When you’re feeling sluggish, unmotivated, sad, lonely, anxious, tired, or just plain whatever—but you’ve got to show at work, an event, for kids, for family, or wherever—you need low-effort products that do half the task for you.
Particularly when that showing happens in the a.m. Mornings aren’t a picnic for most of us, but they’re particularly less gingham-and-butterflies when you’re already angsty. A study published in PLoS found that cortisol levels spike in people who are stressed during the hour after waking (it’s called the cortisol awakening response). And though it’s not an official diagnosis, there is such a thing as “morning anxiety,” where angst peaks in the early hours. And according to one survey, 54 percent of people want to function better in the a.m.
Experts recommend trying to offset overwrought nerves by focusing on things you can control: Choosing what to eat for breakfast, picking out your clothes, performing self-care. Which is where these products come in. They’re feel-good practicalities that’ll get you out the door quick.
Now, let’s be clear: Nobody’s saying (or thinking) that you have to put on mascara, cover gray roots, or look “cute” to be considered presentable. No siree, Bob! But if you want and like to do so, these award winners are the queens of get-ready-fast beauty.
As Hannah Baxter, a beauty and wellness writer and editor who has anxiety (and a related newsletter, Anxiety Beer), puts it, “The community around beauty is a fantastic entry point to connect with strangers and share advice to help someone through a problematic time.” Hopefully, we can help you through yours.
All products featured on Mental have been selected independently and editorially. When you buy from our links, we may earn a commission.
Best Speedy Eyeshadow
Thrive Causemetics Brilliant Eye Brightener in Aurora, $25
There are SO MANY SHADOW STICKS, but this pup glows brightest—metaphorically, because it’s got a just-right dose of shimmer that “doesn’t come across sparkly for day wear,” says makeup artist Tim Quinn, who works with celebrities including Diane Lane, Jordana Brewster, and Jill Biden. Its cadre of natural oils + sheer finish + cream-to-powder formula = no creases on your lids an hour later (a typical shadow gripe).
And application takes literal seconds and zero skill: One reader with depression simply “scribbles” the stick over her lids and done, no blending required. Aurora—which reads rose-gold on light skin and golden on dark complexions—“instantly awakens most any eye,” says Quinn.
Best Quick Eyeliner
Guide Eyeliner Duo, $50
There are some beauty techniques even beauty editors can’t always perfect: blowouts, highlights, and—as is the case with one Mental editor who has anxiety—liquid liner. It requires precision, a steady hand, and skill…and often multiple redos (so: time and effort). This Guide combo practically does the work for you.
Created by makeup artist Terri Bryant after she began to lose some grip and stability in her left hand due to Parkinson’s disease, the long, vertical wand lets you get close to your face without tensing your grip (which can mess up a line’s trajectory). There’s a divot that you rest against your cheek before you tilt and trace the spatula-like tip (coated in the included cream) right along lashes. Plus, a small rectangular window lets you actually see what you’re doing as you’re doing it. It’s not cheap, but you only need a dab each time, and once you’ve got the wand, you just replace the cream at $24 a pot.
Whatever the reason your liner abilities are lacking—morning anxiousness, side effects from mental health meds (which can occasionally be shaky hands), or weakness in your hands from a neurological condition—consider this duo. After you’ve got the technique down—it’ll take you a few practice tries—you’ll speed through liner application. Yes, even that liner-challenged beauty editor. Finally able to define her own upper lashes, she was also impressed at the cream’s smear-resistance through tears.
Best Fast Foundation
Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40, $48
If you’re thinking, Isn’t “fast foundation” an oxymoron?, let us introduce you to this gorgeous dropper. Because it’s sheer, whispery, and liquid, you don’t have to worry about applying it in any particular way. You simply rub it on with fingers like a serum. “This is hands-down the easiest, most natural-looking, most skin-enhancing product,” says Quinn.
