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The five-minute face

Given the choice between an extra 20 minutes in bed and putting my make-up on before heading into the office, the zeds often win. I'd say I'm not alone, if the number of women buffing and glossing on public transport are anything to go by each morning and that's not counting the number of times I've seen some poor girl stick herself in the eye with a mascara wand as she frantically applies a coat or three while stopped in traffic at the lights.

The point is, we're all time-poor and stressed about work these days, and getting those elusive eight hours is pretty much impossible a lot of the time.

Well, a recession will do that to you, but the flipside is that it has probably never been more important to present a professional face as you slide into your seat and switch on your computer each morning.

The toss-up between the need to look groomed and the time it takes is the problem, but it shouldn't require military strategy and a pre-dawn rise to get you looking presentable.

For one thing, the office environment isn't really an appropriate one in which to parade that new prostitute-pink lipstick and false lashes Jordan would be proud of. Well, okay, I guess it depends where you work, but for anyone in a business, banking or finance-related job, looking like a call girl is a bit of a no-no. Media, arts and creative jobs let you get away with more, but the point still stands. And if you look good, you tend to feel good. It's not called warpaint for nothing, eh?

Being lazy, I decided something had to be done to balance my need to hit the snooze button with the requirement to look half decent when I turned up for my eight-hours' grind, so I got smart about what I was using and how I was applying it.

I started to keep what I needed easily to hand for the morning so there is no time-wasting rummaging, and pared down the number of cosmetics I used on a daily basis. The result is an office-appropriate look in just five minutes. Here's how I do it.


You need an ace base first and, while I like to use a brush the rest of the time, fingers are grand for speed in the morning. I'm currently testing Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation, €15.99, and liking it a lot for daytime use. In eight shades, it's hydrating, stays put and doesn't contain any sparkly pigments that aren't suitable for the office. One or two pumps is enough and I work outwards from the centre of my face quickly.

Then I add a little Benefit Stay Don't Stray, €27, a primer-concealer hybrid, on my eyelid and to either side of the eye. The handy tube and fluid consistency mean this is really quick and easy to use. Again, you can use a brush, but when you're up against the clock, patting it into place with a finger does the trick just fine, and this stuff helps keep eye make-up in place too.

I set my base with a super-quick sweep of a lightly loaded powder brush. In its new tortoiseshell-print, Sisley Phyto Poudre Compact, €69, is pricey, but being a magpie, I can't resist the packaging.

The powder delivers a whisp of translucent coverage that's ideal for daywear.

Time: 1.5 minutes


Now to the eyes. I don't tend to do much on a daily basis, preferring to keep it simple.

To help take down any shine or excess moisture on my lids, I quickly brush on a matte nude eyeshadow over the lid up to the brow. Bobbi Brown shadow in bone, €22, is a good option.

You really can't beat liquid liner for a swoop of definition that takes seconds but looks good and lasts all day. The most time-saving one I've ever come across is Ruby and Millie's I-Writer, €15. The built-in brush makes application a cinch and the shade is good and deep.

Mascara is a must for wide-awake eyes: newly released is Max Factor Lash Extension Effect, €14.99, which, while it adds length, doesn't volumise, so you get a natural-looking result that's office-appropriate.

Don't forget brows -- Clinique Instant Lift for Brows, €17, is a great time-saver that adds definition on the double.

Time: 2 minutes


Once eyes are complete, you can take a quick step back and decide what's suitable for the office. Hint: candy-coloured stripes from cheekbone to hairline aren't, but a peach, coral or light pink blush would be perfectly appropriate.

I'm liking Essence Mineral Powder Blush, €3.49. Swirl a little on a blusher brush, tap off the excess and lightly buff onto the apples of the cheeks, drawing the brush back towards the hairline for a natural-looking finish.

Time: 30 seconds


Colour and longevity are what counts for a hard-working look and, while I love lipstick, we all know it needs to be reapplied throughout the day -- mine always ends up all over the lid of my en-route-to-the-office take-out coffee cup.

So I go for tints and stains, and Bourjois Rouge Hi Tech, €10.70, is ideal. In six shades, I like Cyber Cassis the most. Shocking pink in the pot, two coats on the lips gives a berry-like flush to lips that's pretty and long lasting. It dries instantly, and I then apply a swipe of Vichy Aqualia Thermal Lips, €5. This stuff is brilliant: non-greasy, it's hydrating and comfortable and helps add a bit of shine to the matte tint.

Time: 1 minute