The Holiday Makeup + Skincare Survival Guide


With the holiday party season in full swing, it can be a challenge to look your best while dealing with the beauty saboteurs from too little sleep (and too many libations). We’re sharing our staffer tested and approved tips to help get you party ready in a flash, as well as easy fixes for issues such as dull skin, a ruddy complexion, dark circles and more.

Because nothing says, "8+ hours of sleep" like targeted skincare treatments and a little makeup sleight of hand.

Tweak Your Skincare Routine

Set your skin up for a quick recovery by ensuring you have one or two targeted treatments (re: what we call "emergency fixes") on standby. To some extent, these can also help compensate for busy times when you might "fall off the wagon" with your usual skincare routine.

Soothe a red, irritated complexion. Whether caused by the chilly temperatures or otherwise irritated skin, persistent redness is a struggle many of us deal with. Rather than hide under layers of full-coverage foundation, swap out your go-to serum for one that boasts a potent skin-calming formula. Our water-light Calm Redness Relief Repairing Serum immediately starts to soothe inflamed skin—for a healthier, more even skin tone before and after the party.

Dehydrated, dull skin? Consider a facial oil. A dull, "dehydrated" complexion is a frequent side effect of the holiday party season. Rather than shop for a new moisturizer in response to your skin’s finicky temperament, try adding a facial oil to your routine. A few drops to your go-to moisturizer will help keep your skin supple (those with dry to very dry skin can mix one or two drops into their liquid foundation, too). Avoid facial oils that contain fragrance—and consider those with multiple plant oils for a lighter texture.

Fake a Healthy Glow

As every adult can attest, skimping on your sleep has very real physical effects—the lack of rest leads to a paler skin tone and a fatigued appearance. [1] Nothing pretty about that. While the only sure solution is to catch up on your sleep, there are short-term techniques you can use to fake a healthier glow.

Use a skin luminizer (the smart way). For a natural-looking glow, ditch the highlighter and look to those labelled "luminizers," which typically offer a much more subtle effect than traditional highlighters that often have visible sparkles.

To "revive" to appearance of tired skin, mix a small amount of a sheer luminizer into your moisturizer (or serum) and apply it all over your face and under-eye area. Then, continue with your foundation, concealer or other makeup. The subtle boost from the luminizer will add dimensional glow to your skin—even through your makeup—and soften the signs of fatigue.

Add a touch of bold, bright blush. You know those scary hot pink or firebrick red blushes? When applied in a whisper thin layer to skin, these bold, bright shades give you a boost that looks surprisingly understated and natural. Use a smaller, soft, and loose-hair blush brush—such as the Wayne Goss #2—and dab just the tip into the blush color. The looser hair and smaller head of such brushes give a transparent finish to stronger colors.

If you’re color shy, try blending over it with a touch of sheer, finely milled powder. (For the best results, look for powders that provide little to no coverage.)

Emphasize Your Eyes

A few basic eye makeup steps can up your holiday party game and hide signs of too little sleep.

Apply an all-over base shade that is slightly lighter than your skin tone to the lid and inner corner (from the lashline to the brow bone). Then sweep a deeper color (such as a brown, plum or grey) into the crease, where the lid meets the brow bone. Add a touch of a lighter, subtle shimmer shade to the inner corner of the eye and blend slightly across the lid.

While there are no strict "rules" per se when it comes to eye makeup, we wouldn’t recommend applying liner or dark shadow to the lower lash line when you’re struggling to conceal dark circles. Also, stick to matte or semi-matte shades for your base shades—avoid overly shimmery or glittery shadows, as they can enhance the appearance of puffiness and lines. If you want a hint of shine, look for shades labeled "satin," as these tend to leave a slightly pearlized sheen rather than obvious shimmer.

Add a moderately thick swipe of eyeliner (a deep navy blue can help the whites of your eyes look whiter) and extra mascara. If you have the time and talent, a half row of false lashes applied to the outer corner of the lid will add extra glamour to your "wide-awake and ready to party" look. Check out our article, "How to Buy and Apply False Eyelashes" for more tips.

Choose Your Lip Color Without Fear

No matter who you are, or whether you think bold shades aren’t right for you, everyone looks good with a dramatic red lip. Nothing says holiday glamour quite like it. Try a longwearing, semi-matte or matte tone—you can always soften it with a sheer wash lip color in a translucent pink or nude tone.

Note: This is such a popular step among staffers that we launched a limited edition set in our, and Paula’s, favorite reds—the Berry and Bright Lip Collection.

Recovering the Morning After

If you didn’t wash your face the night before, you’ll need to do a little extra work to help your skin recover—i.e. avoiding breakouts or stopping rashy, red blotches in their tracks.

First, start with your go-to cleanser + a soft washcloth. (If needed, use a gentle makeup remover or non-fragrant oil beforehand over the eye area.) If you are prone to clogged pores, follow that up with a potent BHA exfoliant, like the Resist Weekly Foaming Treatment 4% BHA. This will work overtime to reduce the likelihood of developing red bumps or blemishes due to sleeping in your makeup.

Not prone to breakouts? Opt for brightening, surface-level exfoliation of an AHA, like the Resist Weekly Resurfacing Treatment 10% AHA. With either exfoliant, your complexion will look smooth, radiant, and younger—not a bad deal at a time of year when many of us feel we look a bit older from all the stress and go-go-go nature of the holidays!

Follow that up with the skincare and makeup tips mentioned in the sections above—the signs of your holiday party won’t show on you face (however, we would strongly suggest you double check your Facebook photo album!).

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! Learn more at Shop Paula's Choice.

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References Cited

  1. Sundelin T, Lekander M, Kecklund G, Van Someren EJW, Olsson A, Axelsson J. Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance. SLEEP 2013;36(9):1355-1360.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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