4 ways to bring order to your makeup collection

Nikki ParkinsonBeauty 101 Comments

One of the more pleasant side effects of this blogging gig is that my makeup collection tends to swell on a daily basis.

Trust me, I’m not complaining.  Lippies, concealors, mascaras and eyeliners.  They are all my friends.

But like any gathering of lots and lots friends in the one place, things can a little … shall we say … unruly.

It is pretty common practice for me to sit in our bathroom and go through my makeup collection and do a serious cull.

When I’m doing this cull, I keep in mind maintaining a good supply for variety.  (I’m actually just laughing at myself over that last sentence.  Who am I kidding?  In the rush to get out the door each day, I tend to slap the same stuff on … quickly!)

I also think about how long I’ve actually had the product.  Makeup does have a shelf life.  I’m particularly conscious of that in regards to mascara, liquid and cream formulations.

Here’s a quick guide to how long you should keep makeup

Mascara: up to three months

Liquid foundation:  water-based up to 12 months; oil-based up to 18 months

Powder foundation: up to two years

Concealors:  up to 12 months

Nail colours:  up to 12 months

Lip pencils:  up to 12 months

Lipsticks: up to 18 months

Powder blush:  up to 2 years

Cream blush:  up to 12 months

Eye shadows (powder):  up to 2 years

Eye shadows (cream): up to 6 months

Eyeliner (pencil): up to 2 years

Eyeliner (liquid): up to 3 months

It’s also essential for me to have easy access to what’s left after the cull. I’ve got a thing about being able to see everything at a glance. Even my travel makeup bags are clear.

Our bathroom is tiny and shared among five.  When we moved in, I quickly decided that the slimline wall-mounted cabinet above the skink just would not do.  You can hardly swing a bottle of Chanel no. 5 in it, let alone accommodate my *tools*.

So I found a great free-standing cabinet at Ikea (which I won’t tease you with as it’s no longer available) that opens to a number of pull-out trays, perfect for makeup and the like.  This is home to all my regulars – old and new. Anything I’m testing on any given month used to sit disgustingly messily quite haphazardly in a basket on top of this cabinet.

Until …

I was introduced to this baby.

The Makeup Box Glamour Box $124

The Makeup Box Glamour Box $124

Come to Mama. Five drawers that make it SO easy to not only see what I need to reach for but I now have the ability to organise my trial collection into makeup order of application, from foundations through to lip colours. Genius. And not to mention a little bit anal on my behalf.

But wait, there’s more.

The Makeup Box Shop Brush Holder $19 (or $15 with a Glamour Box order)

The Makeup Box Shop Brush Holder $19 (or $15 with a Glamour Box order)

I love how I can easily get to my brushes and they’ve got less chance of being damaged. (Umm, it’s also easier to tell when they need a good clean when stored like this)

Now, if you have even less space (and possibly less makeup 😉 ), then a trip to Freedom Furniture is in order.

This cosmetic organiser is just right to house your regular, every day collection.  The stuff you’ve edited down with which to create that two or seven-minute face.

Freedom Furniture Fab Cosmetic Organiser $49.95

Freedom Furniture Fab Cosmetic Organiser $49.95

And because I just have to have a good selection of lip balms and essentials within reach at all time, the little sister now proudly sits on my desk.

Freedom Furniture Fab Lipstick storage $12.95

Freedom Furniture Fab Lipstick storage $12.95


WIN:  Tomorrow on the blog I have a giveaway from Freedom but TODAY – and for 24 hours only – Styling You and The Makeup Box Shop are giving away a Makeup Box Shop set of one Glamour Box and one Brush Holder (total value $139).   Entering is super easy.  Just leave a comment below, telling me about the makeup item that’s over-stayed its welcome in your beauty cabinet … and that you’ve now ditched it! Australian entries only, sorry. The winner will be drawn at random, notified via email and name posted here. Competition closes 7am tomorrow.


* The above products were sent to me in accordance with my disclosure policy.  You can read more about it here.

This week is Spring Clean week on Styling You.  Every day there will be a post aimed at helping you get ready for the new season.  Hope you enjoy.

