When Getting Ready Stresses You Out

Let me paint a familiar picture for you.

It’s Friday afternoon, maybe around 4:30pm.  In a half hour you’ll be leaving the office, or school, or studio, or kids with the babysitter soon, and today you cannot wait.  Why?  Because you have plans.  On a Friday night.  Like, maybe the dress-up-and-do-your-hair-and-like-seriously-put-on-makeup-and-MAYBE-even-nice-perfume-and-look-amazing-with-a-glass-of-merlot-in-your-hand kind of plans.  Woah.

Problem is, you have to be out the door and on your way and looking awesome by 6:30.  And your hands are tied until 5:00.

Starting to sound familiar yet?  At 4:40 you down an afternoon cup of coffee to get your engine running for the marathon ahead; you figure you need all the energy you can get.  You leave the office at 5:00 (maybe ten minutes early just to give yourself a headstart on your commute), get home perhaps by 5:20 all in a huff thanks to the traffic, and then you have to hop in the shower.  Immediately.

Oh, and none of this accounts for the possibility of having to run any errands on the way home.  Picking up kids, grabbing a gift for the hostess, you ran out of deodorant and wearing your husband’s will make you smell like an Adam Levine tryhard, whatever.  Any of those errands that you forgot to do on your lunch break or lost track of between everything else that life threw at you.

So again, like I said, you’ve just walked in the door, it’s 5:20, and you have to be out the door by 6:30.  And you want to look awesome.

Determination sets in.  You’re in the shower but you have to wash your hair, and maybe shave your legs.  You’re out of the shower maybe by 5:37 (and you’re noticing prickly spots all over your legs, maybe it’s a night for pants?) and it’s time to start drying your hair.  About three minutes in and your arms are already tired, you’re feeling slightly sweaty, your face is red, and your hair isn’t anywhere near dry yet.  You keep drying, hands violently tossing your hair about as you try to expose it all to the heat.  Methodically round-brushing it dry in sections is just too much to ask for at this point, and you always feel like you need four arms to do it.

You look at the clock.  It’s 5:50.  You have to leave in 40 minutes.  Panic sets in.  So you decide to let the hair airdry a bit and get started on makeup.  You slather moisturizer on your face, but you remember how it takes its sweet time absorbing.  You skip primer, no time.  You slather on foundation but you’re so steamy from the hairdryer and the still-moist moisturizer that your makeup refuses to go on evenly and smoothly, leaving you feeling more covered in muck than before you even showered.  You move on to eyes, but after applying shadow primer and beginning on the eyeshadow, your dramatic look you had in mind goes all to hell.  Your hands are all shaky from that last cup of coffee and trying to hurry and … your hair is getting frizzy from air drying.  So you rub some serum into your hands and hastily scrunch it into your hair.  Then you grab your eyeshadow brush again, only to have it slip out of your hand thanks to the slippery serum.  You wash and dry your hands.  It’s 6:03.

You scrap the eyeshadow and move on to just eyeliner (though not the fancy winged eyeliner you’d originally wanted to try).  Good, done.  You move on to mascara.  This takes you four minutes (unless you go for false lashes, which could take more or less time depending on your skills).  It’s 6:10.  You quickly choose a blush and apply, though your cheeks are still flushed from all the heat and you see little beads of sweat forming around your hairline.  You’d wanted to try a little contouring for a night like tonight, but no time.  Lipstick is hastily applied, without lipliner, and you look up and … your eyeliner is already smearing and you feel like you need another shower.

It’s 6:14.  The “insides” of your hair are still damp.  You flip your head upside down and furiously wave your dryer over your scalp on high heat until it feels like its on fire.  Good enough.  Curling iron!  After pulling your curling rod out from its coiled mess under the sink and plugging it in, you then get to wait for it to heat up.  Hmm.  You decide to pick your outfit.  You stare at your open closet in a frenzy, trying to remember what these particular people have seen you wear.  Curling iron is ready.  You can hear your hair hissing as you curl still-somewhat-damp sections of hair; you see the steam (or it is smoke?!  You’re never really sure!) rising off your strands.  The few quick waves you work in look haphazard and are already falling flat from all the steam in the bathroom, but it’s 6:26.

