Spring clean your make-up bag

Out with the old and in with the new.

17 September 2004
by Mary Walters

Is your make-up bag a war zone? It's time to bin all those gunky old cosmetics and replace them with vibrant new shades…

Face cream

Replace this skincare basic if it changes consistency or colour or starts to smell weird, because expired creams and cleansers may cause rashes or mild irritation. Prevent them from getting contaminated by choosing pump-action or tube packaging.


Throw away your foundation if it's more than six months old, has changed colour or consistency, or if it's separated into layers. To avoid contaminating it, use a clean cosmetic sponge instead of your fingers when you apply foundation. You may also find that you need a slightly lighter shade as your summer tan fades, so test before you buy.

Loose or pressed powder

If you use a clean, natural-bristle brush to apply it, face powder should last at least a year once opened. Again, you may need to go for a slightly lighter shade in winter.


A little well-applied powder or cream blush will give you that just-stepped-out-of-the-gym glow without the effort. If it changes colour or texture, or if it is more than six to 12 months old, it's time to bin it.


Run Forest, run! – that's what you should be doing if the mascara you're using is over three months old. Warm conditions and dark, damp places are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and warm. Dark and damp exactly describes the inside of a mascara tube. To prevent bacteria build-up, wash the mascara wand once a week in warm, soapy water. If you develop an eye infection, trash your mascara immediately to avoid reinfection.

Eye shadow

Powder and cream eye shadows should last around six to 12 months. Use a clean cotton bud or eye shadow brush to keep the bugs at bay. Again, if you develop an eye infection, bin all your eye cosmetics.

Eye and lip pencils

These should last a year or so, although you'll have to throw them away if you get infection or a cold sore. Sharpen them regularly to peel off the germs and allow precision application.


A dead giveaway that you need to trash that lipstick is mould (uurgh!) or a change in consistency. A lip brush gives your application a professional finish and will prevent germ build-up.

Applicators and brushes

Dirty applicators and brushes can contaminate cosmetics, shorten their shelf life and give you cosmetic acne – a profusion of blackheads and whiteheads. Use natural-bristle brushes for powder formulations and nylon or synthetic brushes for cream formulations (they soak up less product). Wash at least twice a month in warm, soapy water.