There are few things more intimate than standing at a vanity and applying your makeup at daybreak. One of these things, however, is letting a guest into your home to time you while you do it.
Really, it was a very nosy ask of me—'Hey, can I come clock your routine while you do it very early in the morning?” But for the past few weeks, I’d been very taken with the idea of it all. I mull it over on the A train and especially when I’m doing my makeup in my Navy Yard loft. You see a woman with spectacular skin and a particularly well-executed cat eye, and you think “I wonder how long that took?”
The experiment below is rough. When one gets ready alone, I assume there’s more time to meander between steps or pause for coffee. When an iPhone timer is involved, you stay focused. It’s less “routine' and more “task?” Even so, three women allowed me into their sun-soaked apartments for early-morning home visits.
They answered their doors barefaced. After some small talk, we moved to the bathroom. I pulled out my iPhone stopwatch, and we began:
** Jade Akintola: The In-Depth Eye
***Final time 9:59*
I arrive in Bushwick for an 8am appointment before Jade heads to work. Even though she coordinates parties, films, and events—like the upcoming 6,000-guest Full Moon Fest on Aug. 1 in NYC—her look is anything but “festival girl?” Her older sister/makeup buff still feeds her products to try. Yet she often avoids trends in lieu of the basics, especially the eyes.
'I feel like I’m asleep without eye makeup?” she shares. “But I’ve never been able to perfect the smoky eye?”
This is why her routine devoted half its time to lining the eye corners, lengthening the lashes, and defining the brows. It’s the part of her process that’s been most consistent since she was young. Her skincare and foundation have evolved—but never her eye routine.
When we stop the timer, Jade nods approvingly. “I like to keep it under 10 minutes,” she says cheerfully. And what ends up being the longest time I recorded is surprisingly quite brief.
Skin: MAC Oil Control Lotion; MAC Studio Sculpt Defining Powder; Smashbox Love Me Blush (limited edition, now discontinued); Sleek Be Beautiful Blemish Balm (which has lasted over a year)
Eyes: MAC Studio Finish SPF 35 Concealer; Fast Stroke Eyeliner
Brows: L’Oreal Paris Brow Stylist Brow Shaping Duet
Lips: any lip gloss, on occasion
Hair: Natural, headscarf
Nails: Mostly buffed, rarely colored, lots of rings
** Alessandra Olanow: The Polished Brow
***Final time 1:52*
As a new mother, Alessandra’s early mornings are chock-full, so I arrive in Boerum Hill at 11am after she drops her little one off with the nanny. “I have an 8-month-old baby. I just moved, I’m launching a new company in August, and I’m a working illustrator...so I don’t have a lot of time for my morning routine. Really, less is more,” she explains. That’s why she’s serious about brow, skin, and nail care.
“I just feel better with nice brows. As long as your brows are neat that's half the battle,” Alessandra says. Building on this, she notes, “As I get older, I use less makeup and more skincare. I’m very serious about skincare now.”
This mindset has allowed her to narrow her routine down to three simple products after she cleanses and moisturizes: a brow pencil and brush combo, a lip balm, and an under-eye concealer. It’s no wonder she came in with the shortest time—just under two minutes, which just may be all the “me time' this creative-class self starter has in her daily agenda.
Skin: Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser and Rejuvenating Serum (discovered via CAP Beauty), May Lindstrom The Youth Dew, Clé de Peau Beauté UV Protection Cream
Eyes: Dr. Alkaitis Organic Eye Crème, MAC Studio Finish SPF 35 Concealer
Brows: Pur Minerals Wake Up Brow Dual-Ended Brow Pencil
Lips: Vaseline Lip Therapy Lip Balm in Rosy Lips
Hair: Keratin treatment or blow-dry
** Cassidy Turner: The Favorite Fragrance
***Final time 4:00*
Cassidy offers me French-pressed coffee when I enter the 14th Street walk-up at 7am because she is “not a morning person?” I accept. She shares that her line-up for the day includes visiting H&M to see the in-store 'zine that includes the Polaroid portraits she shot. That’s because Cassidy is usually on the other side of the lens. She’s most comfortable directing models and styling shoots in her role as a freelance photographer and assistant photo editor at Refinery29.
Because she’s always working long days on set, and because she’s from breezy California, she’s “never been one to wear a lot of makeup?” in her own words.
She continues noting, “Honestly, my routine has barely changed since wearing makeup?”
From the time she was a teenager, Cassidy has taken cues from the women in her family. Her sister Scarlett has become a recognized YouTube beauty vlogger, and her mother has launched a shop for her sought-after custom fragrance—one which Cassidy doesn’t leave the house without. It’s become the capstone to her routine, as follows: apply tinted moisturizer, cover up any dark circles, line the eyes, lengthen lashes, and finally, spritz on her signature scent. She’s been able to keep this all under five minutes—the closest to our average time.
Skin: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen, Covergirl Clean Sensitive Skin Pressed Powder, MAC Powder Blush
Eyes: Covergirl Lashblast Volume Mascara, Maybelline Line Express Eyeliner
Brows: Brow brush
Fragrance: Brew (developed by her mother)
Hair: Long; air-dry at night or blow-dry in the morning
Nails: Usually black; sometimes bright red or blue; more adventurous with nails than makeup
At the close of our mission, we assess the data and break down the splits. So how long did it take from the first moisturizing dab to the last mist-setting spritz? About five minutes, give or take. And to me that seems pretty succinct.
While we're at it, tell me: Is your morning routine shorter, longer, or in this sweet spot? Compare and contrast in the comments.
Katie is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work has appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Vice . When she's not writing, roller skating, or dancing flamenco, she's debating the perks of buffed versus shellacked and BB versus CC.
Photos courtesy of the author.
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Now that it's summer, you'll probably want to ease up on thick moisturizers. What products do you switch out in the hotter months? Another way to streamline your routine is through the magic of multipurpose products.