The Great Cosmetic Case Purge

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.

A woman's cosmetics case is her sacred stash of all things beauty. While most women are great at accumulating products and purchasing new colors and formulas, most aren't so great about purging ones that are past their prime. In fact, even the most organized among us are often guilty of makeup hoarding!

Whether it's that expensive lipstick your grandma loves or the blush palette you bought in college, every tube, compact, and brush has a story behind it. It may seem hard to part with that blue eyeshadow you rocked back in the spring of '97, but I promise you'll feel like a new person with a cosmetics cleanse. Here are my tips to give your makeup stash a serious refresh. 

1. Take A HARSH Inventory 
Start by separating your products into categories. Begin by clearing through the clutter. Remove every item from your makeup bag (ALL of your makeup bags) and place on the floor in front of you (a kitchen table works, too). Don't forget your purse. Or what you have in the bathroom and glove compartment, you get the idea.

Create piles based on the following: eyes, lips, cheeks, skin, skin care, and tools/brushes. Once you've got your piles, subdivide the items even further into smaller categories. For example, put eyeliners in one pile, mascaras in another, and eyeshadows in another. Grouping by color is another way to break down the organization if you've got a lot of items to deal with. 

2. Criticize Cream-Based Products
Take a long, hard look at the cream and liquid products in your collection (foundations, cream highlighters and blush, lipsticks, gloss). These items typically have a shorter shelf life than other products, because bacteria loves moisture. The oils present in these cosmetics tend to spoil quickly and aren't as resilient to the heat of the bathroom.

So, with this type of product, look closely: Have they separated? Are there globs of oil collecting on the surface? If so, it's time to toss them. Spoiled products typically smell musty or like soggy cardboard, so let your nose be a guide as well.
 
Lip glosses, an item that many of us have in shocking abundance, often need to be tossed in a purge. If you have had a cold sore, toss any gloss you used while it was lingering. Lipsticks can be saved by shaving them down (rub the lipstick on a paper towel back and forth several times) and dipping in alcohol. Hold each bullet upside down to dry. 

Open all mascaras and note the following: Are they flaking at the top of the tube? Are they dry? Do they not shut completely? If the answer to any of these is yes, you've got to purge them! Mascaras are usually good for about three months, but after that, open tubes will most likely start displaying the undesirable characteristics listed above. 

Although lip and eye pencils come in many different formulas, they are typically a wax or cream base, so you can test each one to see if it's a goner. First sharpen (or roll up) and lightly scribble on the back of your hand. If the color appears chunky, toss! If the application is still smooth, dunk the pencil in alcohol to sanitize, re-sharpen, and place the cap back on tightly. 
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.

3. Ponder Powder-Based Products
Powder products tend to have a longer shelf life. Start by tossing anything that is broken and you don't LOVE. (Check for recycling programs at your favorite makeup counter. MAC's Back2MAC initiative, Origins and Kiehl's offer free products for empty containers.) 

Muji
 offers great storage for products that have broken, so the next time something breaks on you, store it right away, and you won't have to toss it down the road. The store's small acrylic containers and travel bottles are great for salvaging broken powders.

Swipe your finger across powders and pay close attention to what the color looks like. If a product has been sitting for awhile, it can sometimes form a film on top. If you aren't thrilled with the result, it's got to go.

4. Clean/Sanitize Your Tools 
If you can't remember the last time you cleaned your tools (everything from your eyelash curler to your pencil sharpeners), then you need to get cleaning ASAP. You will need alcohol, a wine glass, and your favorite makeup remover. Pour alcohol and remover in a wine glass and let sharpeners and tweezers soak overnight. Use a pointed cotton swab — also available at Muji — to clean out the crevices. 

Eyelash curlers require a quick dunk in alcohol (remove the rubber pad first) and scrub down. If yours is really dirty, try a deep cleaning with makeup remover and a paper towel. Get the gunk out! Plastic curlers should avoid soaking in liquids. Instead, saturate a paper towel with alcohol and scrub.

Brushes need a good shampoo, even if you regularly use brush cleanser. For a quick, heavy-duty cleanse, try an anti-bacterial dish soap. Hold the brush upside down in running, lukewarm water and rinse until no soap or product is left. Lay the brush flat to dry. If the bristles starts shedding while you're lathering up, toss it.

It's not always obvious when a product has run its course. I know plenty of women who hang on to their favorite products way past their prime. If you're struggling to get eye shadow onto your brush or mascara starts flaking on your cheeks, say goodbye, because they're done. Paring down your tools and products will make your beauty routine feel more manageable, help you identify where you need an upgrade, and keep you looking your best.
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