Comments 101

  1. I know this comp is closed (I literally yelled out Noooo when I seen it had!) but I just wanted to say Thanks for these great posts, although I am a bit worried now that I am going to have to throw everything out. I don’t even use most of it but for some reason I feel guilty for chucking it out? I am sure it has something to do with feeling bad for the wasted $ and NOT ever seeing my Mother throw out things like this…I bet she still has stuff from 30 years ago.

  2. My first pay cheque 22 years ago went towards a Estee Lauder pump foundation, it finally went to the bin this year when I was doing my face up for a ball 🙁 x

  3. My first ever pay chegue when I worked in Canberra I brought a Estee Lauder pump foundation, it finally went to the bin on the night I was doing my face for a ball I atteded this year. 🙁

  4. I have way too much make up so thanks for the reminder as I certainly need to cull. Acrylic draws my choice as no dust, I am ditching the make-up bag forever having trouble finding the small items down the bottom, and as a budget consciemce girl think I might head down to officeworks for a $16.99 5 drawer Desktop File Clear.

  5. As old as it may be, surely I can keep it for the lovely Gold mirror lined Chanel case its in. Promise I won’t use the powder bit. Cost a bomb when purchased, that must be another reason not to chuck it surely.

  6. Right! When I move back to Aus the first thing I am doing is entering one of your competitions. It’s only fair that I should then win something as payment for the torture that is seeing prizes that can never be mine! xx

  7. Like many of you i’ve had my fair share of beauty products that i know have gone past that “bin after 12 or 24 months of opening” but the main products that i just couldn’t get rid of before was mascara. They are little lifesavers however i was a bit delusional and insisted it was ok to keep them for ages past the use by date, after all they still kind of gave the same effects. It got to the point when i was at my best friends wedding and offered her my mascara from my handbag, she had lost hers and was in desperate need to finish her D.I.Y makeup for the day, well…everything ran smoothly UNTIL about 3 hours after we all had dinner, her eyes began to go red, puffy and itchy and she ended up getting a bad rash that completely ruined her make-up, pictures and not to mention anything her and her new husband could have enjoyed afterwards! And it was all because of my old mascara, needless to say i imediently (but still kind of hesitantly) threw it out and i haven’t looked back since!

  8. Nail polish! I have colours that I just love and can’t bare to throw out even if there is hardly any polish left. Eventually I try for one last application only to find I can’t even unscrew the lid. A sad farewell ensues.

  9. I recently had my annuel spring clean & threw away my wonderful first ever make up kit I got from toy world as a kid bought for me by my Dad. It was a sentimental memory but was useless & in the end it had to go, along with my diary, Something I just don’t want read!

  10. I’m ashamed to mention the 17, yes 17 different powder foundations that were languishing in my make up collection. All totally wrong for my skin, not to mention hopelessly out of date, and some even a bit smelly- all gone!!

  11. Thanks Nikki. Seriously ready for an overhaul. Foundation that went all smelly, straight to the bin. The clear boxes would be great and if I won I would put little removable type labels in there, noting down when I have bought a particular cosmetic, so that the products would not overstay they welcome (and of course, use your handy guide above). Noela

  12. Oh dear, this is an embarrassing one! I did a massive cull earlier this year but my eight year old “bronzing cream blush” survived the cull! I was keeping it to remind me of a time before children when I had use for such a product. Thankyou for helping me bid it farewell!

  13. I was cleaning out my make-up bag and I discovered some lipstick, not just any lipstick, bright orange lipstick. I think it was one of those awful 1980’s fads. My kids thought it was funny, now I make sure I go through my make-up bag every few months or so.

  14. I have been using mineral makeup for a couple of years now but ran out (just when I needed it too). I dug out my trusty compact foundation that’s been sitting there for probably a bit too long. Well, actually, yeah I literally needed to DIG it out! I would have had to use a chisel to crack that baby open! Needless to say it got thrown in the bin and I had to go all naked face that day… bleh!

