The radio is playing non-stop cheesy Christmas anthems, the shops are full of sequined dresses and the party season is well and truly upon us.
But while the office do might come as a welcome opportunity for workmates to let their hair down, for a legion of women (myself included) it also presents an annual conundrum: how do you get ready fast enough to journey from your desk to the dancefloor before all the free champagne is gone?
As a weary working mum with two small children, my morning routine consists of running a hairbrush through my bed hair and throwing on whatever minimal make-up I can lay my hands on.
British mother-of-two Beth Hale (pictured), revealed how she achieves a glamorous appearance within 15 minutes
Beth (pictured before) admits getting ready for social events of the season fills her with horror, she uses quick-fix beauty products for a speedy makeover
Evenings? Well, frankly, I’m usually in bed by 10pm, so my party prep habits are a little rusty. The thought of getting ready for the social event of the season fills me with horror, a feeling only compounded by the knowledge I’ll be doing it in the loos, along with everyone else.
But, with the help of some time-saving tricks and quick-fix beauty products, could I go from office drab to party fab in just 15 minutes? Here’s how I got on…
STEP 1: A cheat’s base
Fresh in ten: Beth (pictured) uses a face spritz and lip balm to create the perfect base for a party makeover
I can’t face removing the day’s make-up to start again, it’s too time-consuming, so I close my eyes and spritz on a face mist to freshen up my skin, and then soften my lips with Dr PAWPAW original balm (£6.95). No time for primer, concealer and foundation — what I’m already wearing will do as a base — so I use an all-in-one foundation and concealer (£16) from Marks & Spencer under my eyes and around my nose.
TIME: Ten seconds spritz and balm, 90 seconds for the rest.
COUNTDOWN: One minute 40 secs.
STEP 2: Speedy smoky eyes
Even I know it’s all about the smoky eye for a night out. However, achieving it is another matter. Thankfully, there’s a host of all-in-one kits that will help even the most hesitant of make-up novices. Charlotte Tilbury’s Instant Look In A Palette (£49) tells me what shade to apply in what order — first I brush shade ‘one’ over my lid, shade ‘two’ goes along my eyelid and then shade ‘three’ is for along my upper lash line. With a smudge of the darkest shade under my eye to finish, I don’t need to bother with eyeliner. The clock’s ticking, and I’m smoking…
TIME: Two minutes 20 seconds.
COUNTDOWN: Four minutes.
STEP 3: Fluttery lashes
The eyes have it: Beth (pictured) recommends turning to all-in-one kits and false lashes for speedy eye make-up
I want maximum eyelash-batting impact, so I quickly deploy a coat of Benefit BADgal BANG mascara (£18.70), then whip out a pack of false lashes. As any woman who has ever done battle with a set of falsies will know, getting a full set perfectly aligned can take ten minutes. But applying a few individual lashes can be done quickly. I turn to some whizzy little ‘trios’ by Kiss (£7.45). I fix a couple with a pair of tweezers and eyelash glue at each outer edge and ta da! I’m feeling the party mood.
TIME: Two minutes.
COUNTDOWN: Six minutes.
STEP 4: Bold brows
Brows are big business these days — the bolder the better. And I’m pleased to say this one’s really easy. Benefit do a Brow Basics kit (£32.50) containing various pencils and gels but all I need is the Gimme Brow volumising eyebrow gel (£21.50). It takes a few tiny brushes along the length of each brow, with a second in an upwards motions for extra oomph, and I’m done.
TIME: 12 seconds.
COUNTDOWN: Six minutes 12 seconds.
STEP 5: Brilliant bronzer
Thank goodness for all-in-one kits; the palette I used for my eyes also has bronzer, blush and highlighter in it. After a sweep of bronzer to add some contour, I’m already so hot, courtesy of my hasty make-up antics, that it takes just a flick of blush on the apples of my cheeks to look rosy.
TIME: 20 seconds.
COUNTDOWN: Six minutes 32 seconds.
STEP 6: Clip-in hair
Beth (pictured) suggests using clip-in hair extensions to add volume to hair within seconds, she said blotting paper can be used to banish any grease
Hair extensions are so popular it’s hard to know who’s faking it these days. Clip-in locks are very accessible and don’t have to be used to add length. I’m using extensions the same length as my own for added volume. Real hair is best, because it doesn’t melt if you want to use heated hair appliances. I choose three clip-in extensions, which are easy to fix in place, and my hair is looking fuller and swishier.
After a dab at the roots with Style Dry shampoo blotting paper (£9.95) to banish any grease, it’s time for a curl. Babyliss is a cordless straightener which means you won’t have to fight for plug space. At £250 it’s not cheap, but does do a lovely curl. I opt for a couple of large, loose curls on each side.
TIME: One minute 15 seconds for extensions, two seconds to blot, one minute 50 to curl.
COUNTDOWN: Nine minutes 39 seconds.
STEP 7: Secret support
Beth (pictured) opts for Spanx to achieve the illusion of the perfect silhouette in part dresses
My shirt and trousers won’t do for the dancefloor, so it’s time to get my party dress on. But first I feel the need for a bit of secret support, which leads me to the greatest weapon in any woman’s wardrobe: Spanx. However, any hopes of pulling them on in one deft movement is foiled by the constricting fabric, and shimmying the bodysuit up my frame takes as long as doing parts of my make-up. Still, my dress (£159, Mint Velvet at John Lewis) slips on easily. I might not be able to fit in too many canapes, but I’m confident a drink will be ok.
TIME: One minute.
COUNTDOWN: Ten minutes 39 seconds.
STEP 8: Stick to tanning the bits on show
Beth (pictured) recommends tanning only the areas on show, she uses Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs for a sun-kissed glow in under two minutes
Looking down at my legs, they look terrifyingly white. Tanning my whole body would take too much time. But if I only tan the parts of me on show — my legs — I’ll be bronzed in less than half the time.
After a vigorous shake, will Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs (£5.99, Superdrug) do what it says on the can?
Yes! Admittedly the initial results are terrifyingly tangerine, but after a rushed rub up and down with my hands they smooth out to a sun-kissed glow.
TIME: One minute 15 seconds.
COUNTDOWN: 11 minutes 54 secs.
STEP 9: Fuss-free lips & nails
Beth (pictured) uses stick-on nails to complete her look without a trip to the salon, she said it takes just two minutes
No time for fuss, I run my fingers through my hair to loosen my waves and now I can apply lippy. I’m told a tube of what looks like gloss named Lip Injection, by Too Faced (£22, Boots) will give me a bee-stung pout. It certainly stings, and they feel puffy, but there’s no time to dally while I wait for the full plump to kick in. On with a slick of my favourite red lipstick and that’s the pout done.
And there’s a quick fix for my talons, too, thanks to stick-on nails (imPRESS £5.32 at Superdrug).
TIME: 30 seconds to loosen hair, 15 seconds for lips, two minutes for nails.
COUNTDOWN: 14 minutes 39 seconds.
STEP 10: Final touches
All that’s left are the final elements: a pair of glamorous heels (with gel cushions for comfort), statement earrings and a spritz of perfume and I’m ready to party. Now, where’s that champagne?
COUNTDOWN: 15 minutes are up. Time to go!