How to Keep Your Cosmetics and Fragrances (And When Not To)

Look, I know that just about everyone who grew up wearing fragrances and/or cosmetics learned to store them in the bathroom. Why else would bathroom cabinets have drawers in them, right? Aren’t you supposed to store your various products there?

Well, the best answer is no. The bright lights and the changes in temperature and humidity in a bathroom are just about the worst thing you could do for your products. If you’re like me, your bathroom is the only room in your house where you have a big mirror and counter space, and I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t do your hair and makeup there. When you’re done, though, take your products out of the bathroom and store them somewhere else. Find a solution that works for you. If that means you take your one bottle of perfume or cologne and stick it on a shelf in your closet, great. If you’ve got a handful of products, you can get a cheap cosmetic bag just about anywhere. (Dollar Tree. No, really.) Like to play with colors? Get a box. And so it goes, on up to product hounds like me. I have one of those three-drawer plastic carts on wheels that I got at Wal-Mart. They run about $15-20, which isn’t that much more than a nice cosmetics box, but they hold enough products for even me. I got the big size, 15x22x24, and the bottom drawer is overflowing with my fragrances, while the two upper drawers have hair stuff, makeup, and skin care.

If you leave your stuff in the bathroom, it’s not going to last nearly as long. Fragrances and other liquids are going to go first, because of their composition. A bathroom gets warmer than most other rooms of the house, so it’s a very bacteria-friendly place, even without taking the flush radius of your toilet (usually 4 feet or so for a home bathroom) into consideration. So it’s very easy for your products to get contaminated. Keep your cosmetics in a cooler room of the house, away from direct light, and store your fragrances in their original boxes. The average life of a perfume is two to three years, but properly sealed and properly cared for, they can last indefinitely. I’ve got some vintage Evening in Paris from the 1930s or so that is still absolutely lovely, because it was stored right to begin with. Fragrances in dark bottles (Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab oils or Chanel Coco Noir) or opaque bottles (such as the aluminum containers from Ed Hardy Villain and Montale, or the printed bottles for certain Bond No. 9 scents) will keep better, because they’re away from light, but if you take care of your stuff and only keep what you’re using regularly, the type of bottle won’t make that much of a difference in the long run.

Don’t ever leave your cosmetics in the car, even if they’re in a case. Like I said, heat can make them go off. Pencils and lipsticks melt and will make a terrible mess. Perfumes will turn rancid. Skin care products will break down and lose their effectiveness. All in all, bad idea.

Use brushes for your makeup instead of applying with sponges or with your fingers. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, you’re going to get a lot smoother application with a brush, which is going to give you a lot more even look. Second, makeup can build up inside a sponge, and you’ll end up wasting it. Third, brushes are easier to clean than sponges. Wash them with soap (or shampoo) and water once a week or so, and let them dry before using them again. Using clean brushes rather than fingers or a sponge will also help prevent contamination, making your products last longer.

Have you ever opened up a mascara and realized it smelled like old sneakers? That’s because it had bacteria growing inside that you really don’t want around your eyes, that can cause staph infections, conjunctivitis, or a whole host of nasties. Throw that thing out, for heaven’s sake–you don’t need to be keeping it more than 4-6 months from the day you opened it anyway. Your eyeshadow crumbled? Get rid of it. You’ve had that foundation for a year? Aside from probably not being exactly the same color it was when you bought it (because evaporation changes the pigment load), it’s probably starting to grow nasty bacteria in it. Chuck it and get a new one.

If you take care of your products, you’ll get a better shelf life out of them, but still, don’t be afraid to throw something away before it’s empty. If your fragrance has turned rancid (it will have sort of a stale, scorched smell, or be significantly weaker and more alcohol-smelling), then you can’t bring that back or salvage it. It’s done. Likewise if a pressed-powder type product (blush, powder foundation, bronzer, eyeshadow, whatever) has crumbled. All trying to save it will do is make a mess. Whether you’ve paid good money for a product or not, you’re not obligated to keep it past its usefulness. It’s OK to throw things out. Makeup is cheap. Infections aren’t. Trust me.


3 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Cosmetics and Fragrances (And When Not To)

  1. Pingback: How to Dress Like A Grownup, Part 3: It’s In The Details | Style 704

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