Pretty Little Things: Cutting Down on Cosmetics

Makeup is something that I’ve written about before, but I think it’s worth revisiting because this stuff accumulates like snow in the Midwest. I end up with more of it all the time and often don’t know where it comes from.

And then I realized: I impulse buy cosmeticsEspecially if they’re on sale, or if it’s a new color that I think is kind of fun. I got red lipstick last year and guess how many times I’ve worn it? Half a dozen. How many times have I worn it out of the house? Zero.

Let’s take a look at what I found in my makeup case:

My makeup collection before downsizing

My makeup collection before downsizing

I’ve trimmed it down in the last few years, and I’ve started buying less expensive products (seriously, I love E.L.F. from Target and I won’t deny it).

I think, too, that my face needs much less covering up when I’m eating and drinking and sleeping right. Not to say that’s the only fix for healthier skin, but it helps.

It’s the little things that get to us

My “collection” didn’t take up much space before I started cutting down, but I realized that’s not what this is about.

When I get ready in the morning, I have to fumble through less-used products to get to the one I always use. If you don’t have makeup, the same might go for your paperwork. It could be extra pens or a cluttered kitchen drawer.

Wouldn’t it be better to just get rid of the unnecessary things that get in our way? Instead of letting yourself run into a dozen mini-obstacles every day, get rid of what causes the trouble.

How I cut down on my makeup supply

So I took the same tried-and-true approach to cutting down on cosmetics. Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Does it bring me joy?

I also employed these cosmetic-specific rules when deciding what to get rid of:

  • Is it old? Like, embarrassingly old? I just read about how long to keep makeup and I’m way out of range on some of my powder and lip products. Yikes.
  • Do I use it or do I enjoy using it? Does it still have a place in my daily routine? If I use it regularly (or look forward to using it for a special occasion), I keep it. If not, toss it. If it’s a product I just don’t like using (for me it’s lash curlers, for others it’s eyeliner or foundation) I’ve decided to ditch it too.
  • Does it fit my complexion or my overall style? Like I said with the red lipstick, some items just don’t work with my face. I just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and she explains that these items have already served their purpose: their purpose was to let you know that they’re not the right choice for you. No regrets in throwing these away.

Now if I need to travel anywhere, my makeup case is already packed and ready to go. It all fits in a small box, including any brushes I need and my three shades of nail polish. I feel lighter and more ready for last-minute adventures this way.

Here’s what my makeup collection looks like now:

What remains of my makeup "collection"

What remains of my makeup “collection”

How I’ll buy makeup in the future

If I decide that it’s time to add a new high-quality cosmetic to the rotation, I have some advice from my best friend. She’s more patient with makeup (and much, much better at it) than me! Here’s what she recommends:

  1. Research. Makeup can be expensive. Since it’s good to use for months at a time, know what you’re getting into before you buy. Read reviews and watch videos on application so that you don’t just buy random products in your quest for the perfect look. You can even look for videos or reviews for drugstore alternatives to more expensive brands.
  2. Get Samples. Samples let you know that you like a product before committing to it. They’re free, they’re small and they’re a good way to curb impulse buys. My friend recommends Sephora, where the products are high-quality but the prices can be intimidating. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and give the product some thought before tossing it in to your shopping cart.
  3. Check return policies. If you’re skipping the drugstore brands and going for more specialized brand names like Sephora, check the returns policy. Don’t keep something just because, well, maybe you’ll get used to it. A fifty dollar bottle of foundation isn’t something you just want to “get used to.”

I hope this gives you a good start in going through your own makeup and creating the rules that work best for you.

Remember, there’s no magic number to minimalism. It isn’t about extremes either. It’s about living with only what you need and what sparks joy.

It’s about making more space in your life for what really matters to you.


Faceless: A Tale of Less Makeup

As I’m working on paring down, I noticed something that bothers me a little bit every morning: my three “tubs” of makeup. I also have a tub of body sprays (some from high school still), a tub of nailpolish and another tub of hair care products that are so expired I’m pretty sure they have an alcohol content now.

I decided to do something about it. So, I said goodbye to my concealers and my absurd eyeshadow colors. I said goodbye to a few crusty nailpolishes and to old lipstick (why did I have gold lipstick? Anyone? Why?)

This is my entire makeup collection now:


How many products and dyes do you put on your face every morning? I know I used to wear a lot, but I lost my enthusiasm for anything but mascara when I started up with early 8AM classes in college. I find it so interesting that makeup plays such a vital role in so many women’s lives…what can you go without?

A recent article explored the notion that wearing makeup isn’t even a question anymore in today’s world – if you work or play in public, the default is to wear makeup. It’s considered good grooming. It’s standard to try and look like someone or something that you are not. Is that strange to anyone?

Here’s a challenge for you: pick one or two of your most essential pieces of makeup and wear only that for a whole week. I think it suits everyone, and  it may even encourage people to eat healthy and exercise to avoid epic breakouts. No more paint for this face, except for special occasions!