  15. I have makeup that I bought in Paris… in 2004. But I can’t throw it out, because I bought it in Paris!
    There’s also have a gross Bobby Brown concealer that I bought in NYC… that I can’t throw out because its from NYC. I could go on but will stop there
    I like to buy products I use daily when I’m holidays so I have a daily reminder of my holiday…

    (Please exclude me from the comp as I’ve already won a prize here, just wanted to share my shame)

  16. I have mascara in my draw that I think I bought at uni. Umm. THat might have been about 10 years ago. I don’t use it, but i noticed it the other day. I think it has had baby mascaras!oh ditched now.

  17. black mascara.
    It was with me for almost 2 years,the best part is that it was still liquid. Last week when i was checking the expiry dates of make up products ,then i threw it in the dustbin.

  18. I had this sparkly purple eye shadow that i had from when i was in high.. i am just doing a big clean out now that its spring so that (among plenty of other out-dated stuff) is gone!

  19. I’ve got a green Shu Uemura eye shadow 4 years ago when I have my eyebrow done the first time. I never get to use it because I don’t really like the colour, now that I realise it already passed it expiry date, I’d better throw it away and get some new ones!

  20. This is horrible. I don’t use makeup very often but I have a tendency to hoard it anyway. I have a tube of foundation from my grade 8 graduation… that I didn’t end up using. I think I might just go chuck it in the garbage now…

  21. OK dude, I think you know my transgressions here. My MAC foundation? bought at least three years ago. Eye-shadows? In excess of 10, T.E.N. years ago. My eyeliner? About 5 years ago. The mascara – blessedly about 6 months ago.

    The eyeshadows are gawn baby, gawn.

  22. OMG! Your makeup looks so fresh and beautiful! Not really like mine that lives at the bottom of my makeup case. I looked into it as a result of reading your post .. it was scary and I thought I had been good. I know that I don’t need the Revlon lipsticks from when I was 19 ( 20 yrs ago! ) but I haven’t had the heart to throw them out .. they have gone. As for the foundation that separates even after it is shaken, it’s gone too. And the brushes I don’t use any more .. well, they should probably go too! It appears I’m a bit of a makeup tragic .. but it’s all so pretty! As for the lip glosses and balms, I only have 4 on my desk ..

  23. I didn’t know that Mascara had an early use by date, I just normally use it until it runs out! Gross. Now I will buy one every 3 months!

  24. Mascara – usually have those freebies that are given when buying skincare or makeup. Also, eye shadows from 4 years ago. Gone!

  25. Last weekend I went to answer the phone and forgot that the tap was running in the bathroom sink so when I returned…..well you can imagine.
    I guess you could say that this was a great opportunity to clean out my makeup baskets and other assorted paraphernalia and I was ruthless. The ‘just in case’ basket filled with samplers and makeup from aeons was the first to hit the bin and I’ve now pared down to the essentials.
    So. what could have been a true disaster turned into a refreshed beauty cabinet although it would be fabulous to be able to transfer all the newly cleaned items in my baskets into the Glamour Box – that would make my day!

  26. Lip gloss. I have 4 lip glosses which I think I was using in summer of 2009. That’s too long right?? Okay, okay, in the bin. At least I have an excuse to buy some new ones 🙂 And I love those makeup storage ideas – fantastic!

  27. I had mascara that was over 18 months old – I loved it! It gives great length body and shape but I threw it out and replaced it with something new just to enter this comp.

  28. Oh god that list is so scary…just went into the bathroom and threw out 3 marcaras. One I know was over 2 years old!!!

    Time to buy some new mascara!

  29. I had a bottle of Kylie Minogue perfume in the shape of her bum that I threw out recently. It had a little left, but not much smell left. Had been hanging on that bum for probably 4 years.

  30. I did a clean-out the other day…I am ashamed to say it, but do you remember the little sample lipsticks the Avon Lady used to give you? I can’t imagine how old they are but colours I wouldn’t wear in a pink fit…oh…hang on a minute….pink fit…maybe that was the name of one of the colours!

  31. My grandmother used to work for Estee Lauder and she had all sorts of tools that she passed down to me. Brushes, tweezers, anything and everything you could imagine. Doing my spring clean recently I found a big bag of stuff, and right at the bottom was an Estee Lauder lippy that would have easily been 20 years old. It was unopened but I threw it out!