And it lets you skip a step: sunscreen. Because it’s so lightweight, “it helps ensure you get the proper coverage for the SPF benefit,” Quinn explains. (With heavier, more opaque foundations, you rarely get the SPF level marked on the bottle because you’d have to use so much, you’d resemble an Ihop pancake.) “It truly looks like you’re just blurring out any discoloration, never that you have on a heavy base,” says one reader with anxiety. A few final deets:
- Comes in 27 shades
- The SPF is mineral, not chemical
- There’s no oil, fragrance, or gluten, so it’s safe for sensitive skin
Best Wide Headbands
Hair and mind a mess? There’s no quicker way to get pulled together fast than a wide headband. “When the headband tames the front of the hair, you can leave the rest of the hair to do whatever it wants, because it still looks controlled,” says Sheila Chung, a hairstylist at Salon Ziba in New York City. Comb it with a touch of pomade, part it in the middle, throw it in a bun, or let it hang loose, then push the headband back about an inch from the hairline.
Madewell Knotted Velvet Headband, $24
For a versatile option you can wear to work (or a WFH Zoom), a wide, velvet headband covers greasy roots stylishly. Matt Fugate, a hairstylist at Salon Kathleen in Enumclaw, Washington and a 4x Allure Best of Beauty hairstylist, likes Madewell’s bands for “instant confidence,” and this one’s oversize knot creates an elegant “I tried” effect, he says—exactly the point.
NamJosh Dreamcatcher Soft Headband, $32
This botanical-print number vibes like a long silk scarf, but you don’t have to use bobby pins to keep it from sliding around. A sewn-in elastic provides a secure fit, and it looks particularly White Lotus-chic when worn with a low ponytail.
Jennafer Grace Leopard Turban, $28
Oh, hello, instant look. Turbans hide an array of things, from unwashed roots to sparse spots, making them a fashion-y choice if you’re thinning on top or pull hair out at the crown. This one comes pre-tied so you just slip it on like a beanie. Why leopard? It’s confidence embodied in a pattern—a little extra oomph to help you power through stressful days.
Best At-Home Hair Color
Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Creme, $7.97
When you’re less-than-motivated to visit the salon but your color’s faded or your roots look like a dried-up patch of grass next to strip of green, this is what we reach for—and, listen, you kinda can’t mess it up, even if you slap it messily over your head (which we did every few weeks on our grays during the pandemic). It doesn’t suffer the fate of some permanent hair dyes, which smell like ammonia and sting your scalp. That’s thanks to two moisturizing safeguards: the color formula itself—infused with avocado, olive, and shea oils—and a mix-in grapeseed fruit oil ampoule.
It doesn’t drip or splatter and has never stained our white tile. Plus, the mini conditioner you use in the shower afterward smells delicious, like just-picked apricots, and detangles even twisted curls like a champ. No wonder this kit gets 4½ stars out of nearly 30,000 Amazon ratings.
Best Temporary Cover-Up for Roots
Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch-Up Spray, $12
You forgot about an important Zoom today, have an inch of root growth, and a half hour to get ready. This alcohol-free aerosol, which comes in five shades, covers roots in 20 seconds tops. It’s thin, ¼-inch “shooter” nozzle is the most precise we’ve found, to target exactly where you need it and nowhere you don’t (like your marble sink). But even if it gets on your scalp, it doesn’t attach to skin.
The pigments come out uniformly (not in a spurt), so the coverage looks even and seamless, and the formula’s buildable, so continue to spritz if you need more coverage. Plus, we’ve pillow-tested its water-resistant claims and can attest to their validity, and the 2 oz bottle easily stows away in a bag or purse.
Best Temporary Cover-Up for Thinning Hair or Sparse Spots
L’Oréal Paris Magic Root Cover Up, $9.50
Some root-coloring powders only cling to tiny hairs, but when you’re dealing with stress-related alopecia or trichotillomania, you may not have tiny hairs where you need coverage. In a robust burst, this spray pumps out natural-looking pigments that also stick to the scalp. “It covers bald spots better than other color sprays I’ve used on clients,” says Chung, who works with people who have trichotillomania.
For a realistic look at the crown, try her trick: Place the skinny end of a tail comb against your scalp where you wear your part, and mist from six inches away. Blend a little with your fingers, and “you’ve created a believable part line at the scalp instead of simply coloring in everywhere,” she says.