As a beauty buyer for a high-end department store, I lived and breathed beauty. I would start my day with a long shower, wash my hair, and begin my lengthy skin and makeup routine. The occasional hangover aside, I was always powdered, preened, and polished in the most luxurious creams, makeup, and fragrances. I maintained this throughout my pregnancy, envisioning myself as some type of "glam mom" to be.
I remember lunching with my National Childbirth Trust friends, pre-babies, and talking about the joys of maternity leave — the prospect of having time to soak in the bath, picnic in the park, write a blog, set up a business…
Four years later, and I’m a mother of two small children. Daily, I look in the mirror and wonder how I have aged so quickly. Like most moms of small kids, I’m greyer, a little scruffy, and pretty frazzled.
Motherhood completely knocked me for six. With a new baby, you feel like a quick, uninterrupted shower is a luxury parallel to a spa day, despite hearing imaginary baby cries throughout. The energy and effort involved in putting on makeup in those early days is exhausting, let alone the prospect of taking it off again. When you finally make it through the wilderness of those newborn months, it's with the knowledge that you have let go of part of your old self.
“Back then I would have a weekly bath with candles and a glass of red wine," mother of two Charlotte Sage remembers. "I always did a clay face mask and would spend ages on my feet. Post-kids I have a bath once every four to six months, surrounded by plastic toys."
Rose Turner, also a mom of two, agrees: “I used to do my nails every Sunday night, or Monday if it was a long boozy lunch Sunday – remember them?! Now I rarely ever paint them, and when I do I never remove them until they’re really chipped.”
Okay, so we might not feel awake, fresh, and bright, but we know we want to look it — and need all the help we can get. So, two kids and four years after those hazy newborn days, I've finally learned how to regain (some of) my old beauty regime, albeit with less energy, budget, and time. Here are my tips:
Louisa Harris, a senior buyer for Cult Beauty, says feeling good all starts with our skin. “Starting and ending the day with a decent cleanse and moisturizing routine is a basic must. Not only to rid your skin of impurities, pollution, and general daily grime but also to keep skin cells turning over and hydrated. Your skin is your biggest organ and can easily reflect lifestyle, especially when you're feeling rundown or tired.”
Lack of sleep will lead to a sluggish, dull, problematic complexion. Parents need instant results, and Alpha H Liquid Gold has truly earned its name. Application is not without a slight sting (that’s the glycolic acid working its magic) but this overnight treatment will work like a liquid peel, revealing smoother, softer, and revitalized skin the next day. It’s fuss- and mess-free, absorbs quickly, and can be used without moisturizer for an intensive treatment.
“A mask twice a week not only helps to keep skin plump and radiant but gives you five minutes of pampering in a world of incessant rushing,” Harris says.
If you need a quick fix, the holy grail of youthful-looking skin lies with Sunday Riley’s Good Genes. Hailed by many as a miracle worker, I have never seen results this instant. It works in three minutes: The lactic acid is fast-working on my (many) lines and wrinkles, and I am well on the road to clawing back my years. The smell isn’t great but us parents are used to bad smells, right? This serum can be used under your moisturizer or as an intensive mask.
A big loss during pregnancy, and motherhood, is hair. Not only does it fall out all over the house – to my husband’s horror – but shampooing is one of the first things to go. I used to wash my hair daily; now I push it three days with the help of dry shampoo.
Plus, blow-drying and styling is a long-gone luxury in this house, but with Redken No Blow Dry Airy Cream for fine hair (sob), you can reduce drying time, smoothing hair while adding volume all at once. This cream is lightweight and leaves hair with a soft, frizz-free finish. It's a great product for parents, who know leaving the house each morning takes as much time as whatever errand it is you’re leaving for.
Most importantly, what to do with those undereye bags? Some days I don’t think they can get any worse, but there’s hope yet. "My quick fix is Becca Under Eye Corrector – it’s a glowy pink primer for the under eye or can be worn alone, and once you try it you can’t be without it," says Harris. "It’s serious armor for dark circles. For something on the lower price end, Nyx HD Concealer is also amazing at covering circles and blurring imperfections.”
Couple a great concealer with a subtle highlighting product, and you can fake radiance. My choice would be Pixi Glow Booster, with just enough sparkle to take the edge off your tired skin. Use as a base or mix into your favorite foundation – it will offer you a hint of shimmer and subtle warmth.
Ultimately, the best weapon against tiredness that I have found to date (besides caffeine) is to get moving – a rather frightening prospect for a new mom. It took me two and a half years to find my exercise mojo again, in a class where the kids can join and play alongside, but it is well worth the effort. Whether you join a buggy fit-type group, an outdoor gym, or take a brisk walk with a friend, you’ll quickly find your energy levels increase, regardless of sleep, and your mood and confidence elevate. Try to increase your water intake, too; it’s so simple but we all make the mistake of forgetting about it.
All is not lost. While we don’t have as much time as we used to, looking glam is one way to make ourselves feel better. And being in a good mood makes me a better mom.