How To Shop Your Own Beauty Stash

It's time to dig into your makeup collection and get the use out of those forgotten gems.

2019 was the year that we reached Peak Makeup. A new celebrity beauty brand was born almost every month, and barely a week went by without the announcement of a new palette or foundation. It was near impossible, even as a beauty writer, to get your head around the sheer avalanche of stuff.

Perhaps as a result of this make-up fatigue, more and more beauty lovers are embracing the concept of ‘shopping their stash’, turning away from new launches to give an airing to forgotten gems from their own make-up bags. As well as saving money and helping to reduce the beauty industry’s impact on the environment, it gives you the chance to flex your creative muscles. Which is what make-up is all about at the end of the day, right?

As someone who likes nothing more than to spend a Sunday afternoon organising her beauty products, and who is also very guilty of ignoring what she already owns when new newness comes along, I have some wisdom to share with you about getting full use out of your stash.

Get to know what you have

We all have our own ways of storing our make-up. Some of us have a bajillion acrylic boxes for each type of product, others have IKEA drawers packed to the brim, still more have it all stuffed into various make-up bags. Wherever you keep your make-up, take it all out – every last lipstick in every last handbag pocket – and look at it. Hard. What you see may surprise you.

You might have thought you desperately needed that new warm-toned eyeshadow palette that everyone’s talking about, but you actually already have one that’s very similar. That nude lipstick you were eyeing? Almost identical to three others you own. And even though it’s not shiny-new and endorsed by your favourite YouTuber, at the end of the day, you can create the exact same look out of it.

I’m always shocked to see that the entirety of my collection, even though it fits in two seemingly small drawers, takes up about half of my king-sized bed. When I think about how many of these products I’ll conceivably use up (foundations, concealers and setting powders are the things I replace most often), I’m chastened once again. I only have one face. I don’t wear makeup every day. I’m quite gentle with my products (though I love people who use the hell out of theirs – shout out to our editor Vicki Notaro).

It’d take me the rest of my life to use up all of the eyeshadow palettes, highlighters, blushes and lipsticks I’ve accumulated either as press samples or through my own spending. Do I need any more? Not really. Do I have to go through this whole thought process again every time I’m entranced by another new release? Absolutely. It’s the curse of a beauty lover.

Then do a big old declutter

Now that we know the lay of the land, it’s time to get ruthless. The first thing you need to do is get rid of anything that’s out of date. You can take a lot of makeup expiry dates with a pinch of salt (powder products are generally grand, for example) but mascara, eyeliner, and liquid lipsticks can go a bit funny after a while. If anything looks or smells weird, bin it, even if it was very expensive and you can’t bear the thought of it. Nothing is worth the eye irritation, not even those bits you bought in Sephora when you were in New York in 2013. When surveying the products that survive the bin cull, be honest with yourself about which of them you actually use.

Got four red lipsticks, but only really wear nudes? Maybe red lipstick just isn’t your thing, my friend.

Keep your favourite just in case (we all need one red lippie), disinfect the rest, and assemble a pile of things to be passed on to family and friends. Yes, you can do that, it’s fine. Most people you love wouldn’t say no to a few clean, lightly used beauty products. Well, maybe your dad, but that’s his problem. Next, ferret out any dupes you have in your collection. We all tend to have few shades that we’re subconsciously drawn to – one look at your stash will tell you what your beauty weakness is. Keep the ones you truly love, send the rest to a more deserving home, and remember your penchant for peachy-nude blush/blood red lipstick/ brown eyeshadow the next time you find yourself rooted to the ground with lust in the Brown Thomas beauty hall.

Put your make-up where you can see it

Rediscovered some classics that were languishing in the back of a drawer after your declutter? Get them out for the lads. Being able to see your make-up means you’re less likely to forget about oldies but goodies again – if that means getting a few acrylic storage bits (readily available and cheap as chips from IKEA, Flying Tiger, and Sostrene Grene, amongst others), do it.

I still reach for some faves over and over, but now that I know where everything is, I’m better at spreading the love around. Of course, not all of us have a dedicated space for our beauty products, so here’s a cute tip: Assemble a capsule make-up bag containing one blush, one palette, one highlighter, etc, rotating the products every week. This ensures all of your lovely things are receiving the attention they deserve – and you feel like you’re getting ‘new’ make-up every week.

Challenge yourself

One of the most satisfying corners of the internet is the #projectpan tag on Instagram, where you will see hundreds of people challenging themselves to finish up their beauty products right down to the ‘pan’ or bottom of the compact. There are people out here fully using up eyeshadow palettes. Not just one shade – the entire palette.

A little challenge like this may be just what you need to reignite your love affair with your make-up collection.

For example, the Reddit board r/ MakeupRehab invites its users to use just one eyeshadow palette for a week and see how many different looks they can get out of it. Author and fashion blogger Bethany Rutter’s #liptober challenge, meanwhile, asks people to wear a different lipstick every day in October. This year, I’m going to attempt to pan a few beloved but underused products, and document my progress on Instagram (@valerieloftus). I may regret making this announcement so publicly in a few months’ time, but… I need the accountability for now. None of this is to say that you can’t enjoy a shiny new palette or lipstick. But in the flood of new products launched weekly, it’s easy to forget that make-up isn’t for hoarding. So get your products out, play around, shop your stash. You might just find something very special.

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