What’s Your “Bad Day” Beauty Routine?

Published in: Beauty Tips, Just For Fun


Hey, girls. Do you ever have those days (or weeks!) when everything in your beauty routine goes to hell in a handbasket? Suckage, right?


MBB reader Leah sent me a note asking for help handling those bad beauty days.

Dear Karen,

I’ve been having a rough beauty week. My skin is all wonky, my hair has been a super mess, my skin is dry, etc. I need your routine for those bad beauty days when nothing seems to be going right.


Heya, Leah. I really wish I could claim to be one of those girls who never had days like that — you know, the gals who manage to look flawless from head to toe with perfect hair/skin/makeup 365 days a year? Yeah, I am sooo not that girl.

When I’m having a bad beauty day and feeling tow’ up from the flo’ up, I go back to basics.

Hair: On bad beauty days, the ponytail is my best friend.

I’ll do one of two hairstyles…

If I have at least 10 minutes, I’ll flat iron a few sections in the front and on the top of my hair to smooth things out. Then, I’ll work a defrizzing product like Bumble & Bumble Brillantine ($20) through those sections to add some shine and finish. I’ll then pull my hair with a low ponytail and throw on a headband. Fast and chic.


If I’m more pressed for time and only have a minute or two to get ready, I’ll put my mane into a ponytail and hide everything beneath a cute hat. I’ll grab some big hoop earrings (to draw attention away from everything else) and bolt out the door.

Skin: When my skin breaks out I reach for the same tried and true products I’ve been using for years.

To cleanse, tone and moisturize, I like gentle products and rely on Philosophy Purity Made Simple face wash ($20), Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion ($11), Shiseido SPF 55 Sunblock ($37) and Dermalogica Active Moist ($50) for night.


I’ll also add some pimple fighting treatments that I know won’t dry me out, like Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment ($7).


Makeup: I’ll stick to the bare minimum.

First, I’ll hide my dark circles with concealer, fill in my brows and curl my lashes with a Shu Uemura curler and pop on some Stila Lash Visor waterproof mascara ($12.50) to open up my eyes.

stila lash visor waterproof mascara review

Next, I’ll add a little color by sweeping cream blush on my cheeks and applying a shimmery gloss to my lips. Lately, I’ve been really loving NARS The Multiple Orgasm cream blush ($45) and Chanel Tangerine Dream Aqualumiere lipgloss ($25).

nars multiple duo orgasm south beach open

To finish, I’ll blot away any shine with some blotting paper; I like MAC Blot Film ($12.50).


That’s my easy-peasy makeup routine, and it only takes five minutes. 🙂

Other stuff: I’ve noticed that drinking lots of water and getting a good cardio session in also makes a huge difference in my skin and my attitude when I’m feeling kinda blah.

Ladies, let’s give Leah a helping hand. What is your “bad day” beauty routine? Please share it in the comments.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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  1. Sylvie says:

    I exfoliate extra. It’s probably psychological though, that by stripping away the dirty layer, all the bad stuff would be gone too.

  2. Kate & Zena says:

    If your hair is misbehaving, it’s probably time to get rid of product-build-up. Since I have fine hair, it’s essential that my hair remains build-up free or my hair becomes, well, entirely unmanageable, limp and an OPEC-certified oil reserve. The Oil Reserve Hair happens when I forget to shampoo daily. I highly recommend using Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo once weekly to rid my hair of build-up and to keep my hair manageable. You only need a quarter sized amount and it may not get sudsy, but boy does it get rid of build-up.

    When my skin is dry, I take extra care to moisturize. I actually use my body lotion (Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion + SPF15) on my face as it’s a non-cosmogenic (i.e. doesn’t settle into pores), dermatologically tested, hypo-allergenic, non-greasy lotion. In other words, it’s perfect for hyper-sensitive skin. I believe it’s fragrance-free as well (I don’t have the bottle with me at the moment). Aveeno is one of those brands I love since it’s pretty much targeted to people with sensitive and hyper-sensitive skin. I haven’t actually had a bout of dry skin since I switched over to Aveeno.

