Spring cleaning: It’s not just for your baseboards and oven hood; it’s a year-round necessity that extends to your makeup stash, too. While we’re making the effort to ensure the little seen crevices of our rooms are clean, we should apply that same thinking to the stuff that actually touches our face just about every day.
Let’s start with the eyes. If you’ve ever had any kind of eye infection, you know that it’s one of the most uncomfortable ailments you can get stuck with. Taking away as many possible culprits should be a priority. Mascara is a good starting point. Your mascara has the shortest shelf life of any of your makeup products. The general consensus is to toss your mascara after six months, which makes sense not only from a bacterial standpoint, but also from a performance standpoint. I find that most mascaras give up the ghost well before the six-month mark. It starts to get dried out and work a little less around the four-month mark for me. Plus, guys, let’s be honest: There is something almost magical about a fresh tube of mascara. Cracking open a fresh tube is not only good for the health of your eyes, it’s just plain delightful.
If tossing your mascara every four to six months has you feeling like you’re wasting your money, the shelf life of eyeliners should make you feel a lot better. Pencil eyeliners can last you up to three years safely. Which makes sense — you’re constantly sharpening it, revealing a new fresher layer underneath and shaving off all those germy germs.
Eyeshadows — well, I’m going to tell you what the experts say, but I’m not even going to pretend like I follow this rule. According to almost everyone, eyeshadows are only “good” for about two years. Do I throw out my limited edition, holy grail, all time fav palettes at the two-year mark? HA, no. Truth be told, I have held onto one shadow palette from my teens so long that it’s now old enough to legally drink. That’s not to say I put that one on my face! That one is for pure nostalgia.
However, I do regularly use five- to seven-year-old palettes to this day. My workaround is scraping. Now, I don’t advocate this for everyone. I can’t attest to how sanitary this is; it’s just something I learned over the years. I take a small plastic spatula (like the ones you can pick up for free at the Sephora testing stations) and scrape the first layer of powder off, then give it a spritz of rubbing alcohol from a mister. This is also a good tip to use if you have oily eyelids and your shadow has developed those hard, discolored spots from the oil you’ve transferred into the pan. Just scrape those areas off and reach fresh pay dirt beneath. Viola — “new” eyeshadow.
Foundation, no matter how much you paid for it, should absolutely be tossed at around the two-year mark. I don’t even take chances with unopened ones; those get the boot if they’ve gone unused for two years. Your skin is your biggest organ, and you’ve only got just the one face, so don’t mess around with it. The same timeline goes for your cream and liquid concealers, as well as your face primers. If you can, check the manufacture date on the bottom of your bottles and make note of the information.
This is one of the reasons I love BB cushions; they kind of take care of this problem on their own. There is no BB cushion on earth that will last you two years. They tend to peter out around the six-month mark, which is perfect. They’re also usually very reasonably priced, so replacing them is no big hit to the wallet. It also allows you to explore lots and lots of different formulations without feeling wasteful. If I had the bottles and bottles of dead soldier foundations piled up around my makeup desk, I’d feel queasy. But BB cushions I can use up and toss quickly. Plus, you can just order the refills, so you don’t have to worry about creating waste of the actual cushion compact.
Powder blushes, like eyeshadows, are recommended to be tossed after two years. I don’t hold onto blushes the way I do eyeshadows, but I do tend to use them for slightly longer than recommended, which probably isn’t the smartest. So far, my luck has held out. *Knock on wood*
Your lipgloss may be poppin’, but it should only be kept for about a year. Liquid lipsticks, too. After that, toss it. It’s way too easy for liquid lip products to pick up and then propagate bacteria. This is why I almost always go for low price point lipglosses and liquid lipsticks. They’re like peach season: brief and glorious.
Traditional lipstick has a longer shelf life, clocking in at about three years of safety. Which makes it more justifiable to splurge on that luxurious formulation you’ve had your eye on. Lipstick also gives that exciting fresh-tube sensation of mascara: Rolling up that new tube is like a mini Christmas morning present, any time of the year.
Another thing that should get the mother of all cleanings this spring (in addition to regular quick cleanings year-round) are your makeup brushes. A good makeup brush can last you damn near a lifetime if it’s well made and taken care of. I have a 20-year-old concealer brush that, unlike that old eyeshadow palette I held onto, is still in heavy rotation today. Take some time to wash, shape, and dry every brush you own. If you do your makeup in the morning and clean them immediately afterward, they should be good to go by the next morning. I have a couple different brush cleansers I really like: Innisfree makes a good one, as well as the Japanese dollar store Daiso.
When it comes to keeping up with the dates of manufacture on your products and gauging how long you’ve been using them, keeping a small, pretty ledger at your makeup station is a good idea. You can log your products, when they were made, and when their expiration date will be. Then set reminders in your phone’s calendar. It’s also a good way to keep track of your spending and how often things are coming in and out of your stash. It can also pinpoint any wasteful behaviors you engage in, like buying too much of any given category when you have a lot of unused ones already. You’ll feel a bit like a fancy scientist, your safety will be in check, and your findings just might surprise you.
One last thing I’d like to touch on is de-stashing. How many of us have held onto products simply because they cost a lot, even if they don’t work for us? (You can’t see it, but I’m raising my hand right now.) Take the time to really ask yourself if you truly love your products. You can apply the Marie Kondo method to your makeup hoard as well as your kitchen junk drawer. Ask yourself, does this lipstick really bring me joy? Do I get happiness from this yellow eyeshadow? Can I really pull off this lavender blush? If the answer is no, toss those babies, and be a little more selective next time you pull up your browser to engage in some retail therapy.
So what’s the oldest item in your makeup stash? C’mon, ‘fess up! We all have ’em!