If you've ever had someone say to your face, "You look tired," you know how irksome and annoying it can be. The phrase might seem well-meaning and empathetic, but I already feel exhausted, so I don't need extra confirmation from an outside source. Yeah, I'm tired. What are you going to do about it? If it doesn't involve tucking me into bed and allowing me to forget everything on my to-do list, I don't want to hear it!
While the best solution for "looking tired" is to get more sleep, it's not doable all the time. You might have to stay up late working on a big project for work. You might have a case of insomnia. And, you know, we all have those nights where we find ourselves losing track of time as we scroll through Instagram and TikTok.
For a quick fix that might ward off anyone saying the dreaded phrase to you, I asked three celebrity makeup artists what to do to look more awake—like I got eight beautiful hours of sleep instead of four very restless ones. The big trick? Under-eye concealer, obviously. Okay, yes. Even a makeup novice could tell you that getting rid of those dark circles should be your first step. But it's not just about dabbing some concealer on and calling it a day. There's an art to it. Here are some tricks to keep in mind.
How to Apply Under-Eye Concealer
"Moisturise well! Especially the night before, as you want the hydration well absorbed," says celebrity makeup artist Emily Cheng, whose clients include Yara Shahidi and Julia Garner.
2. Apply an Eye Cream or Serum
Just a little bit will do, though. "Use a very small amount of eye cream. Try something that has caffeine. That is known to diminish the darkness under the eyes," says Andreea Ali, a celebrity makeup artist whose clients include Natalia Vodianova and Izabel Goulart. "Massage slowly using your ring finger and only apply eye cream on your ocular bone, not too close to your lashes. That's not good for your eyes, for your lashes, nor your mascara."
Cheng recommends something that is hydrating but not too oily, like Chanel's Hydra Beauty Micro Gel Yeux (£48). You can apply it with an eye-massaging tool as well. And if you're prone to puffiness, she suggests keeping the eye product and tool in the fridge for an extra de-puffing boost.
3. Choose a Full-Coverage Formula
"As far as applying your concealer, you're better off using a full-coverage formula that gives you flexibility for application," says celebrity makeup artist Lisa Aharon, whose clients include Gwyneth Paltrow and Anna Kendrick. "You don't need to use it at maximum capacity, but it's there if you need it!"
4. Think About Your Eye Makeup
While there are no official rules when it comes to applying concealer, Aharon applies it before anything else if she's going for a more natural look. "Sometimes, it's simply enough coverage, and you can skip foundation or opt for a tinted moisturiser to keep the look fresh," she adds. "When glamming up the eyes or applying a more dramatic look, I'll leave it for the end. Concealer can help diffuse a smoky eye post-application, and you can wipe the under-eye area clean of fallout before application!"
5. Apply to This Area First
"Apply concealer under the eyes, avoiding the lower lashes area," Ali says. "We're usually darker in the inner corner of the eye, close to the nose. That's what makes us look tired. That is where you want to apply concealer first. Then, spread it with a brush. Lower [the concealer] and create a triangle shape between the inner corner of the eyes, tip of the nose, and outer corner of the eyes."
Concealer Mistakes to Avoid
Now that you know how to prep and apply, there are a few common mistakes you'll want to avoid for a flawless, bright-eyed finish.
While you want to keep your face and eye area moisturised, you don't want to go overboard. "Rule number one is to not overprep. If you apply too much moisturiser around the eyes, any concealer you use is going to move and slip and crease," Ali says.
2. Choosing the Wrong Shade
Ali says a lot of people tend to go too light on the shade, which can make you look gray. Go for something warmer. And if your dark circles are a bit more pronounced, using the same concealer that you use for your face won't exactly work, Cheng adds, so you might need to equip your makeup bag with two types.
3. Applying Too Much Concealer
More is not necessarily better in this case. This is where choosing a potent, full-coverage product comes in handy, Ali says. You can apply less knowing it has the power to cover.
4. Applying Concealer Too Close to the Lash Line
Avoid getting the product too close to the lash line. "When doing this, it inevitably creases and becomes more visible than the dark circles to begin with," Aharon says. "Concentrate the coverage in the deeper parts of the under eyes and then gently diffuse it toward the lash line. It's okay if you have a little natural discoloration around the perimeter of the eye—it feels real that way."
5. Forgetting to Set It With Powder
"I know you don't want to use powder because it feels like it sucks the life out of your skin, and sometimes it shows wrinkles you didn't even know you have, but it doesn't have to be that way," Ali says. "Using the right brush and a thin layer of the right powder can do wonders, and it doesn't have to look dry and emphasise your wrinkles. Pat McGrath has this amazing under-eye powder that will not only set the concealer in place, but it will actually blur the fine lines around the eyes."
Other Makeup Artist–Approved Tricks to Look More Awake
While under-eye concealer is a good place to start, there are some other tricks to wake up your face. So I asked the makeup artists for more trade secrets.
1. Use Eye Patches
"Since I'm always tired and limited on time with a young child at home, everything I do is on the go," Aharon says. "I love an eye patch in the morning while I'm running around getting ready. It's an easy way to multitask and wake up my face in just a few minutes."
2. Try a Gua Sha Tool
Aharon also uses a gua sha tool when she's tidying up the house. "I'm ridiculous, but it really works to increase circulation, reduce puffiness, and speed up the absorption time of my skincare."
3. Curl Your Lashes
Get that eyelash curler out. Ali says it will open up your eyes and make you look more awake.
4. Use a Beige Pencil on Your Waterline
"A beige pencil on the waterline can do wonders when you're tired. It will instantly open up your eyes and make you look more rested," Ali says.
5. Apply Mascara
"Do I need to explain why? Because it frames the eyes. Just like lipstick, mascara is the smallest gesture of beauty," Ali says.
6. Add Color
"Make sure you add some colour back to your face," Cheng recommends. "I feel like blush and a dusting of bronzer can instantly bring youth and freshness to the face, which will always make you look more awake."
7. Don't Mattify Your Entire Face
Cheng suggests only using powder where you need it. "The natural radiance from your skin will give you a fresh dewiness," she says. "Charlotte Tilbury's Airbrush Flawless Finish Setting Powder (£35) is what I use personally on just my T-zone."
8. Keep Your Skin Hydrated
This will help your skin appear healthier and radiant, even if you've gotten no sleep. Cheng uses a face oil overnight whenever her skin needs a boost.
The Best Under-Eye Concealers
This is one of Aharon's favourites. The waterproof concealer is highly pigmented and provides full coverage. It also contains jojoba oil to moisturise and smooth.
"It's going to save your life if you have those genetically super-dark under eyes," Ali says. "It has hyaluronic acid, and it's so creamy, and a little goes a long way. It's available in so many tones and undertones that it's almost impossible not to find your perfect match."
"It is no wonder it's such a cult product. It really works. It hides the dark circles, and if you use the right colour and the right amount, it can be undetectable on the skin," Ali says. "On my 35-year-old skin, this concealer does not crease, and it looks impeccable during the whole day. I spread it under the eyes for that touch of luminosity and brightness I need."
Aharon recommends this full-coverage, oil-free concealer. The cream formula leaves a soft matte finish. It also has skincare-grade ingredients like peptides, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants.
Ali says this concealer is great for mature skin—she'd use it on her mom. It's got good-for-the-skin ingredients like collagen, peptides, and hyaluronic acid. The full-coverage product lasts for 24 hours, too.
"This guy is medium coverage, so elastic, so stretchy—it’s the kind of product that will just blend into your skin, looking seamless," Ali says. "I personally use this concealer on days when I don't feel like applying foundation."