Me-Time in Minutes—Beauty Self-Care Tips for Busy Moms
By Shannon M. Bauer
Expert Sources: Robert Finney, MD, FAAD; Shani Darden, Esthetician
Being a parent of very dependent children—especially during those unyielding newborn and toddler years—means that your personal care needs are often left under the growing pile of laundry, shoved in the trunk under the stroller, or forgotten completely while caring for everyone else. And while showering every day is a valid goal, attending to your basic hygiene shouldn’t be seen as your only option for alone time. Ask any new mom, a shower becomes less sanctuary and more racing of the clock while your little one is sleeping in a bouncer on the bathroom floor.
Don’t get us wrong, having a self-care strategy is extremely important to staying happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. “You wear your stress on your skin,” says Robert Finney, MD, FAAD a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Entière Dermatology in New York City. Stress can lead to breakouts, eczema, and other skin conditions, so from a holistic perspective, anything you can do to relax and distress is only going to improve your skin, too.
However, acknowledging you should also take care of yourself is not the same thing as finding the time to practice self-care. Daily me-time should be the ultimate goal, but until then, here are five beauty self-care routines you can sneak into your week.
If You Have 30 Seconds: Exfoliate Your Skin
It can be hard to view a skincare routine as self-care because you’re not getting the immediate payoff of results, says Dr. Finney. If you’re looking in the mirror and thinking “even my skin looks tired,” then exfoliating can be a simple, but impactful step. Exfoliation gets rid of the dry, dull, dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, which can make your complexion look brighter and smoother. Dr. Finney recommends a glycolic acid peel pad, or polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) if your skin is more sensitive.
We love these First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads because they’re effective and convenient. While wiping across your skin after a long day, try saying a few positive affirmations. These can be easy, such as, “I am capable. I am strong. I am doing my best and my best is good enough.” Unlike the typical weeks or months you may typically have to wait to see results from a skin treatment, you’ll notice the glow from this almost instantly. Your skin and your confidence will both appreciate the boost.
If You Have Two Minutes: Try a Treatment
Will doing a mask or rolling a stone over your face have a massive impact on the look of your complexion? Probably not, they aren’t miracle workers. However, there are still benefits to be had to your well-being. “I’m a big proponent of ‘if it feels good to you and lowers your stress levels, then do it,’” Dr. Finney says. The facial massage or jade roller might not build collagen or achieve dramatic results, but they can be effective tools to help you relax, he explains. The repetitive motion of a quartz roller can absolutely be calming to the skin, as well as the mind, especially, if it combines massage with cold, like this Flawless Ice Roller.
A face mask that you apply weekly on the same day is a ritual to look forward to and a reminder to take a few deep breaths and relax while it sits. Your brain also craves novelty—new experiences, textures, scents—and when it receives them will send a rush of dopamine. I love the Repêchage One-Minute Exfoliating Mask because it packs a ton of power in a short amount of time. You can sneak in a full treatment even before your kids start screaming “mama” and banging on the bathroom door … maybe.
If you Have Five Minutes: Develop a Skincare Routine
When talking with her fellow mom clients about how they can add me-time to their busy days, Shani Darden, esthetician, founder of Shani Darden Skin Care, and mom of two says, “I recommend just focusing on setting aside time for a basic skincare routine. This can be as simple as diligently wearing sunscreen in the morning, and then washing your face at night using a treatment serum, then following up with a moisturizer.”
Dr. Finney agrees that the simpler approach is better when it comes to daily products. He recommends SPF in the morning (bonus points for a vitamin C serum, too), then a cleanser and bakuchiol (or retinol if not pregnant or breastfeeding) at night. Think of your skincare regimen as less of another to-do list item to check off and more as a daily check-in with yourself. Staying consistent with your short routine and committing to the number of steps you can actually achieve will serve you better in the long run.
Supergoop Play Sunscreen SPF 50
Shani Darden Skin Care Cleansing Serum
The Inkey List Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Moisturizer
Alastin Renewal Retinol 0.5
If You Have 10 Minutes: Do a Quick DIY Manicure
Regular, professionally done manicures might not be in the cards right now, but a few minutes to do it yourself seems more reasonable. In your head, did you just say a manicure takes way longer than 10 minutes to complete? You’re right, but I’m going to let you in on a beauty secret. This Essie Expressie nail polish dries in one minute flat and doesn’t require a base or top coat. Just swipe on two coats—waiting one minute in-between—and you can move on with your day. Plus, the smartly designed brush is nearly goof-proof thanks to its angle which makes it easier to paint your non-dominant hand.
If You Have 30 Minutes: Take a Bath
We said at the beginning that your hygiene routine shouldn’t be your only option for self-care, and we’re sticking to that. However, baths are a great way to help anyone relax and relieve stress, Dr. Finney says. “They can also help soothe muscle and joint cramps.” This bath is about creating a sanctuary, so pour in some bath salts, light a candle, enjoy a cup of tea, grab a good book, tune into your favorite podcast, or let an Enya playlist serenade you as you soak in the bliss. A great choice is the Pursoma Digital Detox Sleep Bath Soak because it’s best used in 30-minute increments (meaning you get 30 minutes minimum to yourself as prescribed), and it also promotes better sleep.
If You Have One Hour: Book a Service
If you have an extra hour with a babysitter, partner, or family member who can stay with the kids—run. Schedule time at the closest salon or spa and pick a treatment that feels most rejuvenating to you. Maybe your postpartum strands are out of control and a fresh haircut is the ticket. Can you squeeze in an extra 20 minutes? An in-salon gloss treatment—like the Redken Shades EQ Gloss—is worth the extra money. The mask can enhance your natural tones, help to blend grays, and leave you with an enviable shine.
Many spas also offer what is nicknamed the lunchtime- or mini-facial, which can be completed in very little time—only about 30 minutes. These treatments are all about targeting your greatest concerns—a glycolic peel or microdermabrasion for lingering melasma, extractions for clogged pores, and even high frequency or light therapies for overall anti-aging and glow-boosting benefits. The best part? You can close your eyes—heck, fall asleep—with no “Baby Shark” in the background.
If You Have an Afternoon: Visit Your Dermatologist
Between prenatal ultrasounds, baby checkups, and yearly primary care appointments, squeezing in yet another doctor’s appointment is probably not high on your list. However, a dermatologist visit is an opportunity to focus on yourself, as well as get a skin cancer check.
Your dermatologist is a personal skincare Rolodex, so ask all your burning questions—like ‘what can I use on my acne while pregnant?’ or ‘what’s the best treatment for postpartum hair loss?’ during your visit. Whether or not you get a prescription for a specific skin concern, your derm can recommend products, tweaks to your routine, or steps to add to get the best bang for your buck. The appointment is important to catch any potential concerns early—like a suspicious-looking mole—but it’s also personalized advice just for your skin.
And while you’re there, if you’re looking to dip a toe into next-level treatments, Dr. Finney is a big fan of the Forever Young BBL (BroadBand Light) thanks to its array of benefits for correcting skin damage, slowing the look of skin aging, and offering results with little downtime (a darkening of pigment or redness is to be expected, at first). “This light treatment has different filters that can be applied to target specific concerns, like dark spots and redness, making it a fully customizable experience,” Dr. Finney says.
When you’re done at the dermatologist’s office and while you still have childcare, take advantage of the quiet time and stop by the drugstore to pick up new goodies and maybe eat a solo lunch, too. A little time away from your babe and with yourself is imperative to your mental health.
We know one day, one hour, or one treatment won’t knock out stress for good. However, this list is a reminder to add you back onto the family priority list with whatever time you have available. You deserve it.