How to look less tired: 13 tips to look fresh and wide awake

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  • Are you feeling the effects of a bad night’s sleep and want to know how to look less tired? Leading beauty experts reveal their best-kept tips.

    We all know how not enough sleep can affect the body. Whether it’s repeatedly waking up early or struggling to fall asleep, poor quality slumber can leave us slow, sluggish and feeling exhausted.

    Yet whilst we can often conceal these consequences, sadly our skin cannot – with dark circles under the eyes often the biggest indicator of a bad night’s kip. 

    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.” Abigail and other beauty gurus swear by a number of  smart skincare swaps to help target the initial tell-tale signs and we’ve shared their results below. 

    1. Try facial massage

    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.”

    Woman demonstrating a facial massage to look less tired

    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.”

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    Sanctuary Spa 10-in-1 Super Secret Facial Oil | £20
    Lightweight and non-greasy, this oil could be used day or night. This plumping oil promises to give skin a radiant and rested look. It smells gorgeous too.

    View at Very

    Biossance 100% Squalane Oil | £27
    Squalane is great for boosting elasticity and bounce in dry skin, to help conceal those signs of a bad night’s sleep. This multi-tasking oil can be used on your hair and body as well.

    View at Cult Beauty

    By Beauty Bay The Jade Facial Roller | £9.95
    Facial rollers make for a nifty alternative to finger-tip facial massage. Pop in the fridge before use to max out on it’s de-puffing powers.

    View at Beauty Bay

    2. Consider your 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.

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    Super Facialist Retinol + Anti-Ageing Firming Eye Cream | £19
    Retinol used to be considered too powerful to use around the eyes, but not any more. Tired skin looks smoother and brighter.

    View at Boots

    Weleda Prickly Pear Cactus Hydrating Eye Gel | £14.95
    A joy to use after a long night tossing and turning, this cooling gel immediately soothes tight, puffy eyes.

    View at Superdrug

    E.l.f. Holy Hydration Eye Cream | £12
    A great way to try a dedicated eye cream without breaking the bank. Peptides and hyaluronic acid work hand in hand to rehydrate fatigued skin.

    View at Feel Unique

    3. 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. 

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    Vichy Laboratories Liftactive Supreme H.A. Epidermic Filler | £38
    Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in our skin, but its levels deplete as we age. See this as a top-up, restoring lost radiance and bounce for tired skin.

    View at Boots

    CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum | £16.99
    Developed by dermatologists, this serum offers a fuss-free way to give thirsty skin a big hit of hydration to prevent skin looking sleep deprived.

    View at Superdrug

    Biossance Squalane + Hyaluronic Toning Mist | £25
    Double-down on moisture by using a hydrating mist before you apply your moistruriser. Especially gorgeous on hot days and early mornings.

    View at Cult Beauty

    4. Rediscover 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.

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    Iconic London Sheer Blush | £18
    Once you get used to the watery feel of the formula, this is so easy to use. Just dot on and blend for a bright and rested appearance.

    View at Cult Beauty

    MAC Cosmetics Glow Play Blush | £24
    A bouncy blush that glides onto skin, adding a just-pinched pop of colour. Apply with a brush or your finger tips.

    View at MAC

    Pixi On-The-Glow Blush | £18
    Short on time? No problem. One sweep over each cheek is all you need for added radiance. Perfect when you haven’t had as much as much rest as you need.

    View at Look Fantastic

    5. Consider your 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. 

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    Bobbi Brown Creamy Corrector | £20.50
    Psst! This creamy colour corrector is one of the beauty industry’s best kept secrets. Eyes look brighter and well rested in a jiffy.

    View at Look Fantastic

    Charlotte Tilbury Magic Vanish | £24
    Don’t be put off by the intensity of the shades, all colours sit seamlessly beneath foundation, having effectively blurred dark circles or any other discolouration.

    View at Charlotte Tilbury

    NYX Professional Makeup 3C Palette | £11
    Be your own make-up artist by mixing and matching a combination of colour corrective concealers depending on your sleep-deprived needs.

    View at Look Fantastic

    6. 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.”

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    Charlotte Tilbury The Classic Eyeliner in Brown | £16
    A more forgiving alternative to harsh black liquid liner, which can make you look more tired – this brown pencil is packed full of pigment that lasts all day.

    View at Cult Beauty

    Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in Truffle | £24
    Forget fiddly brushes, this illuminating eyeshadow is best blended with your finger tips. The champagne shade has just the right amount of shimmer for a brighter look.

    View at Bobbi Brown

    Hourglass Vanish Flash Highlighting Stick in Champagne Flash | £45
    Creamy and luxurious, dot on the inner corners of your eyes for a wide-awake look.

    View at Space NK

    7. Try a lighter foundation 

    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 foundation? No problem. Just rethink your application instead. 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.”

    Our beauty editor recommends:

     

    Barry M Fresh Face Foundation | £7.99
    Dewy and light, this base is perfect for ‘no make-up’ make-up days. It’s available in 20 different shades too.

