Make Over Your Makeup Bag: What To Keep Vs. Toss

Wendy Rodewald
So. Much. Makeup.

Photo: Luca Cannonieri/

All through January, our special Makeover Month series is here to inspire you to update your look — whether it’s a tiny tweak or a major beauty overhaul. Let’s get this makeover started!

What better time than the New Year is there to clear out your beauty stash? Trust us, it’s one of the most guaranteed satisfying makeovers you can undertake. Here’s where to start.

Powder Eye Shadow and Face Powder
Since bacteria has a hard time growing on dry surfaces, your powders are safe for about two years. The exception? If you dip a wet brush or sponge into these products, their shelf life decreases to a year or less.

Mascara is only safe to use for three months, which you’ve probably heard countless times before. But guess what? That timeframe still stands even if you don’t use a tube regularly. If you opened your mascara three months ago, used it once or twice, and still have it in your makeup bag, it’s time to part ways.

Liquid Liner
Liquid eyeliner falls into the same category as mascara: a brush that touches your eye goes back into a tube of wet product, where bacteria can grow. Three months is the rule of thumb here, too.

Gel and Cream Eye Makeup
Once opened, these products tend to lose their texture within six months or so. And since they come in contact with your eyes, they’re more prone to sprouting bacteria that can lead to infections. Just toss ‘em!

Foundation, Concealer and Cream Blush
These products last about a year, but use your judgment here: if you dip your fingers into the product or use a stick concealer directly on your face, you could be transferring germs. In that case, you’ve got three to six months of use.

Eye and Lip Pencils
Pencils can last a few years, as long as you sharpen them before each use. Be sure to clean your sharpener regularly!

Lipstick and Gloss
Lip products usually last for about a year, unless they’re dried out or have changed color or consistency. If your gloss has a wand that touches your mouth and goes back into the tube, toss after six to eight months.

Nail Polish
It’s basically impossible for bacteria to live in the chemicals that comprise nail polish, so use visual cues to figure out if your lacquer is still usable. If it’s gotten thick, dried out, or separated even after you shake it, into the trash it goes.

All-Natural Products
The shelf life of anything that lacks preservatives will, of course, be much shorter. We’ve seen mold grow on one of our organic lipstick pots that was less than three months old (true story!). If it looks or smells weird, don’t chance it.

Quality makeup brushes can last for years, but make sure you’re cleaning them regularly. Wash foundation and concealer brushes at least once a week to prevent gunky buildup that can cause breakouts. You don’t need a special cleaner; we like to use water and shampoo.

Tweezers, Scissors and Lash Curlers
When was the last time you cleaned these tools? (If you’re like us, somewhere between rarely and never.) Give them a quick swipe with a cotton pad soaked in alcohol or tea tree oil.

Out of Date Products
We’re pronouncing the crackle coat nail polish trend DOA in 2013. Same deal for those over the top, Kardashian-long false eyelashes that look like hairy spiders. Clear some space for new stuff!

Colors That Don’t Look Good On You
Yeah, you could mix all your unused lipsticks to create a new shade you actually like, but if you’ve been putting off that art project for months, it’s time to let go. Now you have an excuse to restock with fun new shades you’ll really wear. Woo hoo!

Now that you’ve pared down, get your collection in order. These genius storage solutions appeal to our inner obsessive organizer.