You frantically choose an outfit that neither feels right for the makeup you landed on nor was anything close to what you wanted to wear, but it’s time to go.  You snag an accessory or two, look for your phone because you’ve lost it within the past four minutes, and throw everything into your purse.  You take a quick look in the mirror and roll your eyes at what you see- something that is nothing like what you’d envisioned for the night.  Your Friday night confidence is nearly sapped, but out the door you go, with armpit stains already forming and those sweatpants sounding like a better option by the second.  You touch your hair- it’s still damp.

Oh, and you somehow managed to throw in a Trader Joe’s mini pizza for your kid’s dinner, which ended up burnt in the toaster oven.  And you forgot perfume.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have found myself in this scenario about fifty times, and I don’t even have kids (and maybe that mini Trader Joe’s pizza is for me).  When you envision yourself getting ready for a night out, you imagine one of those old Hollywood stars sitting at their vanity, gliding through their beauty routine at a leisurely pace in some silk robe and slippers.  The entire process is refreshing, leaving you feeling like a masterpiece once you’re ready.  And yet, this hardly ever seems to be reality.  Even on a day off when you might have the whole day to get ready, plenty of things can come up.  The fact is, getting ready can be hard.  Despite what bloggers and all of social media may portray, real life is not full of daily, Instagram-worthy outfits, makeup, or hair because for most people, there simply isn’t enough time in the day and there’s already too much to get done.

Getting ready for a night out should be fun, relaxing time of little rituals we love and enjoy, but it often leaves us feeling rushed, harried, and dissatisfied with our hair and makeup.  What are some things we can keep in mind to make this process a little less stressful when dealing with real life?




1. “Mise en place”

This French culinary phrase refers to having everything “put in place”, and there’s a reason why this is one of the first things you’re taught when you learn the basics of cooking.  As a chef, you need to have all of your ingredients and ware organized and arranged before you begin cooking. Otherwise, time will be wasted and you risk your creative process of slipping into disarray.

Mise en place may just as well be applied to getting ready for a night out.   If you know you’ve got an event you want to have great hair and makeup for, have your makeup organized the day before, all in one place.  Have your makeup brushes clean and laid out before you, ready to be used.  When you get home, turn your curling iron on before you hop in the shower.  And if possible, choose your outfit the day before or at least before you arrive at home, even if it means taking a five minute Pinterest break at your work desk for some inspiration.  Point is, frantically searching for things and trying to make decisions when your mind is already racing just adds to your stress, ironically making choices even more difficult.  Getting everything organized beforehand and visible to your eye will save you both time and frustration.


2.  Done showering?  Get out of the bathroom!

That tiny bathroom you’ve just steamed up with your hot shower?  It is no environment for getting ready in.  Firstly, bathrooms are usually just plain hot after someone has showered.  The steam will create frizz and prevent your hair and skin from drying, the heat will cause you to sweat all over again (especially if you then proceed to turn on a blazing hot blowdryer in the same space), and let’s face it- most bathrooms are cramped.  It can be stressful trying to get everything done within one small space.  Unless you have one of those beautiful bathrooms with natural light where you can spread out, bathrooms are typically poorly lit, lacking in good ventilation, and not incredibly generous when it comes to counter space (especially if you’re renting like me).  And the lighting is a concern because poor light can cause you to either apply too much or too little makeup, since some lightbulb types give off a filtering affect that prohibits you from seeing your face as it truly is.

