Some ramblings on the beauty industry (and making the most of what you have)

After deciding to stop buying any new beauty products for a whole year (see my post on that here), I've begun taking more of an interest in the beauty industry in general and how it sucks so many of us in. I guess you could say that of many industries - fashion included - but for me, it's just the beauty one that's caught me in its snare.

Something that's struck me is: why do companies often make products that would be impossible to finish prior to their designated expiries, even if used every day?

For example, I have an eyeshadow trio with a shelf-life of 6 months after opening. It's 4g in size and, according to the calculations of the lovely Robyn from Brightest Bulb in the Box - who has performed tests on a variety of different products using super duper scales - there are at least 200 applications in that trio. So there's no hope of finishing it prior to expiry. Same goes for a 12g blush I own with a 24 month shelf-life, and a few 8g blushes with 12 month ones.

Is that annoying, or is it just me?

We're encouraged to buy different lipsticks for different seasons, but it's rare that we manage to finish one before it starts to smell rancid and needs to be turfed. I once had a MAC black eye gel with a shelf-life of 12 months, after which time it had started to go hard and crumbly and was unusable - but I'd barely scratched its surface, despite having used it almost every day. And who has ever managed to finish a full size mascara within the 3-4 months before we're supposed to throw them out to avoid eye infection?

So why are they made in that size? Shouldn't all mascaras therefore come in what we now know as travel sizes?

It's about economies of scale, of course - but I think we're allowed to question it. Can you imagine the uproar if foodstuffs were generally only available in 'full' sizes that we had no hope of finishing before they needed to be chucked out?

What a waste.

Granted, I've said many times on this blog that I'm rather waste-obsessed - food, electricity/water, beauty items, you name it - but it does make me wonder whether the cosmetics industry needs a bit of an overhaul. Should sizes be smaller? Should shelf-lives be longer and, in reality, are they really accurate - or do companies understate how long things actually last in order to encourage us to throw out older products and replace them?

Are we as consumers really so easy to fool, in that we think buying a $30 blush that's 8g is 'better value' than one that's the same price but half the size, when in reality both will likely go rancid before we get anywhere near hitting the pan?

Anyhoo. Many people mightn't spare a thought for all that or even care, but it's certainly something I've wondered about. And while I don't have a drawer filled with old makeup that I'll likely never touch but can't bear to throw out (not yet, anyway), I know plenty of people who do. Those people lament the fact that they bought these items, used them a few times and then returned to their favourite products. As they always do.

Those drawers are usually filled with random seasonal colours (like electric purple eyeliner), crazy lipsticks or cheapo products picked up from the bargain bin because they were 'such good deals' and you couldn't walk past them when you were standing in the queue at Priceline with the few items you actually needed, like toothpaste.

I don't like to think of myself as a consumer who gets sucked into buying things I don't need or won't use - and I'm usually not like that. I buy most of my clothes from op shops, don't get sucked into buying 'it' foods that are meant to be nature's health elixir, and my shoe collection is something that would shock most people in its size - or lack thereof. My husband has more shoes than I do.

But the beauty industry grabbed me. And it won't let go. Time to shake it off - or at least loosen its hold.

I was feeling a bit woeful yesterday because I walked past Priceline and - for the first time in the last three years after becoming a beauty junkie - I didn't go in there 'just to see what was on special'. Might sound crazy, but it was a sign of change. And it was uncomfortable. It felt wrong.

But I've only been on my beauty ban for two weeks! What's wrong with me?!?!?!

To make myself feel better, I went home and had a good look at what I have in the beauty department. It's plenty. MORE than plenty. I don't need to buy another blush for at least 10 years - if I ever needed to buy one at all.

So how do I get the best use from what I have, and be happy with it? This will be my follow up post to this rambling one, and it's where I'm heading with these comments (just in case you had no idea where I was going ; )).

I can tell you what wouldn't make me happy: throwing out a $30 blush in two years and realising I'd only used it ten times. That's $3 per application. Oh dear.

So what I've resolved to do during my beauty ban is really make the most of what I have, and make sure things get used. And if they're not being used because I just don't like them (eg that blue eyeshadow trio that I've used a total of five times and really should have given away before opening), then I'll try to find something I can use them for.

For example, there's a frosty, barely there grey/silver colour in that eyeshadow trio and I've just discovered it makes a really great highlighter - it's reflective without having visible sparkles. Why didn't I think of this before? And here I was thinking that I needed a new highlighter for summer.

Well, I've got one.

As a follow up to this post, over the next few weeks I'll have a play with my existing collection and see what I can do with it. I'm sure there are gems in there I've forgotten all about, or that can be used for other things (like that eyeshadow).

I'll turn the whole thing into a little project and have some fun with it: just what can I find in my collection to use up until Christmas? Sure, I mightn't wear pink blush - but you can use powders to dye nailpolish, so I could do that with it. And since I prefer to use brown or grey shadows and liners around my eyes (they're softer than black), maybe I can mix an old black shadow with that dodgy medium blue from that damn trio and create a softer colour so I don't have to open something new?

That way, when the new year starts and I go through everything to see whether any item is too old and needs to be chucked, at least I can tell myself that I used it for two months solid, and won't feel so bad about crushing up old powders to use as dry shampoo.

Ach, the trials of being a beauty junkie... ; )

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