    Generally, I suffer through bad make-up days as it’s usually caused by my Cerebral Palsy deciding to make my day miserable.

  3. Leann says:

    I find on days when my skin is a mess, I try to cut back on the amount of makeup I wear & give my skin a rest. Its REALLY hard to go to work sans mascara and concealer, but it could be exactly what your skin needs.

    Leann´s last blog post..Mary Kay Inc. Plants 200,000 Trees in Bitterroot National Forest

  4. Fabienne says:

    I recommend almond M&M’s–they’re both chocolate AND skin- (and hair!) nourishing almonds! Or, treat yourself to Special K Cinnamon and Pecans flavor with chocolate soymilk–it’s a filling, sweet (still healthy!) morning pick-me-up.

    I’ve been having bad eczema-induced dry skin for the last couple of weeks, and I found makeup application VERY therapeutic, like meditation (trivial compared to meditation, but still therapeutic). I would make sure to pile on the skin products–one layer of Cetaphil, one layer of a Neutrogena SPF-20 moisturizer, Patricia Wexler primer, and Bobbi Brown foundation stick applied with a damp sponge. The foundation, though it did not completely hide the red, dry patches, it provided additional moisturization that I wouldn’t have from moisturizer and SPF alone!

    It just sounds like a pick-me-up is needed, like a new lip gloss or beauty product 🙂

  5. Fabienne says:

    Um…I think she meant non-comedogenic, as in, it doesn’t have or cause pore-clogging comedones?

  6. heyhey says:

    If I feel particularly sluggish first thing in the morning, I brew up some coffee, then after the grounds cool, use ’em as a face scrub. I don’t know if it’s the double shot of caffeine (drank and absorbed topically?), or the enveloping smell, the invigorating texture, or the ridiculousness of rubbing the stuff on — like a kid playing in the mud! — but it always puts a smile on my face. And a mess in the sink. But worth it. And my skin looks and feels great afterward, too.

  7. Nikki says:

    Drinking fruit juice refreshes me on a bad day! Or give myself a “diet break” by drinking high calorie drinks..like Frappucino? lol

    I also spritz my face with evian or any facial mist that would cool me down 😀

    Nikki´s last blog post..Nail Art Tutorial: "Breezy" Nails!

  8. Leah says:

    Thank you SOOO much, Karen!
    Unbelievably helpful 🙂 All of your suggestions are perfect. My beauty week just got a lot better!
    Also, it’s lovely to be mentioned on your site, as an avid reader.

  9. sarahPUFFY! says:

    My secret (fucking super secret) weapon is Pond’s Cold Cream.

    Nuff said.

    sarahPUFFY!´s last blog post..I’ve been a bad beauty blogger.

  10. Kailey says:

    First, I wash my face with my clinique step 1 (i think thats the name, its in a green bottle) face wash. It just relaxes me.
    Then some Bobbi Brown tinited moisturizer to balance my skin out.
    A little touch of stick eyeliner. Keep it simple, just back your lashes.
    then some Lash Visor mascara.
    A little pinch of Burts Bee’s creme blush (always applies super easy and well).
    and your favorite lipgoss.
    And for the hair, I just pull it back into a pony with a cute clip. KISS (keep it simple stupid haha).

  11. melvel says:

    My bad day routine is just to slather on my favorite BB cream on my face (Missha Perfect Cover), use a little blush, line my eyes with brown eyeliner and then put MAC TLC on my lips. Done in a couple of minutes.

  12. These are great tips!
    Sadly, I don’t have a “bad day” BEAUTY routine. But I do have a “bad day” fashion routine. I wear one of my prettiest dresses so that I’d get lots of compliments from people. Nothing like “You look cute!” to cheer me up.

