How To 'Marie Kondo' Your Makeup Kit  

You’ve spring-cleaned your skincare, but is it time to take some advice from de-cluttering personality Marie Kondo? Ashleigh Cometti asks two experts for their top tips  

Burnt out candles act as ideal vessels to house makeup brushes. Photo / @beautylookbook

Japanese organising consultant Marie Kondo has built her business around helping people de-clutter their lives and discover what sparks their joy.  

Ask any beauty buff what sparks joy for them, and no doubt their answer will include a glittering eyeshadow palette, a selection of glossy lipsticks or a tray of punchy nail lacquers.  

But if you’re struggling to remember how long that palette or lipstick has lived in your bathroom vanity for, perhaps it’s time to toss it.  

Stuck under a mountain of makeup unsure of where to start? We chatted two makeup experts for their de-cluttering and organisation tips.  


Nandan Bhat, makeup artist for L’Oreal Luxe, says the same use-by symbol seen on skincare packaging also applies to makeup.  

Check the back of your product for the opened jar icon with either 3M, 6M, 12M, 24M or 36M inside. This indicates the number of months you can keep the item for from the moment of opening without it spoiling.  

READ: How to Simplify Your Wardrobe

  • Mascara: Three months 
    Nandan advises replacing your mascara every three months – even if the symbol says its safe to use within six months from the day the product is opened. This is because mascara tubes are a breeding ground for bacteria or other nasties that may build up over time. “Any longer than three months and you run the risk of irritation like styes or infections such as conjunctivitis,” Nandan says, adding that a sign that it's time to switch out your mascara is if the formula has gone clumpy on your mascara wand.   

  • Eyeshadow: Six months to 1 year  
    Another time to exercise caution with the use-by symbol is when it comes to powdered eyeshadows. Nandan says these should be replaced every six months to one year. “Most powdered eyeshadows have a recommended use-by of two years from the date of opening. However, powdered eyeshadows tend to be a little different to powdered face products as they are used around the delicate eye area which is more vulnerable to infection,” he says.  
  • Powdered products: 2 years  
    Extend the life of powdered products including blush, face powders and bronzers for up to two years by washing your brushes regularly. “Dirty brushes will transfer oils from the face onto the product, which cause a crust to develop onto your product. This will not only hinder colour pick up on your brush, but it will also mean wastage as the only way to get rid of said crust is to scrape it off and throw it away,” Nandan says.  

  • Foundation: 1 year  
    Most foundations will last for a minimum of 12 months from the date of opening, provided they are stored in a cool, dark place. It’s best practice to keep naked skin away from the neck of the bottle to avoid exposure to germs which can cause facial infections and irritations. Nandan recommends looking for a foundation with a pump lid which allows you to decant the amount you need without compromising the hygiene of the product. Signs to look out for that your foundation has gone bad is an unpleasant smell, or if the formula has separated. 
  • Cream-based products: Six to 18 months 
    Cream blushes, eyeshadows and highlighters can last anywhere between six and 18 months depending on the formula. In order to make your product last, Nandan says to avoid touching the cream product with your fingers to prevent bacterial contamination. Instead, use a clean spatula to decant the product onto the back of your hand, even if it come with its own applicator. If the cream texture has changed or solidified, the product has lost its colour or smells funny, it has past it’s best. 

  • Lip products: 2 years  
    Look after your lippie and it can last for up to two years. This varies from product to product, with liquid or matte lipstick lasting for less time than a satin or shine texture, for example. “If you find yourself dragging it to get any colour out at all, if your lipstick begun to melt or has started to smell a bit funky, these are good indicators your lipstick is off,” Nandan says. Lip liners tend to be more hygienic than lipstick, as they’re constantly being sharpened which scrapes the top layer of the product away.  

  • Nail lacquer: 1-2 years 
    A bottle of nail lacquer can last between 1-2 years, but this depends on its exposure to heat and light which shortens its lifespan quite a lot, Nandan says. “If you notice your nail polish going “goopy” and thickening or if it is a struggle to get a smooth coat out of it, it’s usually a good idea to replace it,” he says.  

Dispose of redundant items responsibly and recycle where possible. If you’ve been hanging on to an unopened product for far too long, consider spreading the joy to someone else – like a family member, friend or a charity. 

New Zealand charities including Soap For Society, Women’s Refuge and Dress For Success all accept new, unused makeup donations.  