A better setting to get ready in might involve the following: a room other than the bathroom, natural light, and a full length mirror.  A bedroom or living room with a window should work nicely.  In the same space, you can hopefully turn a fan on and cool down a bit as well.  If it’s dark out and you’re already out of natural light, try to get ready among lamps lit with warm, white lightbulbs, which will neither be too concealing or unflattering.  My research identified “warm white light” as 3200 kelvin in lightbulb-speak.  I like to sit on the ground cross-legged in front of the mirror for my makeup, and then finish blowdrying while standing in front of it.  Just be sure get out of all the steam and heat that’s trapped in your bathroom.




3. Choose one area to concentrate your focus.

If you’ve only got about 45 minutes to get ready from the time you step out of the shower, it’s time to choose what you’re going to prioritize- hair or makeup.  Place all your efforts into one area so you can focus, take your time, and be fully satisfied with your work.  Choose to blow out your hair and go for that voluminous look you’ve wanted to try, or opt to go for the complicated contouring and highlighting, but don’t attempt to do both.  It’s one thing if you’ve got two hours to spare, but you won’t enjoy yourself if you’re trying to do both in less than an hour.

If you decide to concentrate more on your makeup and you’ve got wet hair, one of my easiest solutions is to sleek my hair back into a bun pinned right at the nape or back of the head.  You can do this with curly hair too, and it’ll still look put together.  If you decide you want to pay more attention to your hair instead, quickly toss mascara, blush, concealer, and lipstick or gloss into a makeup bag and save it for when you hit the road.  Not able to do makeup in the car because you’re the one driving?  Don’t worry- a nearly-bare face looks really modern and sophisticated with beautiful hair.  Just accept that your makeup will be minimal, and work the rest of your look around it.  In situations when I’ve felt confident with how my hair looks but I’m out of time beyond that, I’ve worn just a little concealer, eyebrow product, and red lipstick (and that’s it) for a more fashion-forward look.  A lot of this is more about acceptance than insisting on looking like J.Lo within 45 minutes flat.

Or better yet than all of this, you could just skip washing your hair altogether and simply rinse off in the shower.   Third or fourth day hair is pretty moldable in terms of styling, especially with the added grit of dry shampoo or texture spray.  I tend to favor some kind of intricate up-do when I have grittier hair because I find it has better staying power.  If you have a hair texture similar to mine, oily, “dirty” hair might be a good opportunity to try a pretty topknot, or one of the popular knotted styles like we’ve seen lately like this one on Kiernan Shipka.


4. Don’t caffeinate beforehand.

One of the biggest mistakes that I seem to consistently make when doing bridal makeup is having coffee before I get started.  My nerves are already up to begin with, but now I’ve got caffeine running through my system that’s making me extra jittery.  All those steady, fine motor skills I need to apply gel liner?  Or individual false lashes?  Gone.  My fingers are shaky, I’m anxious about mistakes, and now I’m attempting to make these teeny tiny little brushstrokes on an eyelid.  Not a time for espresso.  It’s moments like these when I’m very liable to poke a bride in the eye with a mascara wand.

The same goes for when I do my own makeup.  If I’m in an anxious spot to begin with, caffeine does not help.  At all.  It’s best to forego it completely and replace it with water, or something a little more relaxing (unless you’re driving, of course).  Music always helps to decrease my makeup-applying jitters too,  but I can’t say that a bridal party mimosa has exactly been the worst thing for keeping my hands steady as I’ve attempted a cut crease on someone else’s eyeball.

So anyhow, that’s the gist of it.  I’d say these four things have been the best things for me to keep in mind when I know I’ll have an hour at best but I still want to enjoy the process of primping (ugh, I hate that word).  Now, it’s different if you’re in Vegas and you’ve got the entire afternoon and evening to spend getting ready in a luscious bathroom in your room at the Aria, but because this is rarely the case, we have to find ways to still enjoy what we love.  And of course, try not to forget the mini pizza or Dino nuggets in the toaster over, and always have a perfume sample in your purse just in case.  xo, MR

2 thoughts on “When Getting Ready Stresses You Out

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