    Lily Mathilda´s last blog post..10 Tips on Buying Fabulous Shoes …

  13. Sakura says:

    In the morning I exfoliate well, then I give my self a facial massage(Shiseido’s site has instructions.) If my eyes are puffy I use Bliss’s Baggage handler. Exercise really helps too. I love to use Korres or Burts bees moisturizers at night when my skin is dry and the smell is soothing. I wear light colors of eyeshadow to brighten my eyes.
    For hair (my scalp is oily) I use a drop or two of tea tree oil in my shampoo and I feel cleansed!

  14. tanya says:

    I’m all too familiar with the whole “wonky” look 🙂 Ugh. I usually try to moisturize a lot and keep my hair up. If getting more sleep is an option (which, let’s face it, it never really is), I do that too!

    tanya´s last blog post..fresh and fun

  15. Stacie says:

    Lots of concealer! I curl my lashes and pile on the mascara, and add some lip gloss. I usually will throw my hair back in a ponytail. And Karen, I agree–there’s nothing like some big hoop earrings to distract from other things!

  16. Viv says:

    I have acne prone skin and im currently stressing out about my finals but I have noticed that by drinking lots of water and eating lots of fruit and veg really helps ur skin. So i may look stressed out with big huge puffy eyes but at least i have clear skin =)

    applying some highlighter on your cheeks is a must as well!

  17. Fie says:

    Hmm..I was shopping my woes away yesteday (pre-exam depression). But the day got better before I even left for the mall but the shopping helped. My makeup was minimum, I didn’t bother with foundation. But I had a little colour on my cheeks to make me look fresh and youthful. The rest of my face were natural, albeit I wore mascara and filled in my brows.

    If you can’t do some retail therapy, I suggest going for a mani/pedi or go DIY one! You’ll feel much better and relaxed 😀

    Fie´s last blog post..Chanel, Shu Uemura and Bobbi Brown haul

  18. mukho says:

    Blush, definitely! And a touch of deep red lipstick to liven up the dead complexion. And sometimes, I don’t know if anyone else has found this useful, I think back to what a super geek I was as a teenager. No matter what kind of terrible day I’m having, I look much better now than then, and that always puts me in a good mood 🙂

    mukho´s last blog post..Guess who came to visit…again! … a.k.a. – Monkey pictures!

  19. Jaime says:

    Patricia Wexler eye de-puff gel is amazing. When I wake up a little puffy looking, and it looks like eye makeup will never be able to cover my giant eye bags (ha!), I put a little of that gel on, and 5 minutes later I have normal looking eyes again! It’s cheap too, I think it’s only about $15 for the large burgundy tube.

  20. YadiQ says:

    i have been having a slew of bad beauty weeks as of recent – bad days at work and bad sleeping patterns = ugly feeling lol

    my hair too has been a hot mess along with skin etc

    i try to keep it as simple as possible

    pull the hair back lots of facial moisturizer, fill in brows and place a tiny bit of highlighter underneath the brow on the brow bone and your favorite lipgloss

    slap on some concealer and in my case i wear my glasses to distract from everything else lol

    hope this helps and i hope you start feeling better soon !

  21. ines says:

    i have oily-dry combo skin that is also sensitive (suffered from atopic dermatitis as a kid and it still comes back sometimes)… and when nothing seems to work out – rashy/covered with hives skin (sometimes even with pimples), bags and circles under my eyes, greasy roots… i try to salvage it by doing this:

    i wash my face with cetaphil, pat dry and spray with avene eau thermale, let sit a few seconds, then pat off. then i apply aveeno ultra calming daily moisturizer with spf 15.

    i don’t put any face makeup over that, since doing that just emphasizes the uneven texture and makes it itchy. if it’s sunny i’ll put neutrogena sensitive skin sunblock spf 60 over it.

    then i apply a little liquid eyeliner like l’orea lineur intense brush-on eyeliner, lipbalm (biotherm aquasource levres spf 8 or body shop lip butter) topped with a rosy gloss, like NARS pillow talk or chihuahua. then i leave it alone as much as possible. if i’m too shiny, i’ll blot with MAC blot powder. no blush, because my cheeks will be red already.

    i carry a small can of the eau thermale and spray+pat throughout the day, and also carry a tube of aveeno 1% hydrocortisone in case it’s really itchy.

    for my hair i just put some gel in it and french braid it to keep it out of my face but give it some shape. sometimes i’ll do a pompadour with a messy bun in the back. i rely on federic fekkai glossing serum for antifrizz and shine and herbal essences volumizing gel for control.

