I'm a 37 year old mom of 4, a writer and I have a whole other job - yes, a whole other job. And that doesn't include countless hours of volunteer work and nighttime meetings. There are times when I just can't get enough sleep. For me, it tends to show up under my eyes. I remember the days when I voluntarily stayed up late as a single girl about town in NYC, attending parties that started no earlier than 10:30 with unspecified end times. These events took place in smoky venues and required a minimum of 3 drinks per person. I look back now and say "I CHOSE to forego sleep?" But as I recall, it didn't show up so easily on my skin despite exposure to the harshest of elements. Breathing in secondhand smoke, tossing back vodka shots and partying until the wee am hours are not things I would have been able to keep up forever. These days, I am armed with my Clinique All About Eyes serum with its metal roller ball (I keep it in my refrigerator so it is cold enough to bring down puffiness) and Cover FX foundation to hide the dark circles. These are my secret weapons - well, not so secret anymore, as I'm exposing them to you right now!
I spoke with celebrity makeup artists, cosmetic chemists, skincare experts and MDs. Here are their tips and tricks for looking more awake instead of going back to bed:
Waking up to a Cold Blast
If you've ever watched the classic Mommy Dearest, you've seen how Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford attacked her face with buckets of ice each morning. Dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD recommends applying Green tea bags COLD to the under eye area; The tea's antioxidants help to reduce inflammation while the cold temporarily reduces dilated and discolored under-eye blood vessels, constricting them and giving you a more alert appearance.
Beauty blogger and eco-Friendly makeup artist Kaylin Johnson (www.kaylinskit.com) recommends refrigerating eye cream and applying it cold to reduce puffiness. Refrigeration also works well with metal roller ball serum products. You can also use something as simple as eye gel rounds, like those made to look like cucumbers from Eye Candy Coolers ($12 at www.eyecandycoolers.com).
Another use for my babies' frozen peas (oh, and how I wish my older boys would eat that stuff!)
If you prefer to get crafty in the kitchen, Ole Henriksen of the OLEHENRIKSEN skincare line (sold at Sephora stores) suggests taking frozen peas and rolling them in gauze, like a sushi roll. Press the package firmly across the eyes to increase circulation in this sensitive area.
Start Your Day With Milk - as a Face Wash!
Cecilia Wong, owner of NYC based Cecilia Wong Skincare, recommends dipping a washcloth in a bowl of cold milk and applying the wash cloth to your face for five minutes. "Milk will balance the PH of skin and help brighten skin tone," she explains. I liked Wong's own Milk Exfoliating Cleanser ($44 at www.ceciliawongskincare.com).
And, of course, Caffeine!
It's not just for your coffee. Dark circles may be "allergic shiners" or due to genetics, but caffeine in products - especially when combining caffeine with niacinimide, retinol and peptides - can brighten the eye area. Caffeine by itself has been shown to stimulate circulation and reduce swelling. Aside from the caffeine in those cold green tea bags to apply under the eyes, Dr. Peredo recommends Olay Professional Pro-X Eye Restoration Complex which combines these ingredients, $39.99 at Walgreens.com.
Regu-Age and Vitamin C
Besides caffeine, niacinimide, retinol and peptides, there are plenty of ingredients to look for in your eye creams. Henriksen recommends products with high concentrations of Regu-Age, an extract derived from yeast and rice bran protein that diminishes dark circles and puffiness. Regu-Age combined with micro algae firms skin and boosts collagen production while, Vitamin C brightens skin tone.
Glycolic and Lactic Acid
These are ingredients that gently exfoliate the skin to enhance cell renewal and reduce the appearance of wrinkles on the face. All of these components come together in Henriksen's "Truth is in the Eyes" serum ($65 at Sephora).
For natural ingredients that really moisturize dry, delicate skin without making your eyes water or sting, you can try Cyto-Luxe Eye Cream by glo therapeutics. Although it retails for $95, it is well worth the price tag with ingredients like Myoxinal, a tropical plant extract that has been shown to eliminate the micro-contractions that lead to facial wrinkles.
Don't's say "Arg" if you haven't tried Arginine!
Another ingredient to know about: Arginine is an amino acid that soothes the skin and promotes wrinkle resistance. OLEHENRIKSEN's Ultimate Lift Eye Gel ($38, Sephora) is a calmative nighttime eye remedy for puffiness and the appearance of wrinkles. Aloe vera and cucumber combined with arginine soothe the skin and over time, can help smooth the skin's appearance. For best results, store the gel in your refrigerator.