  32. I have just ditched a lippy that I have had sitting in my makeup case for over 10 years.. I know shame on me, should’ve done it ages ago!

  33. I have the lipstick I wore at my wedding in 1990, I think I should throw it away before it gets up and walks away by itself.

    1. Snap not from my wedding but does anyone remember the Poppy brand lipstick, was it from the 90’s? I found a half used one in an old make up bag a few months ago now that brought back some memories.

  34. I recently threw out Estee Lauder eyeshadows that I bought for my wedding 11 years ago and never ended up using. I had to admit defeat to myself that they are out of date and must go!

  35. Hi, I love the detail with which you’ve gone into this! I just recently went through my make up and found a fair few of my summer lipstick colours no longer tastes so good – had the musty smell – so out they went. I also tossed my cheap primer which is just too much work to be bothered with – seems to ‘pill’ when combined with the foundation.

  36. Just found a shimmer stick that I bought over 12 years ago when I was 15! Don’t know how it survived for so long in the bottom of my makeup bag… Gone now!!!

  37. My makeup bag is soooo messy *shame*. It is not only full though of my odds and sods (you know – all the lipsticks that have lost lids, cotton buds, crushed eyeshadows etc), when my gorgeous Mum passed on, I kept all her stuff too – because I couldn’t bear to part with it!

    The trouble is however mum hardly wore makeup and what she did have – I’m sure was probably still floating around from the 70’s! I mean there is even 4711 spray there (now who wears that besides old Nana’s????). Anyway though… I still can’t part with it all yet, but maybe I could tuck it up the back of the cupboard just for a little bit longer.

  38. I have just thrown out a red lipstick from Borghesie – brilliant colour but considering that marchella borghesie was discontinued in Australia nearly 10 years ago i dread to think how old it is. Oh, and in the last make up clean out i had (about 3 weeks ago) i threw away the original Chanel vamp lipstick collection – vamp, the lighter shade and the darker shade that i bought in 1996……..

  39. foundation – i was reminded how old it was (and that it had gone off) when i put it on after months without wearing it and it looked like a had a triple dose of fake tan on

  40. Not exactly makeup but, my crusty old eyebrow brush – gone today and replaced by a new NP set bought at Target today. Booyah!!

  41. I have an old Dior foundation which I splurged on AGES ago, thing is… never used it as it was just that little bit not-the-right-tone. Kept trying it in different lights, even different seasons, but never liked it. Kept it because of guilt at spending so much time and money on a product which wasn’t actually right.

    It’s gone. GORN I tell you. And the guilt with it.

    I came across many beauty tweets (when I first discovered them) which talked about Helmers. A quick google revealed a Helmer to be an Ikea storage unit which is, apparently, fab for storing nailpolishes. It really made me laugh.

  42. Oops there’s a shelf life on makeup?? Thanks, I never knew. I LOVE makeup so much I wear it every day without fail but never seem to replace products until they run out. My makeup bag, bag included, will need a total overhaul after reading this. 🙂 But my oldest beauty relic would have to be an Australis set – think 2 tier eyeshadow & blush combo. I received this for free somewhere, somehow BK (before kids), so it would be at LEAST 8 years old. Shameful! I have probably kept onto it because it was a freebie, even though I have to admit to hardly using it. It’s not exactly convenient.

  43. Only a few months ago I threw away a Red Earth eyeshadow palette that I have had for many many many years! Not because I used it but because was bought back from a o’seas trip by a good friend!

  44. FIRST OFF, THANK YOU FOR INTRODUCING THIS LITTLE CONTRAPTION! So simple yet effective. So basically my story is I’m 15 and just started to use make-up on a regular basis which meant I first got given all my Mum’s and sister’s old make-up! Talk about unhygienic, it is like 10 years old! So I bought all new make-up and make-up brushes. Out with the old in with the new. Thank you again and good luck to all! xx ChikkiNee

  45. Just pulled everything out of bathroom cupboard and think i should start an antique store! The oldest most used is an Avon Plumping Lip Conditioner I believed actually made a difference to thin lips …… About a century ago (actually I think I did buy it last century!). Getting garbage bag now and chucking contents of one ugly basket and three makeup bags out! Thankyou!

