Not every product you buy is going to work for you. Unfortunate, but true. An easy way to avoid having to get rid of something that just doesn’t suit, though, is to consider whether you might be able to use it in a different way than it was intended. With skincare, you can try just about any products that don’t suit your skin on your neck and décolletage. These areas don’t have nearly as many oil glands as the face, so are much less prone to break outs and will drink up richer products that may not have worked a few inches higher. However, this relative lack of oil glands does mean these areas are also more prone to sensitivity, the neck especially, so if something is too harsh for your face, do go cautiously as you head south.
Another option is to delegate to the rest of your body. After all, why should your face get all the fun? For instance, I don’t like physical scrubs on my face and can’t use many strong acids while I use prescription tretinoin, so off they go to get to work on my limbs, as my much tougher body skin handles them with aplomb. If you have a very strong acid that is too much for you, may I recommend you think of applying it to your tootises? (Not to any very damaged or cracked skin, which might seriously sting or, in the case of tiny particles of physical exfoliants, even get trapped and cause infection, but as part of general foot maintenance it will soften them up a treat).
Even body products that aren’t a fit can be utilised in different ways. I don’t like the way body oils feel when applied neat on my skin, but do enjoy their scent, skin-softening ability, and overall sense of pampering they imbue. Adding a few drops to a bath allows me to enjoy all of these benefits, without any of the ‘I am now a slippery seal greasing up my sheets’ feel that I so detest whenever I apply them directly to my skin before bed.
Repurposing makeup is even easier, and the name of the game is to forget any definitions of where a product ‘should’ be used – get creative. Foundation too light? Pop it on anyway and top up with bronzer, or if it’s liquid foundation, add a drop or two of liquid bronzer in first and apply them together. Or have one that’s too dark? Save it for the next time you’ve fake tanned your body, so you can easily match your face to your new skintone without the hassle of facial fake tanning. If you have an eyeshadow you find you’re not using, spritz the pan generously with any facial mist or setting spray containing glycerin and, hey presto, you’ve got yourself an old-school cake eyeliner. Just dip in a short, stiff liner brush and away you go; so much easier to use than an eye pencil or liquid liner, too. Highlighters and bronzers will work as lovely eyeshadows – highlighters on the lid, bronzers to bring definition to the crease. Lip products and cream blushes needn’t be restricted to only one zone of the face: feel free to take them across eyelids, cheeks, or lips (or all three for a pretty, tonal look) and consider dotting a tiny bit on the nose to add to the ‘just back from a bracing walk across the moors’ flush.
If you’ve decided a product just isn’t for you, though, then let’s get to thinking of who else it could suit before flinging it into the reject pile. The key consideration if you are wanting to give away a product to a friend is, of course, hygiene. If the product hasn’t been opened, and it hasn’t been more than one to two years since you purchased it, then absolutely knock yourself out. If it has been opened, you’ll just need to proceed with some thought and care. The number one rule to remember is whether the product has, directly or indirectly, come into contact with your skin, in which case, sharing the love is a no go. Obvious ones will be products you actually dip your finger into, so tubs of cream or lip balm are out. As are products which are applied with a wand applicator, like mascaras, lipglosses, and concealers, and anything in a pan like brush or bronzer, where you swirl a brush in, apply to your face, and then back the same brush goes onto the pan. Which really leaves us with products in pumps or tubes (think concealers, serums, moisturisers, liquid foundations, cleansers). Lipstick is an option, but depends on how well it has been used. If you’ve only worn it a few times and applied directly from the top of the bullet, you could gently take a butter knife to it and slice the top part off that has touched your lips, doing your best to follow the natural shape of the bullet to keep it intact for someone else’s future use. If it’s been heavily used and your lips have been getting cosy with that bullet all over, then it’s a no on the sharing front.
When one is in a decluttering phase it can be tempting to get rid of everything you’re not using right-this-very-minute, but do try to keep your mind open to possibilities. Make sure to consider your makeup and skincare you are using by seasons, or in any other way that’s practical and useful for you and how you like to use your products. (For instance, I’ve definitely fallen victim during lockdown to thinking that I don’t want to even look at a single product that isn’t a light tint or a concealer. However trite as it might sound, red lipstick or a smokey eye, whatever your ‘bam!’ weapon of choice happens to be, really does things for one’s spirits, lockdown or no). I don’t mean anything so strict and uncreative as dictating that you can only use certain products at certain times of the year, but do be reasonable in your approach so that, you know, you’ll actually like using what you use, when you use it. You might be very willing to do a bold, deep, matte lip in the middle of summer, but you probably won’t be getting maximum enjoyment from a light veil of hydrating moisturiser in the dry depths of winter. Sectioning your products in a simple way (such as separating what you’d use in cool vs hot weather, work makeup vs play makeup, regular skincare vs Sunday masking in the bath luxuries) helps to avoid product blindness, where you see the same old things without properly considering them.
This might just be the most important step of all; the goal here is to not only be shopping your stash, but to be truly enjoying what you already have. Of course, makeup application should ultimately be a fun, creative medium, so once you’ve given it a go experimenting with products, don’t feel as though you need to hang onto something only to avoid waste. In the wise words of one @symdeano on the very useful Reddit subthread for beauty overshoppers, MakeupRehab: “It’s makeup, and it’s a fun hobby, but never make yourself use something you dread using, because then it becomes more work to find joy in something that is so beautiful and artistic”. If you followed our tips in Part I, you may have found that the act of taking out and properly going through your whole collection during your sorting process, and eliminating what you don’t use or like, may have been enough to reignite your excitement about what you do have. However, it’s totally understandable if you need something a little more concrete or creative to reignite the embers for once-beloved products.
Each December, the excellent beauty podcast Full Coverage does a Beauty Advent Challenge, where, for each of the 31 days they give you a simple prompt for a different makeup look for that day. I’ve never quite managed all 31, but each year I find it a lovely way of rediscovering products I’d either forgotten about or thought I was ‘over’, and just generally enjoying my collection. You could try that as well, if you like (Christmas in July, anyone?) or you could make it even simpler and just pick one full makeup look, or a fixed skincare routine – or even just a single item, like an eye palette – and commit to using only that for a whole week, and then rotate onto something else.
Approaching your products with the mindset of ‘I’m here to play’ is really key. Looking to videos made by people you connect with is a great way of reinvigorating your approach to your own look, and to experiment with what you already have. Two of my all-time favourite makeup artists, Brits Lisa Eldridge and Katie Jane Hughes, have wonderfully informative tutorials (on YouTube and Instagram, respectively) that cover everything from basic concealer application to full on fake-lashes-and-all-the-glitter night time glam. Following along step by step with them has absolutely made me fall in love with products I didn’t know I particularly even liked. You can also search for reviews and tutorials which use a specific product or shade you already own. This is a great way to get ideas for ways to wear something that you may not have thought of before, and may just give an older product a whole new lease of life.