  22. NeenaJ says:

    Red lipstick and dark sunglasses!

    It’s always a pick me up to have a spa night during one of these spells, here’s what I do on a hard-working girl’s budget:

    1. Hair mask: mix about 3-5 tablespoons olive oil (depending on hair length) with a few drops of your favorite essential oil (rosemary and lavender are my favs and are great for your hair & scalp). Apply mixture to hair, cover with a wrap or shower cap and leave on for 15-20 minutes. For extra penetration, you can apply some heat with a hair dryer.

    2. While hair is setting, apply a face mask using plain yogurt from the fridge or even a washcloth soaked in milk – the lactic acid is a mild exfoliant that will really brighten up your skin. If I’m feeling frisky, I’ll dig into my Sephora skin care samples. Philosophy’s microdelivery peel is awesome – and Sephora always has samples of it.

    3. Get in the shower and exfoliate with a homemade brown sugar and olive oil scrub.

    4. Rinse it all off and hit the sack for some much deserved rest.

  23. Susan says:

    I just discoved that very same Shiseido lotion! I think I am loving it. Do you wear it year round/everyday? How do you take it off?
    OH and when I have a bad day..it’s a ponytail/sometimes baseball cap combo, foundation and blush is a definate must

  24. cloudburst says:

    Gentle exfolitation, moisturizer & MAC Studio Finish concealer if I have a zit. Lots of water, more sleep & ponytails! LOL

  25. Lauren says:

    Drink water! About a month ago I was on decongestants and apparently not drinking enough fluids to compensate for the drying effect of the medicine, and my skin was a WRECK. It was dry and patchy and rough and just not pretty. So I upped my water intake and laid off of the decongestants for a while and my skin looked SO much better in less than 24 hours. Even if you’re not on medicine, if you’re not drinking enough water, your skin will feel the effects.

  26. penelope says:

    a beret all the way!!

  27. Anne Marie B says:

    Thanks for all the great tips, ladies! Very helpful.

  28. nina says:

    Girl…been there, done that! I always have that ‘blah’ feeling after a long night at work followed by another work day! Ugh! I try to concentrate on my best feature (whatever it is that day)..if I have a pimple, I try to make my skin look as best as I can, and make my hair better than usual as a distractor..usually just a bit more concealor & powder. Also not too much eye makup since I can find it irritating after only 3-4hrs of sleep; so I use a light pink or white shimmery eyeshadow on my entire lid up to the brow (really just concentrate on the lid, and then wipe the brush with whatevers left up into the brow) and then a coat of thickening mascara. Add some blush and/or bronzer to freshen up the complexion, and a swipe of my favorite gloss! 5 minutes from looking as crappy as I feel…:)

  29. Tiffany says:

    If I’m having a bad beauty day or running low on time, I ALWAYS do my hair. I flat iron it, and run some smoothing balm throughout it to tame it.

    I always pluck stray eyebrow hairs, exfoliate, and use foundation with pearlescent minerals to give that flawless airbrushed look. I also never go without blush or brow highlight.

  30. Tatiana says:

    I’m rushing to get to work so much that I end up doing most of my eye make up on the BART train, I’ve gotten really good at that with the help of:
    -Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliners
    -Stila Convertible Eye Color
    -Stila Rouge Pot or Convertible Cheek/Lip color

    With the eyeliners you can just draw a thick line on your lid, smudge it out and you’re done!

    For hair, these mini bobby pins I got from Sally’s Beauty Supply are my new best friend. They are the PERFECT size.

