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Toss Your Old Makeup Before You Get Pinkeye

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Makeup is super fun to buy — all those pretty colors and enticing packaging can be difficult to resist, and purchasing a new lipstick can brighten your day without any of the stress that treating yourself to, say, a new pair of jeans can cause. But the ease with which new paint can be bought leads to a really common problem: A massive collection of makeup that's jumbled and unused and almost assuredly way past its prime.

Expired makeup can cause a whole host of problems.

Expired makeup can cause a whole host of problems, from acne to eye infections. And having an out-of-control collection can make getting ready a hassle, as you find yourself digging through unused lipglosses in search of your favorite mascara. Fortunately, doing a makeup purge, with an eye toward rooting out unused and expired products is an project you can get done in under an hour. Here's how.

The quick guide to makeup expiration

Before you begin to assess your collection, it's important to know the basics of the shelf life of your makeup. These are the general guidelines for how long you can safely use makeup before it begins to present a problem.

Eye makeup

Mascara: 2-4 months

Liquid eyeliner: 3-4 months

Eyeliner pencil: 3-24 months (sharpening eye pencils regularly will extend the life of eyeliners)

Cream eyeshadow: 3-12 months

Powder eyeshadow: 3-24 months (cleaning application tools regularly will extend the life of cream and powder eyeshadows)

Cheek color

Powder blush: 18-24 months

Cream blush: 12-24 months

Foundation & concealer

Cream foundation and concealers: 12-24 months

Liquid foundation and concealers: 6-12 months

Lip color

Gloss and lipstick: 6-24 months

Lipliner: 2+ years

Here's what to do if a makeup purge is overdue

So you've read through the list of expiration dates with horror, realizing that your makeup is so old, so very, very old. Not to worry! You need to do a purge, yes, but it's going to be super easy because you're going to follow this plan just like you'd follow a new recipe. So, if you're a person who gets overwhelmed at the prospect of an organizing project, stick with me — this five-step plan will make things much less stressful.

Define the scope of this purge.

Step 1: The first thing to do is to take everything out; much like with a closet purge, taking things out of the place where you store them will give you a much clearer view of what you have than will picking through items in the place where they live. You should also define the scope of this purge — are you going to stick to just makeup, or are you going to include things like nail varnish, skincare treatments, and hair styling products? It's your choice, but bear in mind if you're a real beauty gal, you probably have a lot of products and sorting through all of them at once may feel overwhelming. If that's the case, limit your efforts to just one category for the time being.

Step 2: Next, group your makeup by type; seeing your collection sorted by type will make it so much easier to decide what to keep and what to let go (be sure to go into bags and pockets and bedside table drawers to fish out stray lipsticks and such). You may find that you have a whole bunch of glitter eyeshadow palettes despite the fact that you've literally never worn glitter eyeshadow in your life. Those can go. (If they're unopened, perhaps a young niece might like them for use during dress-up time?)

Toss whatever is oldest.

It may also be the case that you have duplicates, in which case toss whatever is oldest and give the packaging of what you're keeping a quick wipe with a paper towel or rag dampened with a small amount of all-purpose cleaner — we are constantly handling our makeup and we almost never clean their exteriors, which means they're pretty dirty!

Step 3: Wash your brushes, sponges, beauty blenders, etc. etc. etc. Look, basically no one is cleaning their brushes enough so don't even feel bad about how long it's been — just take the opportunity to do so while everything is out.

Step 4: Speaking of washing things! The drawers and storage containers we use to house our makeup take a real beating — stray brush hairs all over the place, smears of sticky gloss, purple and orange and pink powder stains covering every surface. While everything is out for sorting, go ahead and scrub those things.

The drawers we use to house our makeup take a real beating.

Stained drawers can be cleaned out with a sponge and a small amount of dish soap; use a Magic Eraser to remove stubborn stains. Plastic, acrylic containers, and glass containers should be washed with dish soap and hot water, then dried. You can also use glass cleaner, or pop them into the dishwasher.

Step 5: Now that you've removed all the unwanted or expired makeup from your collection and cleaned your storage units, it's time to put everything back. As you do this, you may realize you need or want new organizers. It's important to wait until you've assessed your collection before buying new organizers, otherwise you're likely to end up with a system that doesn't meet the needs of your stuff.

If you want to hear more — or if you want to learn about my weakness for eyeshadow palettes! — I devoted a recent episode of my podcast, Ask a Clean Person, to the subject of makeup expiration, organization, and how to remove all kinds of stains caused by our face paint. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Acast or iTunes.

Save this info for later with this easy-to-read guide on Pinterest: