What to Do with Old Makeup: Safe & Creative Tips for Repurposing

Last updated on April 5, 2024

Learn how to responsibly recycle or repurpose your old makeup to reduce waste and give your products new life.

Key takeaways:

  • Check expiration dates before repurposing or disposing of makeup.
  • Clean containers before recycling and follow local recycling guidelines.
  • Take advantage of brand recycling programs for proper disposal.
  • Donate gently used makeup to organizations helping those in need.
  • Reduce makeup waste by buying multi-purpose products and practicing minimalism.
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Assessing Makeup Expiration

Before repurposing or disposing of your makeup, it’s crucial to determine whether it’s past its prime. Products have a lifespan that ensures they’re safe and effective. Look for the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol, a small container icon with a number followed by an ‘M,’ indicating how many months the item remains usable once opened. Typically, mascara is safe for 3-6 months, foundation and lipstick for 1-2 years, and powders can last up to 2 years.

If the expiration date is not visible, trust your senses. Any change in texture, smell, or color is a tell-tale sign that your makeup should retire. Also, consider your usage habits; products that come into contact with your eyes or are liquid-based are more susceptible to bacteria and generally have a shorter shelf life.

Remember, expired makeup isn’t just a health risk; its degraded ingredients may not be suitable for alternative uses or recycling. Ensure you’re working with products that are within their optimal use period before transitioning them out of personal care and into their next phase of life.

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Cleaning Containers for Recycling

Before tossing makeup containers in the recycle bin, ensure they are free from residual products. Empty all remnants of foundation, mascara, or eyeshadow. For plastic bottles, a rinse with warm water should suffice; glass containers may need a bit of soapy water to remove oily residue. Compacts with metal pans require a bit more effort—pry out the pan and remove any glued backing.

Remember that not all makeup packaging is created equal. Check your local municipality’s recycling guidelines for plastics marked with recycling codes #1 through #7, and separate accordingly. Glass containers are widely accepted, but pumps with metal springs and mirrors found in compacts typically aren’t recyclable curbside.

For items that can’t go in the recycling bin, consider upcycling. Clean containers can have a second life as travel-sized bottles, jewelry organizers, or small craft supply holders. By giving these items a new purpose, not only do you minimize waste, you also add a personal touch to your daily life.

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Recycling Through Brand Programs

Several makeup companies have taken the initiative to encourage recycling by offering in-house programs, where consumers can return used products directly to the brand for proper disposal or recycling. Participating in these programs can often yield benefits, like discounts on future purchases.

For example, MAC Cosmetics has a program called Back To MAC, where customers can return six primary packaging containers to a MAC counter to receive a free lipstick. LUSH offers a similar incentive, providing a free face mask to patrons who bring back five clean black LUSH pots. TerraCycle has also partnered with several beauty brands to recycle hard-to-recycle items.

Before sending items back or dropping them in-store, ensure all excess product has been removed. It’s also useful to check each brand’s specific guidelines, as they may have different requirements on the form and cleanliness of returns. Embracing these take-back initiatives not only gives products a second life but also supports a more sustainable approach within the cosmetics industry.

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Donation of Gently Used Makeup

If you have makeup that’s lightly used and still in good condition, consider donating it to organizations dedicated to helping those in need. These groups often support individuals preparing for job interviews, performances, or other significant life events where they can benefit from some extra confidence that makeup may provide.

Before donating, ensure products are hygienic – clean brushes or applicators thoroughly, and make sure containers have been wiped down. Preference is given to items that can be sanitized easily, such as powder blushes or eye shadows. Avoid donating products that are applied with built-in wands directly to the skin, such as mascara or lip gloss, for sanitary reasons.

Find local shelters, nonprofit organizations, and women’s help centers that accept these beauty donations. Additionally, some organizations may specifically cater to the performing arts or to those recovering from illness, where the joy and normalcy that a bit of makeup can offer are incredibly valuable. Remember, it’s not just about decluttering your space – it’s about sharing confidence and dignity with others.

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Reducing Makeup Waste By Buying Less

Opt for multi-purpose products that cater to various needs, thereby decreasing the number of items you need. Seek out items such as tinted moisturizers that can double as foundation and sunscreen, or lip and cheek stains that work for both.

Embrace a minimalist makeup routine, focusing on products you love and use regularly. This tailored approach not only simplifies your daily ritual but also ensures that products are fully utilized before they expire.

Purchase from companies that sell refills. This not only reduces waste from packaging but also often proves to be more cost-effective in the long run.

Try sample sizes or travel versions of new products before committing to full-sized versions, to reduce the chance of discarding items that may not suit you.

By implementing these strategies, you not only contribute to reducing waste but also save space and potentially money, fostering a more sustainable and intentional approach to beauty.

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