  31. Claire says:

    If I have time, I get in the shower and use my Avalon Organics Nourishing Lavender Shampoo. It helps chill me out and sudses up very nicely! Then I put in some conditioner and while my strands are soakin’ it up, I put on my Clean & Clear Soft In-Shower Facial while I wash my body with a delish exfoliating body wash (for a homemade version, try brown sugar in body oil/gel!). For my face, I *love* Clean & Clear Soft’s Day Moisturizer (oil-free!!!). I like an oil-free tinted moisturizer to even out my skin tone (like Cover Girl’s), a highlighting concealer for my dark circles, and a non-cakey concealer with high coverage for my blemishes (my fave is Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind Double Face Perfector)! As for the rest of my makeup, I just quickly curl my eyelashes, apply some Maybelline Full and Soft for flake-free, fluffy lashes, and maybe a little light, brightening blush (like Sally Hansen’s Cream Blush in Beaming). A little light, slightly sparkly shadow in the corners of my eyes and on the brow bone make me look wide awake! A great lip balm (like Blistex Silk & Shine) gets me ready to go quickly and simply! Ta-da! Cure for dark circles and blemishes.

  32. Redhead says:

    On a bad day, I like to do my favorite look – bronze smokey eyes and matte, pink-stained lips. I use Shroom on the brow bone, Sable from lashline blended above the crease, Swiss Chocolate in the crease and Nylon on the inner lid. I line the upper lashline with a thin line of black Liquidlast and the lower lashline with Powerpoint pencil in Engraved. Then I smudge that with Swiss Chocolate and top it with Sable. Add Mascara X, a bit of Lingering brow pencil, a LIGHT dusting of Dollymix on the cheeks layered under Well Dressed blush. Pat Sweetie lipstick on lips and blot with a tissue for a stained effect. As for skin, I exfoliate with Neutrogena Pore Refining Cleanser – it gets rid of pimples, pores and redness! When my hair is HORRIBLE, I’ll smooth a bit of hair gel on my crown and put it up and in a bun with my bangs and a few tendrils left out.

  33. TaLaisa says:

    When I’m having a bad beauty day (sounds so much nicer than my ‘ugly day’) I do mascara and a fun lip color and then throw on a super cute necklace or bracelet and earrings.

    TaLaisa´s last blog post..Happy Valentines

  34. Catherine says:

    On my bad days, I’m usually super rushed, so I just do my 15-minutes routine, throw on comfy clothes and zoom out the door.

    If I just feel a little blah in the morning, but have some time, I’ll take a little extra time with my skincare routine, let everything sink in a little better and then do a bright colored eye to boost my mood.

    Catherine´s last blog post..Tagged by Chrissy

  35. Lydia says:

    I try to make my skin look good when I’m having a bad beauty day, I like MAC Mineralize skinfinish, it just makes my skin look nicer. 🙂

    Lydia´s last blog post..Glamazon Asks You: What Would You Pair With This?

  36. Nicole says:

    I tend to get those days when I have very little time to get ready…conveniently.
    – Like everyone else here, the first thing I’ll do is exfoliate. Then I’ll put a light moisturizer only on trouble spots. (I get dry skin around my mouth and nose, but my forehead gets shiny easily.)
    – For the hair, I spray in a leave-in conditioner. It’s super fast and makes a world of a difference! I use John Frieda’s Frizz-Ease Daily Nourishment Leave-In Conditioning Spray.
    -I’m a minimalist, so for makeup I just use concealer and mascara. I feel like if I do too much, it just draws more attention to the fact that I’m trying to hide my terrible beauty day status.

  37. L says:

    For dry skin, I have a great mask to recommend! Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Hydrating Treatment Mask is fantastic.


    When I have a bad hair day, I either toss my hair into a lazy bun (instead of making a ponytail, I stop short and don’t entirely pull it through — it’s been a staple for being lazy/bad hair days since HS, heh) or throw on a cute hat. I believe there’s a hat for EVERYONE. I used to think I could never pull them off because I look terrible in the vast majority of them (they make my face look too long) but I have found a couple that I love!

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