How to Look Polished & Put Together in Under 20 Minutes

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Woman getting ready

You know those days when you plan to wake up early, go to the gym, look over your notes, and straighten your hair all before your 9 AM class, but in reality, you end up oversleeping until oh, 8:30? I do! We’ve all been there.

On days like these, even with under 20 minutes, you still have just enough time to get ready and keep it cute! No need for sweats and bed-head when you’ve got this guide!


Hair Products in a Medicine Cabinet

When you’re short on time, it’s best to skip anything that’s going to alter the natural texture of your hair. Today is not the day to straighten, curl, or crimp–just work with what you’ve got with one of these styles!

First, get rid of grease and dirt with a quick spray of dry shampoo. (Not sure which brand to try? See our list of the best dry shampoos.) Now you’re ready to style! Here are some great hairstyles that only take a second.

Messy bun

Messy buns are a great option when you don’t want to deal with your hair, just get it out of your face! Adorable with a headband, chic with side-swept bangs and a beret, and just plain perfect with a braid for those late-to-class days. All you need is a ponytail holder. Pull your hair back like you would for a pony, but stop when you get half way through your hair, fastening the holder around your bun. Separate it, and pull out pieces for an intentionally messy look.

High ponytail

A high pony is definitely my go-to look for late days! All that’s different from everyone’s favorite stand by is placement–go for a pony that’s towards the middle or upper half of your head! This looks great with waves or curls, or with a mini-boufant with your bangs. If you’re feeling especially Nicole Richie, why not try finishing your look with a headscarf and big sunglasses? It will definitely make your walk (run?!) to class feel a bit more glamorous! Also, for extra glamour and a polished look, take a strand of hair from your pony, wrap it around your elastic, and pin in place.

Intentionally Unkempt

If MK&A and Blake Lively can rock messy hair, so can you! Tousled waves can look great with just a little styling effort. Try using a detangling spray or spray gel to get out any tangles, then finger-comb and separate individual waves.

If All Else Fails…

If all else fails, never underestimate the power of a cute headband or headscarf! For even more quick hairstyles, check out Zephyr’s article, Get Ready Fast – 7 Quick and Easy Hairstyles!


Drawer full of makeup

Forget the full face of makeup and pull out a few crucial products for a polished look on the go. Skip eyeliner, foundation, and anything heavy in favor of these quick-coverage basics.

Tinted moisturizer

Two steps in one! What could be better when you’re short on time?!

Use a sponge to swipe tinted moisturizer around your entire face, making sure to blend at your chin and neck. A good tinted moisturizer will cover any blemish redness or dark under-eye circles, so it’s really all you need for quick, medium coverage. Plus, it will keep your skin looking dewy and natural. I love Lancome’s Aqua Fusion Teinté Continuous Infusion Tinted Moisturizer–I use it every day!

Face makeup

Product Recommendations: Lancomes Aqua Fusion Teinté Continuous Infusion Tinted Moisturizer –, Benefit You Rebel Tinted Moisturizer – Benefit Cosmetics, Physicians Formula Organicwear Tinted Moisturizer –


Bronzer or blush is all you need to instantly perk up your face. If you’re going the bronzer route, focus on sweeping the powder lightly over your cheeks, forehead, and nose, areas where the sun would usually hit.

For blush, smile! Focus on getting the apples of your cheeks for a sunny, natural look. As temperatures drop, dry skin can be a concern, so cream or gel blushes, as well as cheek stains, can be a great option.

Cheek makeup

Product Recommendations: Cargo Water Resistant Bronzer, Philosophy The Supernatural Bronzer Duo, Nars Super Orgasm Blush, Diane von Furstenberg Beauty Cheekstick – all available at Sephora.


Though you’ll probably want to skip your lengthening formulas with two-step processes, a single swipe of black or clear mascara on your upper lashes will really help to open your eyes and polish up your look! My go-to mascara when I need to get up and go is definitely Neutrogena Healthy Volume in Carbon Black. It has a giant brush, dries quickly, and provides great better-than-natural length and volume. Any of your favorite brands will work, just remember to skip your bottom lashes!


Product Recommendations: Maybelline Sky High Curves Mascara –, Benefit BADgal Lash Mascara – Benefit Cosmetics, CoverGirl LashBlast Mascara –

Lip gloss, stain, or balm

Short on time? It’s easy to finish up your look with a tinted lipgloss, stain, or balm!

You can easily put lip products on en-route as well, to save time! Try a gloss for a pretty, flirty look, a stain for something dramatic, or a balm for a moisturizing punch! I love Smith’s Rosebud Salve because it smells great, gives some sheer color, moisturizes, and can even be used on cheeks in a pinch! As an added bonus, it’s vintage tin is adorable. Just toss it in your bag and go!


Product Recommendations: Smith’s Rosebud Salve – Sephora, MAC Lip Glass Gloss – MAC Cosmetics, Benefit Bene-Tint rose-tinted lip & cheek stain – Benefit Cosmetics.


Woman getting dressed

We all know to avoid wearing sweatpants or PJ’s to class, but what do you actually put on if you’re really late? Something basic and cute, naturally!

This is the perfect time to pull out leggings and a long tunic if you’re feeling fashion-forward, jeans and a cardigan with cute flats for classic look, or even a dress with boots if the weather allows! All of these options are comfortable and quick. Pick them out, put them on, and go!