Vitamin K, Hesperidin, Chrysin and Crushed Pearls
The ingredients listed above are a must in an eye cream for beauty expert Elise Hamamoto, who says they "reduce dark bruise-like discolorations and puffiness around the eyes with long-term use. Crushed pearls contribute a subtle shimmer that instantly camouflages under-eye circles and make eyes appear bigger and brighter." Check out HydroPeptide products, www.hydropeptide.com. Their eye cream isn't cheap (it retails for $60), but was selected as a winner of Day Spa Magazine's Editor's Choice awards.
Can You Stomach Oatmeal?
Nicole Lundy, a makeup artist and the founder of Ne Lani Skincare suggests fitting oatmeal into your daily diet because this breakfast staple is a natural anti-inflammatory and helps to regulate your skin's natural pH balance. Oatmeal can also be used topically as a natural scrub on the face and body to get rid of dead skin cells and reveal a radiant, more awake-looking complexion.
Eat 'n Wear Antioxidants
Lundy says to include foods that are nutritionally rich with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (dark leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, grains) into your meals. She recommends using beauty products that contain naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for an overall vibrant look. With a consistent diet of antioxidants, a missed night of sleep here and there will show up less on your face. Lundy advises: "Read the labels of your beauty products to determine which ones are giving a greater rate of return for your skin's nutrition."
A Quick Sprint or a Quick Spritz
In addition to providing stellar makeup tips, Dimitri James of Skinn Cosmetics recommends exercising for 5-10 minutes to create circulation and a rosy glow. Cosmetologist Sandra Marshall (www.egyptianessences.com) says that when you're too time crunched for a run or a nap, spritzing your face with a combination of rose and lavender oils mixed with water can help wake you up. According to Marshall, "These two oils are beneficial for the skin. They also relax you as well as give you a quick pick me up."
Don't Underestimate a Good Brow
Reema Khan, the founder and president of s.h.a.p.e.s Brow Bar explains that "a well-shaped brow can highlight bone structure to make any face look more put together and eyes more awake. Brows that are arched to complement face shape can bring out cheek bones, give tired eyes a quick lift and even help thin out a tired, puffy face."
Cosmetic chemist Susan Chyi, the founder of Jelly Pong Pong cosmetics (www.jellypongpong.com), likes illuminating/highlighting cream tapped into the brow bones to "open up" eyes.
Chyi advises: "Pluck stray hairs from beneath your defined arch, brush a brow powder over your brows (or use a brow pencil), and then blend with a brow brush. Use a light concealer or illuminating cream and blend it under your arch to give you clean, well-defined eyebrows."
I've sat through enough Top Model marathons to know about white eyeliner as a major staple for your makeup kit. Kaylin Johnson seconds Tyra Banks' top tip: "Line the inner rims of the eyes with the white liner to brighten eyes."
Does This Tool Look Scary To You?
An eyelash curler sure looks scary to me! However, makeup artists swear by it. Curl lashes with a manual lash curler to open up eyes, says Johnson.
You're a Rock Star...So PINK It Up!
"I find a little bit of color on the cheeks helps a great deal, especially a healthy glow that seems to come from within," says Chyi. She recommends using a water-based cheek stain. Options: Tarte's Cheek Stain or Chyi's "Jelly Flush," which gives you an "I just came back from a jog" tint. Some of the cheek stains on the market are formulated with antioxidants and powerful botanical extracts such as Green Tea & Gingko Biloba, Chyi explains. These ingredients moisturize skin at the same time as giving color, providing you with a more youthful, "awake" looking complexion.
Celebrity Makeup artist Kela Wong swears by Cover FX's line of blushes when she's busy keeping Rachel Bilson looking pretty. I have to agree that the line's Pink Topaz and Golden Peach bronzers gave me the perfect flush for my own light (ok, pale) complexion.
Covering it Up Kela's Way
Kela Wong's choice for covering up? Cover FX full coverage foundation ($39 at www.CoverFX.com), no additional concealer necessary (I tried the brand for the first time a couple of weeks ago and fell in love with the products!). Wong, who has also worked with Alicia Keys, J.Lo, Sandra Bullock, Brooke Shields and Rene Russo, swears by this stay-put foundation for a flawless visage. If you do decide to use a separate concealer under the eyes, just go one shade lighter than your skin tone and not too light. The Cover FX line was developed by plastic surgeons to cover post-op scars, so the foundation by itself works phenomenally.
Another personal favorite of mine: Lancôme EFFACERNES Waterproof Protective Undereye Concealer ($29.50 at Macy's).
