The Pre-Going Out Facial

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Let's assume you are a busy person. You've got responsibilities—things like a job, errands, and the various Housewives reunion shows. All these things take time and energy and an elevated attention span. But let's assume one other thing: You also want to look good. Particularly if it's a Friday night and you're cutting loose. We didn't start the Top Shelf After Dark series for nothing, after all.

So if we allow those two things to be true, you may find yourself with minimal time on any given evening to make your face look like a professional gave it some TLC. But if I have any earthly mission whatsoever, I believe it to be to spread the gospel of working smarter, not harder when it comes to your skin. With the right products, you can give yourself a proper pre-makeup facial in 30 minutes or less and still have time to change your outfit three times before requesting an Uber.

If you have 30 minutes to an hour:
I learned this from Annie—exfoliate if you want your makeup to actually look like skin. But if you're going to be in the public eye within the next hour or two, you'll want to pick up something gentle enough not to make you go red for a day. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Now, I've never much believed in physical exfoliation on my face (please do let me know if you have recommendations), so I almost always go chemical. Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask ("for instant glow" is the subtext here) is an enzymatic peel that all but screams, "This is my weekend skin!" when you smear it on. Within 10 minutes—you can leave it on for 30, but I wouldn't—it removes the week's grime, without the residual irritation. A peel for a wimp indeed.

Since you've got time in this scenario, it's good to follow up a peel with something extra nutritious for your skin. Right now, that's Lancer Lift and Plump Sheet Mask, which sounds like a visit to your plastic surgeon all wrapped up in a foil pouch. The product copy says, "An ideal mask to help soothe skin post-procedure," so I feel like that applies to an at-home chemical peel. That, and I assume a firm and plump face is something that is relevant to your interests.

If you have 15 minutes:
Don't panic, there's plenty routine for you here. Remove whatever makeup you have on for the day and tone with one of the Colbert MD Tone Control Facial Discs. This markets itself as a toner-type of treatment (which it is), but the best part about these discs is that they have the softest grade physical exfoliation you need to remove any flakes of dry skin. To be clear, flakes of dry skin get in the way of you looking your best. Get rid of them by swirling these pads over your face for a minute of massage time.

If the Sisley Express Flower Gel mask wasn't made for getting ready in a hurry then I don't know what was. Everyone I know, including myself, treats this mask more like a gel moisturizer that plumps the living daylights out of your face. Don't put on a layer that you'll be able to see on top of your skin—just enough that'll have time to absorb before you go in with your makeup.

If you have no time at all:
Pause. You probably have at least five minutes. And five minutes is really all you need. Because I'm about to introduce you to my favorite toner I've ever used. Meet Erborian's Yuza Double Lotion that smells like zesty citrus and feels like soothing essence. It's bi-phase, so you have to shake the bottle to combine the two parts that treat skin's hydration and radiance in equal measure. Simply swipe it on with a cotton pad and follow immediately with a moisturzer. Specifically Tatcha's new Balanced Pore Perfecting Water Gel. This is mainly because it has little bits of 23-karat gold floating around in it for a radiance you might not have earned but most certainly deserve. Then you can quickly swipe on Clinique All About Eyes Serum and your back-to-back schedule all of a sudden became a stand-in for eight hours of sleep and a kale-spinach juice detox. Certainly seems smarter to me.

—Emily Ferber

Photographed by Tom Newton.

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