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How to Streamline Your Makeup Routine to Spend Less Time Getting Ready

Mar 14, 2018

I appreciate what makeup can do, but my morning time isn’t unlimited. And I don’t feel like spending a ton of time and effort on cosmetics, anyway. Still, I like the way my lashes look curled and my eyes look shadowed. Here are some tips to get the most out of your makeup routine with the least amount of time, effort, and products.

Makeup isn’t for everyone, but if you choose to wear it, it can be a time-consuming process. But with a little organizing, you can come up with a basic routine that’ll make it easier.

Cut Down Your Stash

Like most makeup wearers, I’ve experimented here and there over the years. A new eyeshadow color, a failed attempt at bright red lipstick—it’s easy to build up a small landfill of products in your own makeup bag. The first step in streamlining your routine? Get rid of everything you don’t use.

First, trash any duplicates. If you experimented with a few different blush colors before finding the right one, get rid of all the products that didn’t work. The Frisky also recommends tossing anything you haven’t worn in five months. It may be hard to get rid of something you spent money on—especially if it’s still good—but be honest with yourself about what you will and won’t’ use. Makeup has a shelf life, anyway. Chances are, if it’s been in your stash for a year or so, it’s probably time to toss it, anyway. According to Good Housekeeping, here’s when common makeup products go bad:


  • Mascara: 3 months

  • Liquid eyeliner: 3 months

  • Cream eyeshadow: 6 months

  • Lipstick and gloss: 2 years

You can check out the full article for the reasoning behind each of these dates, but it’s mostly based on bacteria and effectiveness.

Keep Two Makeup Bags

There’s the makeup I use every day, which isn’t much, and then there’s the makeup I use when I’m trying to look fancy, which includes foundation, smoky eyeshadow, bronzer, and so on. So, to keep my routine simple, I have two makeup bags. One everyday makeup bag and one for the fancy, seldom-used products. That way, I don’t have to rifle through a bunch of products I don’t normally wear.

Cutting back on your products makes the whole process quicker. It’s sort of like cleaning out your closets—the fewer options you have, the easier it is to make decisions.


Find Multipurpose Products

In the spirit of less is more, it also helps to find products that serve multiple purposes. There are the standard “double-duty” products, like BB and CC creams, which are supposed to act as a moisturizer, foundation, primer, and sometimes, an anti-aging cream. They’re designed to be multipurpose and marketed as such. But beyond that, you can get creative with regular products. Money Crashers gives a few examples:

  • Cream blush can be used as lip gloss

  • Mascara can be used as eyeliner—bring the wand to your lash line and gently rub.

  • Bronzer can be used as eyeshadow

I’ve also often found myself using two products because one doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. In this case, it helps to buy high-quality stuff. For example, I used to buy cheap, dollar-store eyeshadows that creased up on my eyelids. To prevent this, I primed my eyelids with a concealing stick. I used two products to do one job, when at the end of the day, it was better to just spend a little more money on one name-brand, quality eyeshadow. They don’t cause the dreaded eyelid crease, so I can ditch the stick and save some time.


Pick and Prioritize

Sure, your makeup might have a bigger impact the more products you use, but the idea here is to simplify. It helps to pick a few areas you want to focus on, then prioritize your products.

First, figure out what you want to focus on (eyes, lips, cheeks, skin tone, etc.) This might be based on your day-to-day activities; it might be based on your own unique features you want to highlight. It’s a general makeup rule of thumb that, if you’re short on time, it helps to only focus on eyes or lips, because those make the most impact. But you know yourself best, so pick the areas that work best for you.

Then, mentally list all the products you use in your routine, considering those features, and prioritize them. For me, it’s moisturizer, eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara and blush, all of which I keep in my everyday bag. On a busy day, I know that at a bare minimum, I’ll only put on moisturizer, eyeshadow, and blush. If I have more time, I can dig into my eyelid primer or bronzer, but when I’m trying to get things done quickly, I know exactly what to go for.

Pick a couple of features to focus on, pick a few basic products, then plan your routine accordingly.


Or Use a Basic, Universal Routine

If you don’t know where to start with makeup, or if you don’t know what to focus on, just use a basic, pre-planned routine. Here’s a 5-minute routine suggested by Best Health:

  • Prep skin with moisturizer, and, if you feel like it, primer and foundation (2 minutes)

  • Apply eyeliner (1 minute)

  • Curl eyelashes and apply mascara (1 minute)

  • Put on blush (1 minute)

  • Apply a sheer gloss or lipstick (15 seconds)

It might not be customized to your liking, but it will do the overall trick for just about anyone.