use a gentle patting motion to apply the product.”

Give fake tan a go

Brush any negative connotations concerning orange tones or streaks aside, the best fake tans for your face are almost foolproof. Apply before bed and we guarantee you’ll wake up looking refreshed, even if you don’t feel it. 

“There are many sensible reasons to get your bronze from a bottle - UV rays being the enemy of healthy skin - but, a good self tan is more than a substitute for carrot oil and frying in the sun,” explains Senior Beauty Editor Fiona McKim. “Tanning was historically unfashionable, rejected by upper classes as it suggested a life working outside, but that’s exactly why I love it today. It speaks of health, outdoorsyness and a lifestyle full of vim and vigour. Perhaps you spent the weekend in an allotment, pulling organic kale from the earth? Maybe you went hiking in the Hollywood hills with a flask full of green juice - who can say? With your trusty self tanner nobody need know you’ve been indoors eating shreddies and watching Peppa Pig since 6am.”

Try a brighter lipstick

If in doubt, throwing on a bold lip is very much the mantra of our beauty team, who know all about the best red lipsticks. Bold pinks suit both pale and darker skin tones, and orange-toned reds are great if your skin has yellow or olive tones.

"I think of bold lipstick as very much a ‘watch the birdie' beauty trick,” says Senior Beauty Editor Fiona McKim. “Essentially everyone is so distracted and impressed by your punchy lippie that almost anything could be happening with the rest of your face and it’s very unlikely they’ll notice.

"This makes bold lipstick great for hangover days, when you’re knackered or in a rush and need to appear to have made an effort when all you’ve really done is scribble one product on. It’s a little more high maintenance than, say, a smoky eye once it’s on but the effort to impact ratio is still unbeatable."

Don't forget your mascara

Never underestimate the power of that little tube. Mascara will not only make your lashes look longer and darker, increasing fluttery-ness in the process, but make your eyes look wider and brighter. “Even if you don’t have time for anything else, mascara is a must,” says Bryony Blake. “My top tip is to put a little mascara on your bottom lashes as well to really make your eyes pop.” 

If your lashes don’t have a natural curl, then Kaytlin Scott recommends, “giving your lashes a good few squeezes with lash curlers to instantly open up your eyes.” If you really wanted to commit to the curl, lash treatments like LVL offer a semi-permanent solution, with results lasting between 6-8 weeks.

Use exfoliating acids to brighter skin tone

A modern (and less messy!) alternative to gritty, grainy physical exfoliants, alpha-hydroxy acids - otherwise known as AHAs - are chemical exfoliants. “Using gentle chemical exfoliators can help remove the upper layer of dead skin cells and reveal a brighter skin tone and complexion,” explains Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist at 55 Harley Street. So, instead of looking grey and dull, your skin looks perky and fresh. 

Glycolic is one of the most commonly used AHAs, and thanks to its small molecule size, can penetrate easily into the skin. The results are impressive and instant, making this a satisfying addition to your skincare regime, and a failsafe answer to the quandary of how to look less tired.

Glycolic can be too full-on for sensitive skin, so if your complexion is easily irked, try an AHA with a larger size molecule, like lactic, malic or mandelic acid instead. They’ll still effectively exfoliate your skin, just at a slightly slower rate - perfect if you keep waking up early, but want to look more rested. 

Get started on retinol

Prolonged periods of insomnia can take its toll on your skin, with fine lines becoming more prominent. Enter retinol (also known as Vitamin A), the potent anti-ageing ingredient. “Scientific studies show that retinoids can reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin pigmentation after 12 weeks of use,” says Dr Anjali Mahto. “They are also useful for those with sun damaged skin and acne (they act as an exfoliant and improve skin cell turnover).” 

When introducing retinol into your regime, start slowly with a low percentage of around 0.1%, applied once or twice a week. As your skin becomes more tolerant, you can increase both the strength and the frequency. You won’t see results immediately, but will notice your skin gradually becoming smoother and brighter.

Bear in mind that you should avoid retinol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Increase your vitamin C intake

Not just a must in your diet for healthiest skin, vitamin C is a powerhouse antioxidant that works wonders on lacklustre complexions. “When applied topically, Vitamin C brightens the skin and helps to reinforce the skin's natural protection against the sun's UV Rays and pollution in the air, which can cause free radical damage,” explains Abigail Oleck. “To maximise the effects of your vitamin C, use every AM under your SPF after cleansing.”

Confusingly, there are lots of different types of vitamin C. “L-ascorbic acid should be considered the “gold-standard” for topical vitamin C,” says Dr Anjali Mahto. “It is most effective at a concentration of 10-20%. However, in higher percentages, it can cause irritation especially in those with sensitive skin. Weaker, more stable derivatives of vitamin C in skin care include ascorbyl palmitate, ethyl ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl tetra-isopalmitoyl, and sodium ascorbyl phosphate."

We spoke to the following experts:

Abigail Oleck

Abi specialises in advanced skin treatment's, metabolic peels and aesthetic treatments and is regarded as an expert in the Industry amongst her clients and fellow care professionals.

Abi is also a well-respected educator herself working with brands such as Ruuby, Amanda Caroline Skin Care, Sand and Sky, Vichy and by hosting masterclasses and teaching fellow therapists.

Beata Aleksandrowicz

Beata Aleksandrowicz is an internationally-acclaimed specialist in massage, facials and spa treatments. A renowned writer and speaker, Beata is known for her visionary approach to touch and deep-healing therapy.

She has an exclusive client list which includes TV presenters, newspaper and magazine editors alongside fashion and beauty directors. 

Dr Anjali Mahto
Dr Anjali Mahto

Dr Anjali Mahto is one of the UK’s leading consultant dermatologists who has worked in both the UK public healthcare sector and private clinics. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, member of the Royal Society of Medicine and a spokesperson for The British Skin Foundation.

Anjali now practises in London’s Harley Street where she treats patients with diverse skin concerns, helping them to create clinically-informed solutions based on a holistic approach to quality skincare and lifestyle.