WHAT THE PARENTING BOOKS DON'T TELL YOU: How to Look Great on Two Hours of Sleep

I'm not sure I even remembered to brush my hair on Monday, but I still managed to trick at least two people into thinking I have it all together. YOU CAN, TOO.

The day I brought my new baby home from the hospital, my mother handed me a jar of eye cream and said, “You’re going to need this.”

That was over eight years ago, and I’m still not getting much sleep. In fact, we just returned from a fun week in my home town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where my sleep was disrupted by a number of factors: flights at odd hours, a two-hour time difference, a mattress different from my own.

I went back to work this week with a raging sleep deficit and a head cold. NOT PRETTY. I’m not sure I even bothered to brush my hair on Monday morning, though I did shower, so there’s that.

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel better when I take some time with my appearance. For instance, in those newborn days I mentioned above, I religiously applied the eye cream. I made sure to get in the shower at least once every other day. I brushed my teeth, applied a little make-up, and put on actual clothes every morning before my ex left for work. Taking the time to do these things helped feel not so crappy, even though I was nearly delirious from lack of sleep.

I realize that not everyone is as vain as I am, but my advice for pretending that you have it all pulled together, even if you’ve only had two hours of sleep is this: Fake it.

And I should know, because even though I’m typing this with a NyQuil hangover and a plugged up ear, I did feel marginally better yesterday after I employed what I call the FOUR Cs: Cold water, cosmetics, caffeine, and color. I totally just made this up, but I think my method works!

New moms and sleepless folks, maybe the FOUR Cs will help you, too:

1. Cold Water

There’s a reason that splashing your face with cold water in the morning has been standard beauty advice forever. Gets the circulation going, gives your face some color, and wakes you up a bit, too. May even de-puff, depending on your personal level of morning puffiness.

2. Cosmetics

I always take five minutes to apply a little bit of makeup. If I’m crunched for time (because I was awake all night, only to fall asleep an hour before my alarm went off, and then decided to sleep an extra 30 minutes), I apply concealer under my eyes, fill in my eyebrows, dot on a little illuminator, and apply some mascara. These are the four basic steps that make my face look at least half alive.

3. Caffeine

I never skip coffee on a morning when I’m lacking sleep. If we’re out of coffee at home, I will rearrange my entire morning in order to procure some before work. My own personal formula for maximum wakefulness without feeling jittery is two cups.

4. Color

The way I manage to look pulled together even if I’m dying on the inside is to wear a color on or near my face that makes me look or feel good, whether it’s my favorite lipstick, or a scarf, or a shirt. My favorite combo is to wear all black and then add a big, bright necklace. My new favorite “statement necklace” is this big honking red thing from Hotcakes Design.

Friends and work associates are just too busy looking at the giant red rocks around my neck to notice the red rings around my eyes. At least, this is what I tell myself.

The photo above is the result of 20 minutes, start to finish, and included: taking a shower (but not washing my hair); applying concealer, powder, brow filler, a shimmery highlighter on my nose/cheeks/eyes, mascara, and lipstick; and brushing my hair.

Today I have a meeting where I’m supposed to present some information to my co-workers without letting on that all I really want to do is put on sweatpants and crawl into bed. I’m pretty sure my statement necklace is going to fool them.

Are you totally sleep deprived? Do you have any tips for not looking so sleep deprived when you have to go out in public? Am I making sense?

Somer is on Twitter: @somersherwood