Spring Clean Your Makeup Stash – Know When to Throw it Out


As we leap into a new year, new and alluring collections of cosmetics call our names. What better time to clear the clutter to make space for the fresh loot than now, with your Lunar New Year spring cleaning routine?

Ok…even if you’ve decided to expand your stash storage, you’ll eventually have to let go and accept the reality that your pricey beauty buys will become bacteria-colonised petri dishes. While most of us would have enough common sense to toss anything that has changed colour, consistency or smell; it is not always so clear-cut and there is often no expiry labels attached to makeup, unlike skincare. So here’s how to decide what has passed its prime, and the hot colours you should replace it with this S/S.



Liquid: Bacteria thrive in water-based foundations, so bin your liquid foundation after 12 months. You want to prettify, not potentiate a pimple breakout or skin irritation. Keep foundations out of moist places (like your bathroom) and away from heat, as high humidity and temperatures encourage the bugs to grow and can speed up the product meltdown – a good rule of thumb for all beauty products.

Powder: Most powders can be kept for about two years under ideal storage conditions. However, pressed powders may dry up and harden sooner than that and may not smooth over skin properly. So it’s time to chuck if it is giving you a patchy look.

SKIN Trend: Spring is all about “bare-faced” fresh skin that glistens with enviable youth. Many leading international brands are jumping on the BB bandwagon recently following its success in Asia, further increasing the variety of multi-tasking balms which act as a sheer foundation, UV protection and provide various elementary skincare benefits.



Similar guidelines for foundations apply to blusher. Powder blush or bronzer lasts about 2 years like loose powder, as they are both anhydrous (devoid of water). Unfortunately, moisture from your foundation and moisturisers transferred through the brush can cause your powders to deteriorate more rapidly. Wait out for a minute to allow your skincare and foundation to dry before sweeping on the blush.

Cream blushes, on the other hand, should be replaced after a year.

SKIN Trend: Sporty cheeks rules S/S 2012. Mimic a chiselled sun-splashed look by contouring the high parts of the face with a lush peach bronze. Or layer powder pink over a cream apricot or peach on the apples of your cheeks to add dimension and a pretty glow.



Eyeliners: Although pencil liners tend to hold out longer than the liquid ones, both should be replaced about every 3 months as they are used around the delicate eyes and you wouldn’t want to risk any chance of infection or irritation. Try to sharpen your pencils before every use to stop germs from establishing a stronghold. Found a forgotten pencil definer? If you notice a white film on the tip that doesn’t get sharpened off easily, trash it.      

Mascara: Similarly, super strict rules should be imposed on this one: They become a breeding ground for bacteria once they’ve been opened. Every time the wand is used, any germs picked up along the way return with it and gets plunged right into the product. The lingering bugs can cause itchiness, nasty red infected eyes or a painful eyelid stye.

Change your mascara every 2 to 3 months to be safe, even if you’ve just used it a few times. If you’ve acquired a recent eye infection, it’s better to immediately throw out the possibly contaminated tube than suffer another bout of infection (psst…it’s ok to say no, just refuse to share your mascara with anyone).

Eyeshadow: Powder eyeshadows should last about 2 year and creams about 1 year. But considering that it’s your peepers we are talking about, you should ideally replace them much more frequently. So if you stick your finger into your cream colours, get rid of it after 3 months. Change your applicator tips very regularly to reduce foreign germ invasion and extend their shelf life.

SKIN Trend: The familiar modern cat-eye flick of eyeliner and doll lashes are still in this season. What caught us off guard was the dramatic dark smokey metallics, which is rather unusual for spring.  For a more subtle way to shine, go for a reflective moonbeam wash of a white silvery metallic to perk up your eyes and brow bones as seen at Chanel and Ralph Lauren.



Lipsticks and glosses contain oily ingredients that will start to smell stale, like rancid cooking oil, after an average of 1 to 2 years. Another indicator of a lippie gone bad is when it gets hard and difficult to spread. A lip gloss will look yucky, streaky or globby on application.

SKIN Trend: Bright, red lips are all over the S/S runways, ranging from pop art crimsons to vintage vermilions. Pantone named an orange-red, the “Tangerine Tango”, the shade to embrace this year.



Nail lacquers are the energizer bunnies of the cosmetic world – they just keep going and going without becoming bad from bacteria. However, the nail polish will dry out even with best of care, with an average lifespan of about 1 year. It will appear thick and clumpy, with the pigments eventually settling along the bottom of the bottle. If it looks gone, give the bottle a good shake – if the two zones remain separated, you can pronounce it dead.

SKIN Trend: There is no faster way to update your looks for the New Year than a bright new nails. We love the various shades of violets that popped up at Dior, Derek Lam, and Prabal Gurung.

PS: Keeping your makeup brushes and sponges clean and in pristine condition is as important as refreshing your cosmetics. Don’t forget to go through your makeup tools too.


–  By Michelle Wenli