  46. OMG,I’m so embarrassed to admit to carrying around a particular palette of L’Oreal eyeshadows for *years*. The colours were just so nice and neutral – and saturated enough that I didn’t need a lot. BUT…I finally got rid of it last Friday!! I found a new ‘neutral’ bunh and chucked the old (emphasis on old) one out. Woohoo!!

  47. I had a pretty watermelon lipgloss, creamy finish, it was the perfect bright colour for spring. But for my disappointment , when I pulled out of my cabinet, the gloss was all messed up, the colour had gone to the bottom of the tube, and a transparent gross liquid was on the top, I thought maybe if I shake it, should be fine, but it was disgusting 🙁


  48. This is slightly embarrassing- but I did a spring clean on the weekend, and ditched a massive garbage bag full of make up! There must have been hundreds of items. Anything that hadn’t been used in 3 months gt ditched. Feels so goooooood now- and is also super tidy! I love spring cleaning..

  49. A red lipliner that I’ve had for SEVEN YEARS. Someone gave it to me for my 21st birthday (I know, a little weird right?) and I am quite sentimental when it comes to gifts. I think I used it once. It is now no longer in my possession. Thanks for the push to trash it!

  50. Oh god diorshow mascara every time is the one things that kills me every time I have to throw it out. I try and squeeze every last lash of mascara from the tube. I love it so much that I shed a tear when I have to throw it out. This product gives me so much joy!

  51. Ok, ok, after reading your post I’m now feeling super guilty about a powder blush that I have been using for five and a half years! I’ve almost used it all up. I realise I’m becoming more and more like my mum, refusing to throw things out until I’ve used them up. But after reading your post it really is time to throw the blush out and start using my new MAC blush (which I’ve been looking longingly at in its packaging).

    And I’ll be carrying out a spring clean on the rest of my makeup this weekend.

    Thanks so much Nikki!

  52. I find myself unable to throw out the lipstick, perfume and nail polish I wore on my wedding day. I would never use them after 10 years but can’t quite throw them either. Creamy Nude, Beautiful and Lavender Crystal by Estee Lauder, to be precise!

    I recently threw out an eye cream that smelled of cheese, and realised the one I had recently discarded must have been the new one. Oops, expensive mistake! 🙁

  53. I have an Estee Lauder lipliner pencil in Tea Rose, one of my very old favourites, into the bin it goes, it’s sooooo old.
    Brilliant makeup storage ideas Nikki!!! Thanks heaps

  54. Am also having trouble picking just one!,I have the lipstick I wore on my wedding day!, been married for 9 years!
    Okay,I’ll ditch it but it’s gonna be hard!reminds me so much of that day( took me ages to decide on the color!)

  55. Nail polishes are probably the worst here, because I tend to collect a stack of colours. Last year I actually went through this massive box I had of nail polishes and got rid of them all but ONE colour, my very fave. I had started that box when I was 12, so some had been there for 12 years! Eeeep!

    Right now the oldest cosmetic I have is a foundation that i’ve had for 2 years I think? Maybe 3? That’s how long it’s lasted me.

  56. Just the other day, first day of Spring as a matter of fact, I thought to myself, “I should bring out the Invisible Zinc, I wonder how that’s going?” How was it you say? Gross! It had separated and all that spurted out was clear liquid and the zinc was clumped up. TOSS! A lot of people don’t realise that sunscreen has an expiry too!

  57. The makeup item that’s over-stayed its welcome in my beauty cabinet…

    When I was 9, my cousin gave me her unwanted eye shadow. A little black box full of all ‘the pretty colours of the rainbow’ shades. I’ll keep it for a special occasion. NOT! Come 19 years later, and not a single shade has been applied.

    …and YES! I’ve finally ditched it!