Cheaper Coverage Without Cheapening Quality
Makeup artist Mickey Williams likes less pricey CVS drug store brands and says you want to look for: "dry formulas [of coverage] so little to no powder needs to be used over it. Orange undertones hide blueish circles the best. Stay away from anything that looks too gray. Match your skin tone closely. Never go too light and never go darker than your skin tone or foundation color."
Brighteners or illuminating makeup products draw attention away from the tired looking areas by giving you a youthful glow and covering up some of the hyper-pigmented skin.
Cover FX offers Brite Prep FX, a brightening foundation primer with full-spectrum SPF (50) protection.
Another choice is the easy to use wand by Dimitri James for Skinn Cosmetics called Bright Eyes - Eye Enhancing Treatment. Explains a representative for Skinn Cosmetics: "This super hydrating brightener utilizes the latest technology in color pigments to virtually erase the look of fatigue and dark circles without the weight and feel of heavy concealers." Special incandescent pigments in the wand make eyes appear bigger and brighter.
The Wide Awake palette by Jelly Pong Pong cosmetics ($24 at www.jellypongpong.com) includes not only an illuminator, but a highlighting cream and eyebrow sculpting tools and powders.
Thin Skinned? Your blood vessels are showing!
Sleep deprivation tends to show up where your skin is thinnest. Those dark circles? Well, that's where the highest concentration of blood vessels clusters and it's showing through your epidermis! These blood vessels are made more apparent by skin paleness in that thin-skinned zone resulting from fatigue.
Makeup artist Brett Freedman recommends prepping skin with refrigerated, pure aloe gel before applying moisturizer and makeup. While cold constricts those blood vessels, pure aloe gel helps to tighten and freshen the skin. Once the aloe is absorbed, Freedman recommends mixing your foundation with a bit of tinted moisture for an added glow and lightly applying the foundation all over the face. "Go into the eyelids and around the eyes," says Freedman, "This takes away the pinkish blood vessels on the lids and puts a nice veil over under-eye circles."
Next, says Freedman, mix a thick, waxy stick concealer with a little foundation on your hand. With a brush, dab it on the inner eye area.
There's no Genie in your eyeballs, Stop Rubbing!
No matter how tired you feel...DO not rub your eyes! Nicole Lundy stresses that the skin around our eyes is the most fragile and will show any mistreatment fast.
She also recommends applying under-eye creams by patting them in lightly with the ring finger, the gentlest of our little piggies.
Sleeping with a silk eye mask
Smoothing the appearance of skin is something you can start on WHILE sleeping if you're able to sleep with an eye mask (I confess, I'm not!). The Branché Belle De Nuit Eye Masque ($38 at www.branchebeautysleep.com) is made of 100% pure charmeuse silk that is treated with 18 amino acids and copper. It is designed to "preserve luminosity of the skin surrounding the eyes, in addition to fighting wrinkles and puffiness." Added bonus for frequent fliers: The mask blocks disrupting light for a deeper sleep.
And Masks You Can Use and Abuse Before Bed
...Well, not exactly "abuse," but toss after use. I love the Karuna face masks (www.KarunaSkin.com) with antioxidants like mushroom extract and green tea as well as plant extracts, peptides and brightening properties like Chinese licorice, chamomile and vitamin B. I couldn't believe how smooth and tight my skin felt after usage. Another product by Karuna, its Renewable Eye Mask, is particularly effective for reducing the appearance of fine lines, puffiness, and dark circles. Unique ingredients: antioxidant mushroom extract, red seaweed & Japanese angelica. In addition, sweet broom extract, a micro-circulation booster, helps to reduce the look of puffiness and discoloration.
4 pairs of Karuna eye masks (a pod for each eye comes in a set), $36 at www.karunaskin.com.
Wear brighter colors
Makeup pro Sandra Marshall suggests eye-catching colors (royal blue, bright yellow) to help brighten you up when you're looking tired, especially helpful when paired with a makeup look focused on highlighting and brightening.
Avoid Seeing Red
Beauty blogger and author Erika Katz (Bonding Over Beauty, A Mother-Daughter Guide to Self-Esteem, Confidence and Trust) suggests using a bone colored eyeliner on the lower lids to brighten tired blood shot eyes. She also uses Visine to get the red out.
"Don't make these tips a habit! Faking it long term is never a good idea!" -Dimitri James for Skinn Cosmetics
James is right. I echo his sentiments when he says about his own tips to clients: "While these tips help every once in a while, it is ultra-important that women get their rest for their health. Long term sleep deprivation hurts our weight loss efforts, causes premature aging and cognitively impacts our ability to make decisions, manage stress and perform at our best."
You don't have to be a doctor to know that there's no proper replacement for a good night's sleep!