When it comes to grim science designed to test the patience of anybody kept awake because of a crying baby, a relentless to-do list, or the desire to watch just one more episode of their latest gritty UK cop show obsession, a 2013 Swedish study that found sleepy adults look sad might just take the cake.
The study found sleep deprived people were perceived as having droopy eyelids, red and swollen eyes, dark circles, more wrinkles and pale skin, all of which made the individuals look sadder than if they’d slept well.
Along with someone saying “you look tired” by way of greeting, it is enough to make you feel, well, sad.
Given I have a 14-month-old baby with a philosophical aversion to nodding off – or maybe just a severe case of FOMO – I think a lot about sleep and how much I haven't been getting.
My husband and I have banned the words “I’m tired” because 1) it feels ineffectual in describing the soupy, fraught feeling of continual broken sleep 2) we realised it’s better to just accept the tiredness rather than obsessively think about what you might sacrifice for one decent night of shut-eye. No good can come of that.
So we make do. And, in addition to a diet of mostly jam on toast (don’t @ me please, I’m very you know what), beauty products have become a balm for my sleepy self in both a physical and spiritual sense.
Because, here's a secret: there are ways of looking like you’ve slept, even if you haven’t.
One of the reasons skin is lacklustre when you’re tired is skin cells regenerate at night while they get a break from daily attacks in the form of sunlight, pollution, stress, screens etc. Not getting enough sleep can also mess with your skin's pH levels, making it dehydrated and creating an ideal canvas for fine lines to show up on.
To fake a good night’s sleep you need to tackle the big stuff: dehydrated skin, puffy eyes, dark undereye circles and a general lack of pep and glow.
Dehydrated skin lacks water. (Note: not oil. That’s dry skin and there’s a difference. Most of us are a little dehydrated!)
So, after chugging back as much water as you can bear, look for products with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, a molecule that holds water and helps to preserve moisture in the skin making it look plumper, vitamin C (you want products with at least 10 per cent and sometimes it’s called L-ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbyl or phosphate ascorbyl), which is excellent for brightening and evening out skin tone, vitamin E, which is super nourishing, and niacinamide, which is hydrating and healing.
For puffy eyes the old cucumber slice or cold green tea bag (for the caffeine and antioxidant fix) on the lids really does help and is also the chance to lie-down and close your eyes.
Or do as dermal specialist Lucy Kuper from natural skincare brand Biologi, which uses 100 per cent active organic plant extracts, recommends and put two teaspoons in the fridge for a few minutes and then place them curve side in on your eyes and gently massage.
“The cold temperature tightens swollen skin and stimulates lymphatic drainage which works to eliminate fluid build up around your eyes,” she says.
Cucumber is also a natural diuretic so helps with fluid retention and puffiness.
For something a little more intense Sylvia Down from Skin Renu in Balmain recommends a laser session like Fraxel, which resurfaces the skin and evens out skin tone and "restores the skin’s luminosity making the skin appear fresh again."
Because, let’s be real here: we want double espressos and products that pack a punch when facing a big day ahead on little sleep.
On that, products like Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream (an exxy $320 for 150ml, but, according to legend, used on the models Tilbury does the makeup for at the big catwalk fashion shows to make them look awake) has hyaluronic acid, vitamins C & E, rosehip oil and aloe vera and is thick and nourishing for dehydrated skin.
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Filler [HA] Anti-Ageing Moisturiser is another good one with hyaluronic acid, and at $44.95 a little more wallet-friendly. In the middle is Peter Thomas Roth’s Water Drench Cloud Cream Hydrating Moisturiser ($75), which has hyaluronic acid as well as antioxidants like elderberry which helps plump things up a little.
If you need a quick fix (who doesn’t?) a sheet mask like Zoe Foster Blake’s Transformazing is worth the $9 a pop. It has kakadu plum which – fun fact – is said to be the fruit with the best source of vitamin C, finger lime which supports collagen production, and niacinamide. It instantly makes your skin look brighter and smoother. Garnier’s best-selling Hydra Bomb Eye Tissue Mask will hydrate your skin for $5, so you can skip one coffee today (hard when running on empty, yes) and buy it with the money you save.
Otherwise, there’s always jam on toast.
WHAT TO BUY THIS THURSDAY
Your weekly recommendation for a late-night shopping trip...
When you’re feeling tired and haggard, less is more in the makeup department. The best concealer for undereye circles I’ve ever used comes from cult cosmetic company IT Cosmetics with its Bye Bye Under Eye.
It’s long lasting, it doesn’t crease into my fine lines and because it has ingredients like hydrolysed collagen and Vitamin C, it’s also doing my skin good while also making me look alive. The brand has an updated version hitting counter too, available in loads more shades. $38, Sephora.
This column is not sponsored. Our product recommendations are genuine endorsements.