  58. I have a Red chanel lipstick that I have worn to the races 6 years ago, everytime i springclean my makeup, i try it on and decide its too gorgeous to throw out, but really, not only have i not worn it for 6 years so it opbviously isnt a colour for me, but it is also way past its best by date, so tonight when i get home, its going in the in, IN PROMISE 🙂

  59. Oh there is so much to be culled – thankyou for bringing me up to date with make-up hygiene! The eyeliner I wore once and vowed never again is gone as is the freebee mascara. Thankfully I need to go shopping to buy more mascara and a lovely new primer… oh and a few OPI nail polishes for spring! Love your column x

  60. You’ve just inspired me to throw out the 4 ‘almost’ empty bottles of liquid foundation and my mascara which was getting a bit on the nose. Excitingly I now have a fabulous excuse to go shopping today now 🙂

  61. Thanks so much for the advice on how long products last. I have about 20 eyeshadows of which I have just thrown out half of them because they are old and I never wear them. Good on me!!!

  62. Thank you so much for sharing the lifespan of make up with me. I didnt realise the length of time some of them could be kept for. I have just searched through my make up box and whoops these are the things I have just thrown out…… 2 nail polishes (one had seperated so it was kinda weird and the other one had gone rock hard), 1 liquid foundation, 1 powder foundation, a few brushes that just looks so wrong and 4 lipsticks. Oh and I hate to admit that I still had this… a double compartment eye shadow. One colour was green and one colour was blue with sparkly stuff in it so I can only imagine how old that is.
    Looks like new make up is on the cards for me now.

  63. I’m rather embarrassed to say my beloved mascara, it wasn’t until my eyes started swelling I thought about how old it was. Then I realized it was over a year old!

  64. I have some pretty old lippies in my makeup stash – some of them are probably about 5 years old, oh dear!! Looks like I need to do a cull too!

  65. WOW!! I didn’t realise mascara only had a 3 month lifespan! My ‘freebie’ Clinique mascara’s in my makeup stash will be getting thrown out – a lot of them (yes there are several) are at least a year old! 🙁

  66. As mentioned before I have never met a lip balm/lipgloss/lipstick that I don’t absolutely, positively need, want, love. The result of this little obsession is three makeup bags full of these babies in the bathroom plus whatever is in my cavernous handbag. So a serious culling is required. Stat.

  67. I have found a lipstick, maybe 1990s. Hairy bits, crumbs, god its evil. It looks like its been in there since jesus was a lad !!! lol
    Other things growing alien things, chucked and chucked, help me see things in a new light with this makeup organiser. DDOH!! just found an old chewy stuck on my mascara. ARGHHHHHHHHHH !!!

  68. What great ideas, easy to find everything and no fuss or mess! A little organization saves you time and money in the long run! 🙂

  69. my very first MAC pigment. I have had it for four years! i bought it when I went on my first overseas holiday, and being a country girl with no way to buy MAC and other lovely brands at the time I went a bit nuts. The colour is Mauvement, which is a kind of highly glittery purple brown, which looks terrible on me. i think I have worn it once, but i couldnt throw it away, sentimental value and so on. In the bin it goes!

  70. I had no idea about mascara! I have had mine for at least a year. Today when I go downtown I am treating myself to a new one and the old one is gone 🙂 That brush holder is such a clever idea!!

    1. Also, how long should you go between brush cleans/replaces. Cause I’m looking at mine thinking they look a bit old and I bet their use by date is past too!

  71. I go through culling phase every once in a while. So usually there’s not much older stuff. But yeah, I do have few lipsticks and eye-liners that I just couldn’t get myself to throw away. Not that I use them.
    Time to them to go now

  72. Wow there were 3! I did a spring clean last night to decide what to take on my holiday. My chinadoll foundation by Napoleon, when I squeezed some out it had separated, gross! A cream eyeshdow didn’t look right probably 4 years old and a mascara that was definite a year old. Had no idea makeup had shorter life span, thanks for important info.

  73. I have some very scary eyeliners and lipsticks in my collection from when I was at uni…. in 1993! I promise I will dispose of them today! I guess I have kept them for so long because I hardly ever used them and thought they would be ok.

  74. Oh Dear I have to pick just one! My very first Chanel compact was a crumbling mess at over five years old when I finally sent it on it’s way to make up heaven. I just couldn’t bear to part with the Chanel loveliness.

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