The busy woman’s guide to party

The busy woman’s guide to party

Ironic, isn’t it, that at this time of year – when we’re meant to look our most mistletoe-worthy – most of us are looking as frenzied as we feel, thanks to a ‘To Do’ list that seems to stretch from here to the moon. So while we at Beauty Bible always fantasise about having hours to prepare for a party, it only happens once in a blue moon. Usually, we have five minutes (with a cab ticking outside) to make the transition from desk to dinner, or cocktails, or office ‘do’. How we envy anyone who sets aside time to chill out after a busy day and guiltlessly, languidly preen herself to party-worthiness. In our case? We’re realistic: it’s never going to happen, because there’s always something (wrapping a last-minute gift, opening that day’s Christmas cards or making a mad dash to the school carol concert) that seems to take priority over self-pampering.

Happily, our experience is that you don’t need an hour to prepare: five minutes can make a huge difference. Fifteen is fantastic. Half an hour? True luxury. An hour? Well, we can all dream, can’t we? So here, the busy woman’s guide to party gorgeousness, to take you from frazzled to fabulous, fast.


Reach for a ‘magic pen’. Pump a little light-reflecting concealer onto the back of your hand, roll a Q-Tip in it and use that to pick up any smudges or flakes around the eye area. This works better than eye make-up remover, which takes too much make-up off.

Brush your teeth. It’s one of the quickest lifts: takes a minute, makes you feel ten times fresher.

Draw on a smoky eye. Happily, this season’s essential eye ‘look’ looks deliberately smudged – and sexy, and is easy to achieve. Apply a soft black pencil all around your eyes (think ‘smouldering’, à la Brigitte Bardot), and blend with a sponge tip or applicator. You can then use the sponge applicator to add a black powder shadow over the top, if you like, to ‘set’ the pencil – but remember, the line should be blurred, not precise. (The general rule is that the darker your colouring, the more sultry and smoky you can go – although having said that, Claudia Schiffer looks as good with a smudgy eye as Penelope Cruz. Our tip, though, is to have a practise session beforehand – when there isn’t a cab waiting outside – so you’ve got the look down to a few deft strokes of a pencil.)

Va-va-volumise your lashes. You don’t need to start from scratch and remove mascara – but some formulations work better than others, if you want to reapply in the evening on top of that morning’s coat. Experiment till you find a mascara that doesn’t cake when you reapply, and keep in your desk drawer for party-time.

Slick on a sexy lipstick. Or, preferably, a gloss. Something deeper, sultrier and more daring than you’d wear by day (it’ll balance the smokiness of your eyes).

Add a whisper of blusher. Cream blusher can be ‘layered’ over your existing make-up: add just a touch, in a suits-all-skintones shade like a tawny rose. Blend well, with your fingertips. (If you add blusher last, it’s easier to judge how much you need.)

Spray on your favourite sexy scent. Nothing gets you out of ‘work’ mode and into ‘play’ mood quicker. (We always wear a different fragrance for parties to our usual daytime scent: these have an almost ‘Pavlovian’ effect, reminding us of all the good times when we’ve worn them, instantly getting us in the mood to celebrate again…)


As before – but you’ve a little longer to play. So, in addition…

Get the light right. A fluorescently-lit bathroom (or office loo) is a terrible place to apply make-up. Try removing the lampshade from a bedside light, and making yourself up facing the naked bulb, as that’s much closer to reality.

Repair your foundation. 15 minutes still isn’t long enough, really, to start completely from scratch – but if you do the Q-Tip trick (above), you shouldn’t need to. Use a good, non-light-reflecting concealer to even out your complexion, rather than reapplying foundation, applying it to patches of high colour or blemishes.

‘Colour in’ your lips. Lip pencil is the absolute best way to make lipstick stay on longer (and we prefer it to ‘long-lasting’ lipsticks, which can be seriously drying). Take a soft-textured nude-coloured pencil, outline your lips, and then ‘colour them in’ (exactly as if you were drawing in a child’s colouring book). It gives lipstick a ‘base’ to cling to.

Add a touch of shimmer. Use a creamy, gleamy shadow to catch the light on the brow-bone. On top of lipstick, add a pout-enhancing dab of metallic gloss, in the centre of the lips. (Then smoosh the lips together.) Choose any silvery or platinum shade, if you’re light-complexioned, gold if you’re warm-complexioned or olive.

Sparkle, from top to toe. Sleigh bells ring – are you glistening? Smooth in a gorgeous, glimmering body lotion, highlighting liquid or gleaming oil onto décolletage, arms, shoulders.


