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Organizing Your Makeup

If you spend more time looking for your makeup than applying it; if your makeup bag is less a cosmetics bag than an archaeological dig; if you are drowning in all those great bonus gifts, it’s time for some makeup maintenance.
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If you spend more time looking for your makeup than applying it; if your makeup bag is less a cosmetics bag than an archaeological dig; if you are drowning in all those great Clinique, Lancôme and Estee Lauder bonus gifts, it’s time for some makeup maintenance. Whether you’re putting your best face forward at home or on vacation or touching up during a night on the town, here are some organizing solutions that are more than skin deep.

Divide and Conquer

The single-most effective thing you can do to rein in makeup messes is to divide your everyday-use cosmetics from your or special occasion or infrequently used cosmetics. As a general rule, if you have a drawer or case full of makeup, you likely use anywhere from 20 to 50 percent on a consistent basis. That leaves you digging through 50 to 80 percent of your cosmetics every time you get gorgeous!

Make Up

Out with the Old!

Makeup doesn’t stay good indefinitely, so if you have scads of old cosmetics, follow some good hygiene guidelines. The following list gives approximate replacement deadlines. But remember, these guidelines are just that: guidelines. If you notice eye or skin irritation from any old cosmetics, throw them away. To help you gauge how long you’ve had an item, some sources recommend using a Sharpie to mark the purchase date on the product’s container.

  • Foundation—12 to 18 months or if separation occurs or foundation starts to smell funny
  • Concealer—1 year
  • Powder—2 years
  • Lip or eye pencil—1 year
  • Lipstick—12 to 18 months or if color changes occur
  • Mascara, liquid eyeliner—3 months
  • Eye shadow—1 year
  • Powder blush—2 years
  • Cream blush—6 to 12 months
  • Moisturizer—12 to 18 months
  • Eye cream—1 year
  • Skin care—1 year


In Drawers

Separate your everyday makeup into simple categories (foundation, cheeks, eyes, lips) and store them in separate, labeled containers. Some of the most effective makeup containers are found in the kitchen storage and office supply areas of big box retailers or at office supply stores. Rather than expensive, specialty organizers, opt for more modular solutions like plastic baskets or small bins that come in different sizes and can be configured to fit your space.

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On a Vanity or in a Linen Closet

The same general containing rules apply when using a free-standing container for makeup as for arranging a drawer. Make sure you choose a makeup case that allows some kind of internal separation so you don’t have to store everything in a jumble. In addition, opt for a case with good accessibility: trays should be removable, slide or pivot; the opening should be large; and if possible, choose a container that is wider than it is high so you don’t have to dig for your makeup. Also make sure that the case’s construction is good: latches, zippers and stitching should be sturdy and materials should be good quality. Choose a case with surfaces that can be wiped or easily cleaned rather than choosing a fabric case. Most big box retailers carry a variety of carrying cases in all configurations and sizes. For a step up in cosmetics and cosmetics organization, you can also visit the MAC counter where you will find fantastic containing solutions. For online recommendations for makeup storage go here.

Special Occasion and Infrequently-Used Cosmetics

Store seldom-used makeup in separate containers away from your daily-use makeup. Divide these cosmetics into simple categories just like you do with your everyday makeup, and make sure to integrate the small sample sizes you receive with free gifts into this system. Sample categories might include those mentioned above as well as “skin care” for testers of facial cleansers, scrubs and moisturizers. Storage for these items can be as simple as disposable food storage containers, which are unbelievably inexpensive and can be stacked in a linen closet or under a sink.


To organize your travel cosmetics, keep these ideas in mind:

  • Use some of your small sample-size products from free gifts, etc. in your travel kit. Depending on how often you travel, you may even wish to store these smaller sized items in your travel case so you can just grab it and go.
  • If you are notorious for leaving items in hotel rooms or if your compacts and powders tend to crumble in transit, purchase a set of less expensive cosmetics as your travel set.
  • Good containing is just as important on the go as it is when you’re at home. Make sure you select a travel case with great accessibility factors, such as wide openings, internal separations, good construction, etc.


One of your primary considerations when carrying touch-up makeup in your purse is to remember that you don’t need a full complement of cosmetics for a few hours away from home. So how much is too much? If you’re carrying five tubes of lipstick, multiple lip glosses, a powder compact, mascara, and eye shadow—too much. You’ve likely already noticed that you use relatively few makeup items when you’re out on the town, so weed out your volume to reflect what you actually use.


Rather than using your purse’s internal zippered pockets or pouches, use a small mesh or plastic pouch to collect cosmetics in your purse. That way, if your lip gloss leaks or your powder crumbles, your purse is protected. Keep in mind the interior color of your bag when selecting your container so you can see it at a glance. If you love a container that is the same color as the interior of your bag, tie a bit of ribbon on the zipper pull so you can locate it quickly. My favorite container for makeup in purses is a meshpouch available through



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