Bad-day beauty: Easy products to boost tired faces

On these sorts of days, I demand the make-up effects without the work of creating them

The power of make-up is generally underestimated. One morning recently, I awoke from a fitful sleep plagued by nightmares of tax returns and pandemics (and something about a sentient panda with a scythe…). My face, reflected in the bathroom mirror, conveyed all the sunken, weary trauma of a restless night. I had a dreaded Zoom meeting, and I didn’t want anyone saying “Ohhhh, you look tired! Are you alright?” lest I get fired for verbally assaulting someone.

On days like these, I want make-up to lift my apathetic, jaded face and articulate a willingness toward the day that I may not feel when I get up that morning. Sometimes painting on your enthusiasm will have a welcome mood-boosting effect, but that isn’t entirely the point. It’s a coping strategy; a tool to produce some momentum when I need a kickstart.

It is essential, however, that these facial enhancements create little work or fuss, and require no skill, because on these sorts of days, I demand the effects without the work of creating them. What I want are elevated basics – especially nice, idiot-proof products that are impossible to apply badly.

Trinny London BFF De-Stress (€45 at is just that. Whack it on with fingers; it is forgiving, glowy and offers some coverage without flattening the skin. It is also a hybrid skincare/make-up product, so it both is, and feels like it is, "doing something".


This time of year seems to command earthy tones for eyes. Bobbi Brown Blush Nudes Palette (€38 at Arnotts) features five cool-toned nudes, several of which have a mushroom undertone that will do wonders for a pair of squinting, underslept blue, green or hazel eyes. If you’re feeling especially fragile, any single one of the shades swept over the lid will look “on purpose”.

That same mushroom mauve hue features in Essie Nail Polish in Merino Cool (€9.99 at stockists nationwide). It doesn’t carry the drama of a brown or black nail but makes more of a statement than a flat nude, and suits everyone.

Lipgloss is one of the casualties of the mask era. It seems highly indulgent, is objectively messy, and just doesn’t work out in the world any more. At home though, I will wear it for some hydration and some cheer, and when I want “something” but can’t be bothered with lipstick.

Charlotte Tilbury Jewel Lips Gloss in Champagne Diamonds (€28 at Brown Thomas) is impossibly glittery, but the caramel-hued neutral pulls it back into socially acceptable territory.

Finally, I happened upon Clinique High Impact Mascara (€22 at Brown Thomas) – a classic – again recently and had forgotten what a gem it is. The only mascara you can throw on and keep layering without having to fiddle the excess off the brush, you can apply even without a mirror (I wouldn’t advise it, but you could). It doesn’t clump, flake, move or make an awkward feature of itself. It just gives you excellent, natural looking but long and separated lashes.