    View at Boots

    IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ | £32.50
    A cult classic for good reason, this is the secret weapon of rosacea sufferers. It effectively hides any redness or dark circles, without a cakey or mask-like finish.

    View at Boots

    L’Oreal Paris Skin Paradise Tinted Water Moisturiser | £10.99
    Instead of a traditional foundation, this is 70% serum, delivering a hefty dose of hydration and leaving skin with a healthy, rested and radiant glow.

    View at Superdrug

    8. Give fake tan a go

    Brush any negative connotations concerning orange tones or streaks aside, the latest fake tan formulas 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.”

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    Amanda Harrington London Face Illuminating Bronzing Mist | £28
    Hand’s down one of the best fake tans for face we’ve ever tried and is perfect for tired skin. The result is natural, with not even a whiff of orange.

    View at Space NK

    Isle of Paradise Night Glow Self-Tan Face Mist | £15.95
    Scented with jasmine and lavender, this tan smells akin to a fancy pillow spray, helping you to nod off.

    View at Boots

    9. Try a brighter lipstick 

    If in doubt, throw on a bold lip is very much the mantra of the GTK beauty team. Bold pinks really 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.”

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    MAC Cosmetics Matte Lipstick in Lady Danger | £17.50
    A cult classic for good reason. Apply, blot and repeat for all-day wear that won’t transfer onto the rim of your glass. Perfect for detracting from a tired appearance.

    View at MAC

    Nars Lipstick in Roman Holiday | £22
    Trust us when we say that this pink looks good on everyone – no matter how much sleep they’ve had. The full-on, Barbie shade has a satin finish for a touch of shine.

    View at Nars

    Trinny London Lip Luxe Lip Colour in Demon | £22
    Apply one coat for a light wash of colour during the day, and build up for evening. The creamy texture is a doddle to apply, even in a rush (or when you’re half asleep).

    View at Trinny London

    10. 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.

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    L’Oreal Paris Air Volume Mega Waterproof Mascara | £10.99
    Thanks to the oversized brush and wax-based formula, lashes look longer and fluffier in just a few sweeps. Ideal for wide awake eyes.

    View at Boots

    Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara | £9.99
    The innovative brush uses bristles of 6 different lengths to make sure every single lash is coated – even the tiny fair ones you didn’t even know you had.

    View at Superdrug

    Bobbi Brown No Smudge Mascara | £25.50
    Doing just as it says on the tube, this long-wearing mascara won’t budge, crumble or smudge during the day – even if you can’t help rubbing those tired eyes.

    View at Bobbi Brown

    11. Use exfoliating acids

    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 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. 

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    PSA Heroine Mandelic & Licorice Superfood Toner | £28
    The heroine lacklustre, tired skin was waiting for, this helps to buff away dead skin cells. Blemishes are also reduced in the process.

    View at Beauty Bay

    No7 Laboratories Resurfacing Peel 15% Glycolic Acid | £34
    A weekly treatment as opposed to a daily part of your routine, this punchy peel works in as little as 5 minutes. Skin is left soft, clear and fresh.

    View at Boots

    The Inkey List Lactic Acid | £7.99
    If your new to AHAS, this is a pure-friendly place to start. The mild exfoliant is enhanced with hyaluronic acid to boost skin’s moisture levels.

    View at Look Fantastic

    12. 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.

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Laser Pure Retinol Night Serum | £24.99
    Using pure retinol, not a complex, this patent-pending formulation has been clinically proven to reduce even deep wrinkles. This includes those that may have been caused by long periods of less sleep.

    View at Boots

    La Roche Posay Retinol B3 Serum | £38
    Sensitive skin is not always well-suited to retinol. This one uses a slow-release technology to avoid any redness or flaking.

    View at Boots

    Medik8 Crystal Retinal 1 | £39
    If you’re serious about adding retinol to your routine to reduce the signs of tired skin, Medik8’s Crystal Retinol range will guide you through the process. Start with the lowest dose, and work your way up.

    View at Medik8

    13. 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 skincare include ascorbyl palmitate, ethyl ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl tetra-isopalmitoyl, and sodium ascorbyl phosphate.”

    Our beauty editor recommends:

    The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Boosting Moisturiser | £16
    A pick-me-up in a tub for tired skin, this vitamin C packed serum is also formulated with aloe vera for a soothing treat.

    View at The Body Shop

    Sunday Riley C.E.O Glow Vitamin E + Turmeric Face Oil | £34
    In need of some serious glow after a bad night’s sleep? This serum uses a complexion-boosting complex of ginger, golden turmeric and vitamin C to help you fake a full 8-hours.

    View at Cult Beauty

    REN Radiance Glow Daily Vitamin C Gel Cream | £38
    Hate the feel of oils and moisturisers? This lightweight gel could be the vitamin C for you. 90% of consumers tested agreed skin has a healthy glow after 7 days of use.

    View at Cult Beauty