Style + Beauty

Time to Clean Your Makeup Bag: What to Keep, What to Toss


Seasonal cleaning isn’t just about the closet. Don't get me wrong, nothing makes me happier than trading in my sweaters for sundresses, but the changing weather is also a reminder to clean out the beauty cabinet too (and that holds true for all seasons)!

Like that wool trench coat, the heavy moisturizers and makeup need to be put away, or better yet, thrown away! Chanel might never go out of style, but old cosmetics certainly do. Here’s a list to help you decide what to keep, what to store, and what to toss.

Mascara: The beauty fanatics say to replace your mascara every three months, but I’ve used them for up to six months without any problems. The trick is to avoid “pumping” the wand. The only thing it does is introduce air into the mascara, and if pumping is the only way to get more mascara onto the brush, it’s time to go to the drugstore and buy a new one. Another thing I've learned is that most of the high-end mascaras work so well because of the brush design, so if you bought an expensive brand that you love, try washing the brush off and then using it with a less expensive mascara (this can be messy, but after a good scrub it should look as good as new.) Stick to the same type of mascara though — for instance, if the brush you saved was for volumizing, use it with a volumizing mascara. Also, never share any eye products — eye infections aren’t pretty.

Eye and lip liners: These can last up to three years. Just sharpen them often to help them stay sanitary and fresh. If they start to crumble, toss ‘em. Most likely, you’ll use it up before it goes bad, but if the wood begins to splinter, toss it. Also, avoid sharing these for sanitary reasons.

Lipsticks and gloss: These last about a year, although I’ve found that the “long lasting” lipsticks tend to dry out faster.

Foundation: The shelf life for these varies according to the formula, but in general, cream-based foundation lasts about six months to a year, and foundation with SPF tends to go bad even quicker. Most people use foundation daily, so it generally runs out before it expires, but if the color or smell changes, it’s time to buy a new one.

Eye shadow, blush and powder: In all honesty, I recently found the eye shadow I bought with my first New Kids on the Block album, and like my old cassette tape, the Wet n’ Wild shadow needed to be tossed. Eye shadow, blush and powder usually last about two to three years, though. If the powder starts to cake sooner, you should get a new one. Also, using clean makeup brushes and sponges will help these cosmetics stay bacteria-free.

Nail polish: These can last up to a few years. When the color starts to separate, shake it. If it doesn't completely mix, it’s gone bad.

Moisturizers: Because of the vast differences in formulas, it depends on the brand. You should check online to see what the company recommends.

Keep in mind that these are only general guidelines. A great way to tell if your makeup is past its prime is the good old “see and sniff" test: If it looks “off” or starts to smell, it’s past its prime and should be replaced. If you’ve had an eye infection or another type of viral infection, it’s safest to throw out any makeup you use to avoid re-infecting yourself. And, for goodness sake, stop storing makeup in the bathroom! Keeping it in a cool, dry place will ensure that it lasts longer.

One last beauty "do": Wash your makeup brushes! You can buy brush cleaner, but I use baby shampoo and conditioner for my natural-hair brushes and dish soap for my nylon brushes — Palmolive is one of my favorites.