Tips on product storage and organisation, maximising shelf-life and keeping things simple

When your stash is too big

I thought I'd write something on general organisation and storage of beauty products, maximising shelf-life and keeping things simple etc. It's easy to accrue far too many cosmetics over time, winding up with a drawer full of products you barely use or don't use at all.

Back in December 2011 when I became a beauty junkie overnight and made way too many online purchases as Christmas presents to myself, I did what many of us occasionally do and went through everything I owned and turfed what needed to go (which was basically everything - I had a bundle of stuff I'd had for years and a few newer items that I just wasn't using, many of which weren't great quality). 

As for the few products that were of better quality and newer, if I wasn't using them, I let my sister and friends take anything they wanted. So I had a clean slate. Awesome. I was ready to build a collection.


You've probably heard that it's best to store things in a cool dark place. I know some people who store their more expensive items in the fridge. While I don't do the fridge thing (no space!), I do keep the good stuff out of the bathroom and arranged nicely in my dresser or in dedicated boxes. 

Anything that's 'high turnover' (eg samples or full-sized items like cleansers that I know I'll get through reasonably quickly) stays in the bathroom because it won't be exposed to heat long enough to go off.

Making things easy

Since it can be pretty annoying to not have your products on-hand in the bathroom, I use empty sample and travel-sized containers and squeeze my foundation, BB cream and primer into these. For loose powders like eyeshadows, blushes/bronzers and finishing powders, I do the same. 

Once the little containers are empty, I refill them from the full-sized products. This means that your full-sized items won't be facing the heat every time someone has a shower (thus reducing their shelf life); it also means that your full-sized products undergo less exposure to air since you're not opening them every day - only perhaps once a month when you refill the small containers.


How long do things last? There's so much information available online about how long different products last; and as you probably know, each make up and skincare product comes with a use-by date and/or a little symbol telling you how long the product will last once open. Be guided by these but also remember - companies obviously prefer that you keep buying their products, so they'd rather you threw out your existing items and replaced them, rather than getting the best mileage from what you already own.

I've only ever had one foundation go off (this was years ago when I was a major beauty dunce), and I suspect that was because I'd been carting it around in my handbag for god knows how long and kept forgetting to use it. I've also only ever had one perfume go off, and I reckon it may just have been one of a dud lot. One perfume I owned for 10 years before finishing it, and it was still going strong at the end. Keep your perfumes stored away in their boxes (the boxes are often so nice and make good display items anyway). Try to avoid carting them - and other beauty products - around in your handbag unless you know you'll be finishing them within six months. Handbags wind up in hot cars, lying in the sun and of course move around a lot, meaning some products can slosh about and get bruised.

I own two blushes that I've had for over three years. According to the use-by symbol, these should have been thrown out after 12 months. But there's nothing wrong with them - they look the same, smell and feel the same, and I haven't had any bad reactions on my skin. I'll keep them until something tells me not to.

When it comes to how long things last, be guided by your senses and your skin's reaction to them. Also be guided by the consistency of the product; eg if a foundation has gone a bit gluggy or is starting to 'separate', it's probably ready to go.

Nice products are to be seen, not just used

I always get a lift when I look at my dressing table and see my fancy products laid out, the same way I get a lift if I see a nice vase or a scarf made from beautiful fabric. Display your items. Enjoy them. That's part of what they're for! 

Savvy companies know this and beautiful packaging is becoming the norm more and more. We're consumers. We're swayed by what things look like and, when it comes to cosmetics, we do judge books by their covers.

Streamline - the 'one in, one out' rule

This is a good one, and one I try to stick to. Don't buy a new lipstick until you've finished one you already have. For people with too much stuff, you may prefer to do 'two out, one in'. Nuff' said!

Don't open everything as soon as you buy it

I reckon it's fine to have a few different foundations open - you may have one for summer when you're more tanned, one for winter when you're not, and a lighter one for daytime when you don't want to look like you're wearing make up.

But maybe you've bought something you don't actually need yet (like a back up primer) because it was on sale. Don't open it until you need it; things start going off the moment you do. Save it - you'll be glad you did, promise!

Keep records

This will make me sound totally anal, but I actually keep two tables in a Word document. The first lists the date I bought something, its shelf life prior to opening (you can check with the manufacturer about this if the info isn't available online) and the date it should be opened by. Once something is open, I move it up to the second table, which lists the date of opening and its expected use-by date after opening. I look at the tables every now and then and, if something is getting close to its use-by date, I make sure I use it as much as possible and get it finished.

If this sounds like too much hard work, I promise it isn't. I prepared these tables in front of the telly one night and just add to them every couple of months when I've got a few new products to type in and/or have a few finished items to delete.

Finishing products

Ever wind up with a bunch of open, similar products - to the point where you wonder whether you'll ever finish any of them? I've certainly been guilty of that one, particularly when I've received things in beauty subscription boxes and want to open them for review purposes, even though I may already have a couple of similar things open. This is especially easy to do when you have a bunch of sample sizes and end up using those instead of your long-ago-opened full sized products.

To get around this, I pick a few items each month or so that I'll focus on finishing. Similar products are put aside for the moment to use only occasionally if I feel like using something different. Believe me, this process works - it's especially useful for things like lipsticks and lipglosses.

Also on the 'finishing' topic - once you've squeezed the life out of that tube of moisturiser and it seems to be empty, cut it open with scissors and scrape out the rest. You'll be amazed at how many more uses you can get out of the product if you do this.

Finally, resign yourself to the fact that you're never going to finish everything you own

While skincare products tend to get finished eventually, get used to the idea that you'll have things like blushes and eyeshadows for years before you finally decide they've been around too long and need to go. This idea took me a while to get used to, since I really REALLY REALLY hate waste of any kind (to the point of obsession). Having said that, it's a good thing to keep in mind when you feel like buying something you really don't need - as in, ask yourself how you're going to feel when you've had the product for five years and have hardly made a dent in it. Is it worth the price tag?

On that, I wish that companies released all their eyeshadows, blushes and bronzers etc in sample and travel sizes. There'd be much more chance you'd have the satisfaction of actually finishing them. Full-sized items like these can feel like such a waste of product when you never finish them. I'd rather have 20 different mini blushes to choose from than limiting myself to six large ones. Or maybe that's just me!

Do you have any tips on product storage and organisation etc? I'd love to hear them : )

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