Grooming – Is There a Bare Minimum?


What is the bare minimum for grooming?  Inside Out Style blog

Hi Imogen,
I’m a fan from the US and looking forward to building a spring capsule wardrobe (my first!). Love your style tips and ideas.
Just read your post about dressing your age… Can you write a post about grooming, what is the bare minimum? I kind of hate wearing makeup. Don’t mind waxing eyebrows or the occasional pedicure.


Is there a bare minimum for grooming?  Some won’t leave the house without a full face of makeup, others barely brush their hair.    Personally I feel that a little grooming can go a long way and research shows that we notice that grooming.  It’s one of the essential elements if you want to be stylish.

Grooming Essentials

You don’t need to spend hours, just 5-10 minutes on hair and makeup is really all you need, and everyone can find that little time each day.

  1. Hair – wash, brush and style it – it’s your crowning glory and people really notice a good haircut well styled.  I notice every time I leave the hairdresser with my freshly professionally blow dried hair that I always get positive comments from strangers that I meet.  Spending a little time on  your hair is important as it surrounds your face, your communication centre, the place we spend most of our time looking when we talk to you (that’s right, I’m not talking to your thighs!).  If you need product use it.  A few minutes with a blow dryer or hair straightened can do wonders (I know, I have that kind of kinky hair that looks terrible and messy when it air dries).
  2. Eyebrows – if they are unruly have a professional wax/thread/pluck them to a tidy shape, a good brow shape is like having an eyelift.   If they are fading away, pencil or powder them in again – they really do provide a frame for your eyes and help pull focus to your face.  As we age they shorten and thin, so adding in some fullness to them will take years off your face.
  3. Lips – If you wear no other makeup, some lipstick or lip gloss can  help you look more finished.  A stronger lip colour will make you look more powerful and confident.
  4. Mascara – Unless you get your eyelashes tinted, or are one of those incredibly lucky ones who have dark, long natural lashes (so jealous of you), then a quick coat of mascara can make you look more polished and it will help your eyes, the windows to your soul, to stand out.
  5. Pedicure – if you are wearing open toed shoes, please a pedicure is a must.  Feet are often not the most attractive body parts, so a little polish and a nice pedi goes a long way to freshening up and prettifiying your toes.

These 5 elements would be my minimum for grooming.  Of course it’s really not hard to do a 5 minute makeup (watch my video here), but if you are just one of those “low maintenance” types who never wears makeup, consider these your essentials.

What are your grooming “musts” each day?

Need ideas on how to get out the door looking stylish in minutes?  Here are my tips.



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  • Blush. I am also a “natural” girl, and my husband is not find of make-up, including lipstick. I only wear it when it is socially appropriate/necessary. But a bit of blush (in a shade that matches and compliments my skin tone) can do wonders for making me look more alive and animated, especially as I’ve hit my forties and my color is beginning to fade a bit.

    Honestly, I’ve wondered if the make-up we “must” wear is related to our ages. My grandmothers couldn’t live without their face powder and eyebrow pencils (WWII generation). My mother was a young woman in the late 50s, and still can’t leave the house without lipstick. The fact that I only rarely wear a sheer stain is a disappointment to her, I’m sure! In high school my bestie’s mom (about 10 years younger than my mom) felt the same way about mascara, but never touched lipstick.

    My high school and college years were the “grunge” period, and the natural look was in. After all, what does one wear with a turtleneck and plaid flannel shirt? ;-). I did wear my fair share of make-up in junior high, but almost all of my adult life I’ve gone without. When I look around, that seems to be a norm — albeit not the only one — for Gen Xers here. I’m curious if other people have noticed a similar trend in generations.

    That said, as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more religious about moisturizers, etc. If you don’t use much make-up, there’s not much to hide behind!

    • True – some people’s lips have more natural colour and they don’t need lipstick or gloss. Some have dark eyelashes and never need anything more on their eyes. Really depends on your natural features! But I’m sure there is some relevance to eras and trends.