READ: 4 Obstacles To Decluttering Your Home According to Marie Kondo


Nandan recommends washing your brushes every two to three weeks, any longer and he says you’ll risk too much brush build-up of product, oils from your skin, germs and dead skin cells. Ick.  

Brushes used for cream and liquid products need more frequent washing than brushes used for powders, Nandan says, but adds that for the sake of convenience it’s easier to wash them all together. A beauty blender is an exception to the rule, with Nandan explaining they need to be washed once a week.  

“The reason for this lies in the fact that most beauty blenders are best used damp. Once you’ve done your foundation and concealing with these, they’ll lie around damp most likely for the rest of the day, which makes them an ideal breeding ground for germs; mould in particular,” he says.  

Despite the many cleaning “hacks” on how to wash your brushes and sponges, Nandan says his preference is to use an antibacterial bar soap and tepid water. “It kills germs and there’s something very satisfying about seeing the dirt flow down the sink,” he says.  

Start by giving dirty brushes a rinse with tepid or lukewarm water until they’re wet through. Pay attention to temperature; Nandan says water that’s too hot will cause the brush hairs to become brittle and start to break or molt over time, while water that’s too cold will mean oils and products on brushes won’t budge.  

Next, run wet brushes over the antibacterial soap until a rich lather forms. “Really work the lather into the bristles until you’re satisfied that there’s no more product remaining,” Nandan says.  

Rinse the brush until the soap has washed away, then drain by squeezing the bristles together. Lie the brush flat on a towel to air dry overnight, then fluff out in the morning when bone dry.  

“Sponges and beauty blenders need a little more time and effort because they hold onto a lot of product,” Nandan says.  

To wash, allow your blender to absorb as much water as possible (try squeezing it under running water a few times), then rub every side of it over your bar of soap.  

When you’re satisfied that every edge is lathered up, rinse thoroughly making sure to squeeze every last bit of soap and product out. You will most likely need to repeat this process a few times – you will know when your sponge is properly clean when you squeeze and only water comes out. Leave to air dry.  

Brushes don’t last forever, and Nandan says the lifespan of your brushes depends on how frequently you use them. “Brushes you use around your eyes would need to be replaced more often than face brushes,” he says.  

“That said, any brush you’re using for a cream or liquid product, whether that’s liquid eyeliner, cream blush, highlighter or liquid foundation, should be replaced at least once a year due to bacterial build-up.”  

Brushes used for powdered products like eyeshadow, blush or face powder, need to be replaced every two to three years, or more often if they’re not being washed regularly.  

Signs to look out for that your brushes need replacing include bristles molting on your face, brushes losing shape even after washing and drying, discoloration of bristles, brittleness of bristles (they feel sharp and uncomfortable when you use them), or emitting a bad odour even after washing.  

Clear makeup drawers make for a pretty way to organise lipstick tubes and eyeshadow quads. Photo / Instagram


According to freelance makeup artist Carolyn Haslett, the first step in organising your makeup kit is cleaning each item – she says it may also help remind you of what you have in there and what you don’t use often.

“A lot of powders break or spill, so it’s nice to have a clean-up. While I’m doing this, I look at what colours or shades I’ve been using and I get rid of anything that hasn’t been used for a while,” she says.  

When you have your final edit of products, group together base makeup (foundations, concealers and primers), eye makeup (mascaras, eyeshadows and eyeliners), lip products (lipsticks, lip liners, lip balms), brow products and so on.  

READ: I Live In A One Bedroom Apartment: Here's How I Reorganised My Wardrobe In Lockdown

For shoots and studio jobs, Carolyn stores her kit in a M.A.C Zuca bag, which comes with clear plastic cases which she uses to organise her product groupings. “I have another bag with things like pigments or glitter, all things I wouldn’t use on a regular basis. I will quite often reduce my kit depending on the job I’m doing,” she says.  

At home, Carolyn stores her makeup in drawers away from sun and moisture to ensure products last the length of the shelf life listed on the back of the packaging. “I also have separate compartments in which I put all my extra eyeshadows, eyeliner pencils, face powders and blushers in – that way I can just go to the right compartment and it makes it easier to find specific products,” she says.  

If you’d prefer to keep your makeup collection on display, consider Perspex drawers or cylinders which are both practical and easy on the eye. If you’re into upcycling, consider storing makeup brushes in burnt out candle vessels or in a pencil case for on-the-go application.  

However you decide to store your kit, ensure makeup products are kept in a cool room out of direct sunlight, as the pigments in coloured products can be bleached by the sun or comprise their texture.  

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