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After spending several years in social services, Nicole has finally followed her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. In addition to her work for The Hudsucker, Nicole is also a staff writer for Womanista. An avid comic book fan, BBQ aficionado, professional makeup artist and first-time mom, Nicole can be found exploring Kansas City rich history when she's not blogging about suburban life at Suburban Flamingo.

The Pretty Files: Makeup Bag Rehab

The makeup bag, that usually-cute accessory where we keep our “prettification” supplies.  For some it’s the very portable home of every cosmetic and tool they own. For others (ahem, me) it’s more like three bags filled with products du jour and a fourth one for mobile beauty. However, when it comes to makeup bags, it’s not the quantity or cuteness of the bag that truly counts—it’s the contents. Short of replacing empties, when is the last time you really looked at the contents of your bag? This month we’re having a little intervention, sitting down to look at those bags of wonder, and sending all of us to makeup bag rehab.


Image Credit: Beauty Banter

Before we get started dumping out our bags and looking at all our dirty pretty secrets, let’s review some basic makeup safety. We often don’t think about makeup as being perishable, but the reality is that makeup does expire. Makeup can also become contaminated with bacteria from our faces, so it is important to know when to discard products. Here are some general guidelines:

1. Mascara. Mascara is probably the product that goes bad the fastest and is most likely to cause painful issues if expired. Most mascaras have a two to three month life once opened. If your mascara has gotten clumpy, dry, or smells strangely, it is time to toss it out. If you can’t remember when you first opened it? Definitely discard it. Oh, and don’t share mascara. It’s a sure-fire way to share an eye infection.

2. Liquid Foundation and Concealer. Liquid makeup products like foundation and concealer will generally last you up to a year once opened. If you notice your product has separated in the bottle, the color is getting orange-y or it smells strangely, toss it out. If you’re like me and have two different foundations for summer and winter, you can usually extend the life of your foundation by keeping your fingers out of the bottle or dispenser, putting the lid on tightly, and storing in a cool dry place. Light is the enemy of foundation.

3. Lipstick and Gloss. Generally speaking you can get about two years out of lipstick and gloss so long as you haven’t shared it with someone else or used it while sick. If you have shared it with someone else, you can spray some alcohol on lipstick to sanitize it (the same goes for illness) but with gloss your best bet is to throw it out.

4. Nail Polish. Two to three years is about the life of nail polish, though if the color hasn’t separated badly and it’s just gotten slightly thick, you can add a few drops of nail polish thinner and get a little more life out of it.

6. Powder Products. Two to three years is about the life of these lovelies, though if you take care of them (use clean brushes, store with lids on, etc.), you can sometimes get a little more time out of them. If they’re breaking up or you can see the metal pan, it is time to replace.

7. Perfume. The happy smell-good stuff that some of us keep in our bags (especially our go bags) will last up to a decade if kept out of sunlight or heat.

8. Lotion. Once opened, most lotions are safe for two years, particularly those in squeeze tubes or pumps.

9. Tools. There really isn’t a number of years in regards to brushes and tools, but a good rule of thumb is if your brushes are shedding or you have rusting on your metal tools, it’s time to throw them out. And if you use a Beautyblender? Sponges like that have a three month life (make sure you wash them daily!).

Now that we have some guidelines, let’s dump out those bags! Empty out your bag on a clean, suitable surface and start organizing things. Put your liquid makeup together, your powder products together, etc. Then open each product up and examine it for safety. If it’s still good, sit it aside. If it’s bad, throw it away. Be ruthless. This is your first pass. Once you’ve done that, look at what you have left. This is where you check each product to see if it is something that is working for you. Is that foundation the right color? Do you still hate that powder? When is the last time you really wore that eyeliner? My personal rule is if you haven’t worn something in over a month, you need to let it go (the exception to that is if you’re a makeup artist like I am. If you are, you can rotate the product back into your kit.) This use and preference check is your pass two and you should be left with what is useful, safe, and loved. Sit those products aside and take a moment to wash or spot clean your bag; or, if you are ready for a change, swap it out for a new one. You can then put your kept products into your clean or new bag and make a list of products you need to replace. This is also a good time to wash your brushes.

The last step to rehab? Get out your calendar and pick a date six months from now and schedule yourself another rehab. I am a weirdo and I personally do this along with a reminder on my calendar as to when to change my mascaras out.

There you have it! That is how to keep your makeup and your look fresh and safe! Sometime soon we’ll talk organization for your larger storage solutions. Until next time, stay pretty!

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One Comment on “The Pretty Files: Makeup Bag Rehab”

  1. Betty October 23, 2014 at 4:49 am #

    Hi Nicole, you write this guidelines clearly and very easy to understand. I like your personal rule to let it go or rotating the products, it reminds me of few products which I have not worn in about two months.
    I’m going to try it soon, added to my Makeup Organizing Ideas Board at Pinterest right now :)

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