Incorporate the steps in the 5-minute and 15-minute countdown – but when you’ve half an hour…

Start afresh. You’ve thirty whole minutes – oh, the bliss of it – so remove your make-up. Then apply a very lightweight moisturiser – if you use anything too rich, your make-up will ‘slide off’ your face. Always follow the golden rule and wait 10 minutes before applying make-up, though. And while you’re waiting for your moisturiser to sink in…

Pop in a roller, or two. Zshoosh up your hair with a couple of rollers, at the crown, for flattering height. Use Velcro rollers (now widely available), put them in across your parting/crown, blast with a hairdryer and leave to cool. Then shake out, when you’re ready to go, and run a brush through.

Put the sparkle back. Use blue-tinted eye drops, to take away any redness – especially if you’ve been sitting at a computer all day, which strains the eyes.

Go for powder textures. Creamy-textured products – which can be applied with fingers, in a hurry – are a boon to busy babes, but powder textures have greater longevity: shadows, blushers and all-in-one compact foundations are always the best option, if you don’t want your make-up to disappear, Cinderella-style, by midnight. (Be sure to apply powder textures over concealer and/or foundation and powder, not directly onto moisturised skin. They need a ‘canvas’, to glide on smoothly.)

Paint your nails. Yes, there’s time. Really. The new fast-drying polishes offer outstanding, professional-style results in little more than the blink of an eye.


As before – but…

Use a radiance-boosting base. Once your moisturiser’s sunk in – and before you apply your foundation – use a ‘brightening’ primer: the light-reflecting pigments will add a subtle, candlelit finish, which glows flatteringly.

Go s-l-o-w… When you have the bliss of a whole hour to prepare, you can use all the tools that tend to get overlooked (in favour of fingers) on a daily basis – which means the right brush, for the right job: shadow, blusher and even foundation. If you haven’t discovered the miracles of a foundation brush yet, give one a go: they have synthetic bristles, and can be used to apply foundation in quite a slap-dash way, which you then blend with fingers. Brilliant. We love Samantha Chapman’s Real Techniques Foundation Brush, which you’ll find here. (The angled cut delivers a really natural finish.)

Get in the bath, once you’ve done your face. Sounds weird? Steam is brilliant for ‘setting’ make-up, as long as you don’t stay in there too long. (It helps it to ‘settle’ into your pores, provided you don’t stay in the tub for more than 5 minutes or so.) Personally, we’ll be adding good old Aromatherapy Associates Revive Morning Bath & Shower Oil to our tubs: equally effective at revitalising at the other end of the day… (Just don’t use it before bedtime, or you’ll be whirring away!)

Layer on your fragrance. Indulge yourself: if you have the bath oil, body lotion and powder that match your favourite fragrance, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for to enjoy them. Aside from making you feel decidedly pampered and special, there’s a good reason for layering: as your body heats up and cools down, waves of fragrances will be released, as the evening wears on. (Fragrance also ‘clings’ better to moisturised skin.)

Take a little exercise. Sounds mad? Put on some dance music and get moving – it’ll do more for your inner ‘glow’ than any amount of blusher. As aromatherapy guru Danièle Ryman explains, ‘This gets your circulation going and ensures you feel more awake and alive, before you hit the party. And those natural endorphins means you won’t need to gulp a few glasses of wine, to gain the courage to start chatting.’

And have a gorgeous evening…


Most of the shimmery eyeshadows and lipsticks that you’ll find on-counter, for the tinsel season have an underlying colour, and are best matched to your skintone. If you have pale skin – say you’re an English rose – pink, rose and apricot-based products will suit you best. Bronze, gold and chestnut flatter olive skins, while dark skins can carry off pretty much any colour. (Purple and burgundy look amazing, on black skins.) Meanwhile, your use of shimmer should be ‘age-appropriate': use sparkly or glimmering make-up to highlight your best features only, as it draws the eye to wherever you apply it. That means young skins can get away with shimmer pretty much anywhere (including cheekbones), whereas older faces – which tend to be more lined – should confine glimmer to the smoothest areas of skin, such as brow-bones, bottom lips and shoulders.


If you want to try a variation-on-a-party-theme, these are the make-up looks that work best with different after-dark styles…

  • How to rev up red velvet: go for smoky eyes, berryish or red/purple lips
  • Add a touch of glitter, a sweep of gold, to a tuxedo look…
  • For the little black dress: dark eyes, with pale lips (if you’re young enough to get away with it), red (if you’re not)
  • Stay on the subtle side – natural and neutral, with a hint of gold – if you’re wearing a neutral-coloured dress or evening suit…


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