    • I think you’re right about the different eras. I graduated high school in 1990, and after wearing clown-levels of 80s makeup in HS, I fell in love with grunge. Now, I have to fight against my jeans and a t shirt nature to be a bit more polished, though makeup is still not a priority.

    • I’m (very) late to this discussion, but was thinking exactly this the other day, and drew the same conclusion. I am also a grunge era veteran, for which I am eternally grateful (the cost of fancier clothes and products was prohibitive for me, and had been the source of some discomfort before grunge came along and gave me an escape route). I still have a fairly sparing approach, though try to meet some minimum standards that I set myself a few years ago. I suspect it may be time to review those standards now though, as the last traces of youthfulness fade, I probably need a little more polish to look put-together.

  • My basics are to put my hair up in some way, shape or form, and my make-up consists of tinted BB cream, blush and eye shadow. I react to lip sticks so I have to avoid those, and I just don’t have the patience for mascara or eyeliner. And I’m a bit inclined to sook-ery. Neither mascara or eyeliner is terribly forgiving when you tear up on a fairly regular basis.

    I really only began wearing make-up on a regular basis last term when I started teaching in a school where business attire is expected. I find it tedious and removing it at the end of the day is a chore. Before now I never wore make-up except for special occasions. Probably because in my teens I lived in the tropics where make-up just melts off with the sweat.

  • I think that the list is good and gives a polish to your look. I am an asthmatic so years ago I stopped wearing lipsticks as so many of them have perfume added. I then decided not to wear any makeup either. I thought that makeup without the lippy might look a bit unusual. I went to quite a few big events with out any makeup. I have a chronic cough which can end in tears, so mascara is out. If I do wear makeup it is low fragrant lipstick, light eyeliner, eye shadow and blush. I wash my hair every day. I have fine blonde eyebrows and wear glasses so never ever think about the brows. Nail polish can be to smelly so never wear that either. I remember travelling to Britain 7 years ago and not worrying about packing makeup. Thanks for post.

  • This list is pretty close to my usual daily routine. The only thing I would differ on is that I don’t usually wear mascara, although I do sometimes curl my lashes. Instead I use lipstick plus a bit of blush or bronzer for some color since I’m not usually running around out outside to get that glow naturally. With that I feel put together for any but the most glamourous occasions.

  • The very basics of at home makeup for me are lipstick, blush and powder, but if I really want to look bright and awake, I add very subtle eyeliner…If I’m going out I go full bore, but I have to agree with Tracy…Life gets so busy that putting on and taking off daily gets tiresome…I do always have a pedicure, (which I do myself), since I wear sandals and open-toed shoes often…I have the world’s easiest hair, and still have at age 73, dark brows, and long dark lashes to go with also still dark hair…No need to do eyebrow pencil, mascara, or hair color…Am I lucky or what???…P.S…Now working on my winter capsule…So much fun…

  • I agree that grooming makes us all look better — but I do quibble with your “5-10 minutes a day” comment followed by “Hair — wash, brush and style it”! For me to wash, brush, and style my hair takes at least 30 minutes — as I imagine it takes every woman.

    • Agreed! I still don’t know how to style my hair – there’s a whole world of assumed knowledge in that comment that I just don’t have

  • I wear very little makeup – eyebrow pencil, a coat of mascara, concealer and lipstick with some lipliner, as my upper lip is thinner than the lower one. I have my eyebrows done professionally and add some pencil as they get thinner and also have a scar which I prefer to hide. In winter I like a bit of blush as I sometimes look pale. I would add manicure to your list, as we communicate with our hands, too. I personally prefer no polish to chipped polish and no dirt under your nails, please.
    I like makeup and cosmetics, but I want to enjoy it and often, when I stop enjoying it, I gradually stop wearing it and removing it can easily turn into another chore.
    I never saw my Mum and her sister wearing makeup and I remember being very sad and disappointed because of that and being attracted to women wearing full face and, especially, red lipstick. My Grandma, their mother, also never wore makeup and remember her often making remarks about women who did and polished their nails, as if they were bad, lazy, neglecting their families and their chores. I have no idea where it came from, her upbringing, I suppose, but was it family or school, I don’t know.

