Taking good care of your cosmetics will extend the life of your favorite products.

How to Preserve Cosmetics

by Virginia Pond

Applying the season's hottest lipstick shade or sweeping on a new eyeshadow in a flattering hue is fun for many women. But shelling out dough for pricey cosmetics is not. While makeup needs to be replaced every so often due to germs and product expiration, there are ways you can extend the shelf life of your products. With the following tips and tricks you can keep your favorite makeup products clean and safe to use, maybe even sparing yourself a trip to the makeup counter.

Extend the Shelf Life

Keep your liquids cool. Wet makeup such as foundation and liquid concealer are prone to growing bacteria, which breaks down the product faster. While many women understandably store their makeup in the bathroom, the humidity and warmth creates the perfect environment for germs to grow. Instead of your bathroom, stash your liquid makeup in a cool, dark place like the refrigerator. When applying liquid makeup avoid touching the opening of the bottle or tube, as germs from your hands will enter the bottle and contaminate your makeup. To keep your makeup and face clean while applying, first pour the product into a stainless steel container, and use a makeup brush or your hands to apply it over your face.

Avoid pumping your mascara wand in and out of its tube. This traps air inside the tube, causing bacteria to grow and dry out faster. To extend the life of your mascara and keep it as clean as possible, pull the wand out of the tube once with each use, and wipe any excess off on a paper towel or tissue. It is recommended that women replace their mascara every three to six months to avoid contracting an eye infection.

Extend the life of your powder-based makeup -- such as blush and eye shadow -- up to two years by avoiding touching it with your hands. Like liquid makeup, any germs transmitted through your hands will cause the formula to break down faster. If your older eye shadow looks like it has a film on top, use a clean mascara wand to scrape off the top layer, and use as you normally would. Always secure the lids to your powder formulas tightly, and keep them away from direct sunlight and humidity.

Store lipsticks in the refrigerator with your liquid makeup to keep them from melting. If it has been a while since you last wore a particular shade, wipe it down with a tissue before applying it to your lips to nix any lingering germs.

Sharpen your eyeliner pencils every other day or so to eliminate any bacteria that may be lingering on the tip. Toss out any eyeliner pencil that has formed a white or oily film, as it is no longer safe to use. If your eyeliner pencil is to thick or hard to apply on delicate eye skin, dab a very small amount of olive oil or Vaseline to the tip, and rub it back and forth on your hand. This will warm up the product, helping it to glide on smoothly and eliminate crumbling.

Liquid eyeliners should be thrown away if they start to smell bad. Because eyeliners are in constant contact with your eyes -- and a hot bed for bacteria -- focus more on keeping the product as clean as possible and less on extending its shelf life. It's generally a good idea to toss your liners after six months to avoid contracting an eye infection.

Instead of throwing out your old nail polishes, add a few drops of acetone nail polish remover to the bottle, and give it a shake. This will thin out any clumps and make the product easier to apply.

Makeup brushes made from natural hair can last for decades just by washing them once a week with mild soap and warm water. After washing, place them on a paper towel, and let them air dry with the brush side hanging off the edge of your counter or table. Brushes made of synthetic materials will not last as long -- only about a year -- and should be cleaned twice a week with an alcohol-based cleansing solution. You'll know it's time to toss your synthetic brushes when they start to lose bristles, become stiff or don't disperse the color as evenly as they used to.

About the Author

Virginia Pond is a Chicago-based writer. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from Indiana University.

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