If you know you’ll be short on time some mornings, it can be really helpful to lay your outfits out the night before. That way, you can have a totally styled outfit ready to go as soon as you wake up.

Outfit Idea 1: Leggings.

Product Information: Elephant Necklace, Fred Flare. English Eclectic Flats, Asymmetrical Tunic Sweater, Arden B. Fame Velvet Leggings,

Outfit Idea 2: Jeans.

Product Information: Madison Low Rise Flare Jeans, Abercrombie & Fitch. Mai Pattern Waistcoat, Essential Tank, Victoria’s Secret. Gold Snake Effect flats, Dorothy Perkins. Women’s Perforated Belt, American Eagle.

Outfit Idea 3: Dress.


Product Information: Eisen Leather Jacket, Dynamic Duo Dress, ModCloth. Cowboy boots,

What do you think?

What do you all do when you need to get ready fast? Do you have any tips for hair or makeup? What about outfits? What do you wear?! Let me know with your comments!

* Editor’s note: Some of you might pick up on it, but all the photos I added to this article are from the Devil Wears Prada (Photo Credits). I thought the opening sequence of the film was a perfect example of girls getting ready & looking pretty and polished. Also, that ultra-organized makeup drawer is totally drool-worthy!

43 thoughts on “How to Look Polished & Put Together in Under 20 Minutes”

  1. this is absoulute genius! thankyou so much it so helpful xx do you know were i can get some boots like the ones in the very first picture?

  2. I agree that 20 minutes is alot of time to get ready for class, haha – I’ve had 5 minutes left happen to me once… not fun.

    Picking out your outfit the night before is definitely the way to go, and I find that blush/bronzer really helps me look as if I’m awake (when I’m still actually half-asleep).

    I love the outfits as well!

  3. This idea is good in theory but in practice I find it never works!

    Honestly the only way I can avoid not having an outfit look put together is to take a few minutes the night before – it’s not that hard to go into your closet and pick things out to wear the next day, taking into account if you have to do a lot of walking (so those four inch heeled boots aren’t the best choice) and whatnot.

    There’s nothing worse than showing up to your class on time to find that the professor scheduled the class to meet in a different classroom all the way across campus and you wore your new heels in the rain trying to break them in because you were in a rush and forgot that your classes were not all in the same building as they usually are supposed to be. True story. Happened to me yesterday, haha.

  4. Camille stop complaining- I’m black and I’ve been following this blog for a couple of years now and I think it’s amazing!

    How hard is it to when you see a picture of pink blusher to just say oh, I should get that in rust or whatever colour you get? It’s not that difficult is it? And I’m black and I use bronzer- especially at night, it makes me glow!

    And what are you on about with the hairstyles. ANY girl can wear a plait or a messy bun or a high ponytail. And if you rock your natural afro hair then that’s great- it’s lower maintenance, funkier and more fashionable than any of the hairstyles ever mentioned on this site.

    Like seriously- stop throwing the discrimination card; it’s far too easy.

    This site is great and just wanted to let you know Camille’s views don’t represent those of most black people.

    Eg. When Zephyr did the article on what colours to wear with what skintones (and that was ages ago) she mentioned every skin tone possible!

    I’m guessing you don’t go on this site much and wanted to vent for whatever reason…

  5. yes i have to say these are really good tips i hate looking like crap when i walk out the door but i always do and throw on whatever looks comfortable at the time now I know thank you!

  6. I really love this post since i run out of time a lot these days, ts really helpful specially the hair tips….loved the pix 2, the devil wears prada movie s my fav.

  7. Hey girls, I’m glad most of you are liking this post! I know that it can be super stressful getting ready when you’re short on time, and it seems to happen a lot in college….at least to me! Aren’t the Devil Wears Prada pictures great?! I was super excited to see that Zephyr put them in! They’re such a great fit, and who doesn’t love that movie?!

    I just wanted to say something quick to Camille who said “most things on this site only feature tips from and for white girls”–This might come as a shock, but I’m NOT a white girl. I’m actually ‘mixed’ as you put it–half Swedish, half African American. These are all things that I do with hair and makeup. I DO wear bronzer and blush, but when writing this article I made sure not to recommend any particular colors since that’s a personal choice for anyone, regardless of their race, and obviously, girls with different hair and skin colors are going to need different tips…Hair and makeup is individual. I can only write about what I personally know. I just thought I’d clear that one up, because I was really shocked to read your comment!

  8. I kinda agree with Camille. But considering I have locs (dreadlocks), Most of the cute hairstyles on the internet don’t apply to me lol. Then the make up, well, I only wear mascara anyway. It’s too hard to find a shade of foundation that matches and I don’t even bother with blush and bronzer.

    The outfits are really cute though!

  9. It takes longer than 20 minutes to get ready to go to class? (That doesn’t include eating breakfast, right?) I would consider 20 minutes from the moment you wake up till you’re ready a long time.

  10. Some really great ideas, I m generally more of a low maintenance girl and use these sorts of tips in my everyday life. I definitely want to try a lip stain, so will be picking up the benefit one that you recommended 🙂 Thanks. Also I am a huge fan of cream blush over power as it is moisturizing and gives a very fresh, sheer wash of colour that look great on everyone!

  11. oh and i forgot to mention…..ignore the haters cause this is a wonderful site that gives great advice. If ppl dnt like it then maybe they should find another site. PEACE!!

  12. I can not count how many times this has happened to me lol. This was a great article and i will definatly be using some of this info!!



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