  • Context, personal preference and constraints….. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer!

    I think we’re extremely fortunate to be living in a time where we don’t have to adhere to one set of rules. But that can also make it awkward when you’re trying to find your style feet.

    My constraints – sensitive skin, eyes that are inclined to water. Personal preferences – long hair, a casual/natural style, low fuss. Context – I do tech work, mostly remote from home, but it’s also worth noting that my routine was the same when I was in the office full time.

    My grooming essentials are to brush the locks (maybe pin them up), clean my teeth and a swipe of lip balm. I do my nails every week. Eyebrows also get maintained. After that, it depends entirely on what I feel like doing. Make-up tends to run to the basics of eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, some blusher and lip colour.

    It’s also important to know what you can commit to. I hate seeing manicures or pedicures that are chipped (also heel callouses), or eyebrows that are half grown back. I do acknowledge that life can get in the way of maintenance (nothing quite like an acutely painful back to stop you even clipping your toe nails, let alone doing a full pedicure).

    If Amina hates wearing makeup, my question would be “why?” Other things to do, doesn’t fit your life (I’ve yet to see a jillaroo with full-face makeup on), don’t like the way it feels on, or just dislike the feeling that it’s socially required? It can go deeper than this – upbringing tends to have a powerful effect on us all. Or is it guilt about taking time to feel good? Sit with the question and look at the answers.

  • I wear my hair tied up or back nearly every day – this saves so much time on blow-drying and styling and also protects my fine hair from damage. When I was younger I could get away with the wash and wear (air dry) hair but alas no more. I have professional treatments regularly to ensure my skin is in good condition – and when it is I don’t need a lot of make-up. I can get it down to three products (eyebrow pencil, lipstick and blush) in a pinch. When you get older, grooming makes a huge difference – hands, feet. At 18 looking like you just got out of bed can be very attractive – later in life not so much!

  • For over 50’s, as sadly when you get older you need more (natural looking) makeup in order to look healthy:

    1. Eyebrow mascara and BB cream or tinted zinc cream as absolute basic, first thing in the morning.

    2. Then eyelash mascara for the next step if short on time but going out.

    3. After that, chubby stick eyeliner on top lid in bronze or taupe for “waking up” the eyes.

    4. Natural looking blusher stick in coral to bring face to life.

    5. Finally, light lip stain in a close-to-lip colour to acknowledge current “red lip” trend wthout looking OTT. Add a tiny bit more for an evening look.

    6. Remove all with a relaxing steaming hot face cloth at night before bed.

    NB: Clean hair with regular cut and colour and natural-looking professional mani/pedi and finally, polished shoes and ironed clothes.

    For younger people: always put on sunscreen every morning, face, neck and hands, all your life.



  • Big on the skin care, not so much on the make up for everyday, I save it for evenings out, and the full ‘face’ for dance comps or performances.

    I’m super busy in the mornings before work, horses/exercise.
    I tint my eyelashes at home. Sometimes after moisturising, I use a tiny amount of L’Oreal Sublime Bronze self-Tanning Gel on my face. I can’t live without lip balm, so I use one with a tint. Hair generally looks crap 🙂

  • My problem is I am allergic to aloe, jojoba, yucca, and other succulent plant extracts that are often used in makeup and skin care products here in the U.S. I always read the labels because formulations change.

    My routine is simple: soft blue kohl pencil around the inner lid to brighten my eyes, a moisturizing lip balm I got free from Cleveland Clinic on my lips, and eyebrow color that comes in a tube with a thin wand like mascara does, since I have a white “skunk stripe” in the middle of my dark brown eyebrows. I sometimes use a little plum lipstick on top if the lip balm. I have my facial hair removed and brows shaped once a month, cut and color my hair once every 6-8 weeks. I buff my nail, or wear clear or pink tinted clear nail polish for going out or to church, but not on a daily basis.

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