woman smiling in mirror

Low-Effort, High-Reward Beauty: How To Look Great Every Day

Looking to simplify your beauty routine so you look great with less effort? Or want a refresh, but already have too many clothes and beauty products–or want something so easy it can replace your work-from-home sweatpants?

Look no further. This is your guide to low-effort, high-reward beauty, or how to look great every day.

Beauty is how you look, but it’s also how you feel, because how you feel dictates the way you look. Thus, below is a combination of strategies for feeling good (so you can look good) and looking good.

My routines have always been minimal. I cared how I looked, but I never had the patience to spend much time on it. What follows are the strategies I’ve been using for years to get around that impatience and achieve (outer) beauty with minimal effort.

Beauty Sleep

Seriously, how effortless is sleep? Getting enough uninterrupted sleep is one of the best ways to take care of your mind, your health, and yes, how you look.

Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re not getting that, don’t buy another eye cream that promises to diminish dark circles! Invest in yourself in a more meaningful way: make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

If you’re having trouble getting enough sleep, you might:

  • Put your phone in a different room 📵
  • Go to bed around the same time each night
  • Experiment with temperature and air flow in your bedroom. I prefer cool and fresh air, when possible.

Self Care

Just as tiredness shows on your face, your mood and emotions show on your face. Humans are the only animals with prominent eye whites, making our emotions easier to read. This means other people can see how you feel, which means your emotions are on display just like your hairstyle. They may not be as obvious, but they’re still part of what you’re bringing to the world.

There’s not really a “beautiful” emotion, but one can intuit more-beautiful and less-beautiful emotions.

More BeautifulLess Beautiful
ContentmentStress
JoyFrustration
ExcitementTension

In summary: if you feel good, you look good*. So, take care of yourself. Infuse some joy into your day by taking some time to enjoy a pot of tea, dance to your favorite song, sit out in the sun, or whatever makes you enjoy your day a little more.

*This is a theory. I cannot find any science to back this up, but I hope you find it intuitive. Another way to look at it is: if you don’t feel good, you may not look good.

Skincare

Beware skincare! If your skin is clear and not irritated, a skincare routine is going to be the opposite of low-effort, high-reward beauty. It is high-effort, delayed-reward, because products have to be used consistently and for a long time to, say, lighten pigmentation or reduce wrinkles. Probably the lowest-effort, highest-reward skincare is wearing a face sunscreen every day. Whether this is worth it or not is dependent you and your skin.

The exception to this is lip balm. Chapped lips are not cute. A quick swipe of Vaseline (my favorite!) for hydrated, evenly-colored, and plump lips is always worth the effort. Plus, it won’t stain the inside of your mask if you’re out and about.

If your skin is not clear or it is irritated, a simple skincare routine as advised by a specialist or a dermatologist will be high-reward. It will also be high-effort because, again, products have to be used consistently. If this effort is worth it to you (it is for me – the cystic acne I get is painful!), you can still keep the effort down by keeping your routine simple.

(All this being said, I personally love skincare, but for me it’s about self-care, not about beauty. I love taking the time to massage nice things into my face; it’s just an enjoyable part of my day.)

Minimal Makeup

Black Makeup Brush With Palette

A fast makeup routine frees up time for more important things, like self-care, learning new things, and sleep! Below are some ideas for quick but complete routines. The 2- and 4-minute routines might be daily options, while the 6-minute routine might be for special occasions.

2-minute routine4-minute routine6-minute routine
Eyeliner (a single line on the top lid)2-minute routine, plus:4-minute routine, plus:
MascaraBlushLight eyeshadow on the eyelid
Dab of concealer as neededLip colorDark eyeshadow on the crease

Nowadays it is so easy to accumulate way too many beauty products. Between constant sales, deals, and subscriptions (my personal pitfall), many beauty enthusiasts have massive stashes. That’s great if it’s your hobby! But for the rest of us – let’s not hang onto stuff we don’t use or need. If you love unboxing, but don’t always use what you buy, watching unboxing videos is a great way to get the fix without buying extras.

The above complete routines require a total of 7 products, or 6 if you have a combined blush-lip color. This is an achievable makeup-box size! I have 8 products: eyeliner, concealer, two lip colors (one which doubles as blush), a dark and a light eyeshadow, and two brow products (RapidBrow and a color pencil). I don’t have mascara, not because I have long and luxurious eyelashes (I don’t) but because it’s such a hassle to clean completely. I don’t wear makeup all that often, but when I do, I have everything I need.

It may take some time to find what works for you, but play with it and see what you can do to keep it simple. French makeup routines are typically minimal, and are a great source of inspiration.

And of course, be sure to remove your makeup every day!

Trim Clothing

Wear trim, neat clothing. The key to making this low-effort and high-reward is to strategically make trim clothing your go-to clothing. But first, what even is trim clothing?

Basic characteristics of low-effort trim clothing:

  • No holes or stains (mend or recycle these pieces!)
  • Fits well
    • Is the right size (this includes bras!)
    • Is generally not oversized or shapeless, unless it’s got structure and is balanced (see below).
  • Fits comfortably
    • Is not too tight
    • Feels nice to wear

Advanced characteristics of trim clothing:

  • Simplicity: Basic shapes and colors that go with everything. The more things match, the less effort is required to put together a trim outfit.
  • Structure: A collar on an oversized shirt or a less-slouchy fabric like linen on comfy wide-leg pants can further clean up an outfit.
  • Balance: Consider balancing an oversized top with a fitted bottom, or vice versa.

Don’t go out and buy new clothing just yet – remember, this is supposed to be low-effort! Start by selecting a few go-to pieces for the next few days: comfortable items in simple colors that match (no need to go for the advanced stuff right now—it’s more important to start somewhere). Then, ignore your regular closet and pick only from what you’ve set aside. This is an exercise in making trim clothing your go-to clothing. See what you think!

Many of us have large closets of things we mostly never wear. You can reduce your effort and mental burden by filtering out just the stuff you need to be trim and comfortable, and default to picking from this pile every day.

Worried about wearing the same thing twice? Don’t be. As long as you’re not smelly or something (which you probably aren’t), there’s no reason to not wear the same thing twice if you love it and look great in it!

Conclusion

Low-effort, high-reward beauty is a combination of how you look and how you feel. Keeping it simple and taking care of yourself will go a long, long way. In many ways, this kind of simple, low-effort beauty is self-care. It’s like nourishing your outer self in addition to nourishing your brain and inner self.

Further reading:

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