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Conscious Cosmetics

We all have a drawer in our house where long-forgotten cosmetics find their final resting place— the makeup boneyard full of lipsticks, eyeliners and mascaras bought with the best intentions in mind but for one reason or another, are still around, collecting dust and probably growing bacteria.

Save your skin and the environment by purging your beauty stockpile every few months and recycling the products you’ve hung onto long after the expiration date.

Since most beauty products don’t come marked with a “best if used by” date stamped on the packaging, how do you know when your cosmetics have bit the dust and are no longer safe to use? It all depends, as different products have different shelf lives. Lipstick and lip gloss last up to two years depending on where they are stored, but it’s best to dispose of them after one year. Blush, eye shadow and other powder-based products last up to two years, much longer than their liquid-based counterparts, which should be replaced every six months to a year. Which beauty staple has the shortest life span? Mascara. The liquid base and pumping motion required to coat the wand make the tube a ripe breeding ground for bacteria. Experts recommend
tossing your mascara every three months. With all of this mind, check your products frequently for signs of decay. If anything is changing in consistency, color or smell, the safest route is to replace it.

“You can ship any brand’s empty containers to TerraCycle, where they will break them down into plastic pellets to make new recycled products.”

When it comes to disposal, there are plenty of earth-friendly ways to expel of your old products. Recycling your unwanted makeup has a significant impact on the environment, as improper disposal of cosmetics and toiletry items is the primary cause of contamination in fresh and ocean waters. Once you have determined what needs to go, carefully remove the product from its container and place the remnants in a sealed jar or package to send to the landfill. After you clean the container, you can either reuse or recycle it. Compacts can be creatively repurposed as traveling pill cases, emergency sewing kits or miniature paint palettes. Popular department store brand Origins has a recycling program where you can return any brand’s cosmetic packaging and containers, often for a free sample in return. Industry giant M.A.C. will give you a complimentary lipstick in exchange for six of their used product containers. Or you can ship any brand’s empty containers to TerraCycle, where they will break them down into plastic pellets to make new recycled products.

The best way to keep your beauty arsenal streamlined and your bathroom drawers clear of abandoned cosmetics is to arm yourself with the products that work for you and stick to ’em. If you are feeling adventurous and want to experiment with new looks, simply purchase with care; many brands, such as Bare Minerals, Stila and Trish McEvoy, sell refillable compacts and Estee Lauder even offers refillable lip, eye and brow pencils. After all, what could be more beautiful than taking care of Mother Earth?

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