Makeup with longest shelf life
April 18, 2016 3:30 PM   Subscribe

My little bottle of foundation is four years old and barely used. I put on full makeup maybe five times a year. What specific type and brand of makeup will stay stable for multiple years, or barring that, is sold in tiny enough amounts that I will use it up and feel like the cost was justified?

I wear lipstick for fun and don't use eye makeup for various reasons so this question is really just about foundation and concealer.

Trying to do research on this myself just leads to beautyspam sites telling me to toss everything after a year, and that is not what I'm looking for at all.

Right now I use L'oreal true match liquid foundation with the stick concealer and the powder compact for finishing. I am a good match for their N2 and N1 shade -super pale and neither cool nor warm in undertone. I have combination skin with the occasional breakout and stubborn dark hair but I'm not really fussed about it.

I really only wear foundation for occasions when I know there will be lots of pictures taken or if I have big honking zits and want to put on some extra armor before leaving the house. This means, max, a dozen days a year, and I don't ever use much makeup since I tend to feather it out from my concealed spots to bare skin instead of going full face.

I have only ever used drugstore brands of foundation and concealer, but I am willing to try fancier stuff if it means not throwing out a nearly full container of foundation because it has oxidized and separated. I have never tried mineral makeup but I feel like that would be really bad with my hairy dry weird face, but maybe it will last longer? Maybe an oil based makeup stored in the fridge? But I'd look like a confused thespian in person, right?

I've thought about looking for sample size things, but that is kind of unusual for foundation and I wouldn't get a reliable match for my skin. Also, I stress out pretty big about traveling for big photographed occasions so having to go hunting for makeup before each time would be a terrible burden. I would much rather have a reliable standby I can just have in storage or order when needed.
posted by Mizu to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I imagine that mineral makeup might be your best bet as it is a powder, it seems much more inert than liquid foundation.
posted by nanook at 3:38 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

The shelf life for mineral powder foundations is much longer than liquids, and paired with a primer (which usually comes in tiny bottles) the coverage is just as good if not better. The best strategy for dry skin (which I also have) is moisturizer + primer + foundation + finishing spray. The makeup doesn't move, it doesn't look caked, and it's not drying.
posted by xyzzy at 3:38 PM on April 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

Sephora let's you get samples of pretty much anything - even foundation (they put the makeup in cute little bottles). They also have a face scanner thingy that helps match you with makeup that matches your skin tone.
posted by littlesq at 3:40 PM on April 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

Powders do stay safer for longer and they can be sanitized with a wash of the applicator and a spray of the make-up's surface with 91% rubbing alcohol. They can oxidize and turn unwanted colors more with age, though. If you're using so little, better to just get some testers at Sephora when you need them. The sample sizes are enough for several applications.
posted by quince at 3:52 PM on April 18, 2016

Stowaway has high quality make-up in small sizes, if you don't want to go the Sephora sample route. I found out about it via the blog Reading My Tea Leaves, which had a discount code as of late March (not sure if it's still usable). Their basic kit is BB cream, concealer, cheek/lip pot, lipstick, eyeliner, and mascara for $75.

I haven't used it very much (I use makeup maybe once a week?), but I'm finding the quality very high, and the small size/miminalistic approach awesome.
posted by Jaclyn at 4:01 PM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you could just get samples. If you're not particular about brand, find someone who sells Avon and pay her the cost of a pack of samples in your shade.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:43 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd buy foundation in a pump -- or transfer it to one I'd sterlised -- and use that, and wipe off my concealer stick with rubbing alcohol after each use, and keep using it until the colour went off or it otherwise became clearly unusable. Perhaps use a loose powder and dump a bit in your hand and brush out of that instead of using it directly from a container. Just minimise contamination to a reasonable degree and forget about it -- yes, I think it's probably a good idea to throw out liquid eyeliners etc eventually, but I really don't think anything bad is going to happen if you occasionally use old face make-up that still looks as you expect it to look.

I have LancĂ´me and Stila and Lorac foundations slightly older than my 8yo daughter that still look like they're supposed to look like, but I don't think that's anything to do with the brand; I think it's more because they're in pump bottles and stored in an opaque box (and thus forgotten about, but when I remember them they're as good as new).

The idea that stuff like shampoo and lotion and blush has an expiration is all pretty new. Previously it was "oh, it's separated/clumpy/smells funny" and that was good enough. Risks involved in using old face make-up are very low. Certainly most of us would have figured out what those risks might be when we were kids and our mothers gave us a less-than-ideal shade of something to play with, and we hung on to it for years -- and perhaps even put it on our friends at sleepovers -- and strangely I don't remember any dermatological nightmares resulting from that, and we certainly didn't go around spritzing things with rubbing alcohol, let alone cleaning our ratty brushes or grubby fingers before application...
posted by kmennie at 4:58 PM on April 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would go with a stick foundation - makeup forever has a really good one. After you put it away wipe it down with some alcohol and it should be good for a while.
posted by SassHat at 5:43 PM on April 18, 2016

Seconding samples. I bet you could get two full uses from what Sephora gives you, for something like foundation, and I guarantee if you go back in a few months later no one will ever say, "Hey now, weren't you here a while back asking for a sample of the EXACT SAME THING?? SHAME!" (The mark-up on those products is obscene and it's totally within store policy to give out samples, so I don't lose any sleep doing this from time to time, especially considering what I've legitimately spent there over the years...)
posted by lovableiago at 6:39 PM on April 18, 2016

I agree with kmennie about pump bottles keeping makeup usable longer. I usually have 3-4 different foundations, and use them little enough that one could last 4 years. Even if my hands have just been washed, I introduce contaminents every time I touch the opening of the bottle. Even if I just poured out a couple of drops at a time, there'd be air going in, shortening the life of the makeup with every whiff.

One pump makeup, MAC Pro Longwear, is kind of hard to blend in the best of circumstances. If I don't use it for a very long time, the pigments separate, with the white ingredients sinking to the bottom. Shaking fixes it, but not without a lot of effort. I try to remember to shake the bottle every few months, instead of waiting till I actually want to put the makeup on my face.

If a makeup still smells okay but has gotten a little thick, you can mix it with some moisturizer and/or wet your fingers or brush at the time you apply it.
posted by wryly at 7:50 PM on April 18, 2016

Mineral makeup- no water for anything to grow in. Anything with oils or water can grow bacteria, go rancid, dry out, or separate. I buy from independent sellers who use quality ingredients, such as Meow and Silk Naturals. some of their products are sold in sample sizes. Their prices are far better than large brands' mineral makeup as well.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:59 PM on April 18, 2016

Any brand of powder foundation will last years. You toss makeup for mainly two reasons: it's gone off and won't serve it's purpose anymore (eg changes color or texture or consistency) or because it might be full of bacteria that's harmful to you (and in the context of foundation, this usually just means causing a breakout). If you have a powder foundation it can last years before it changes. If you use loose powder you can keep bacteria from being introduced by tapping out the amount you need (rather than sticking a brush or whatever straight into the container) and with pressed powder you can just scrape off the top layer if you think it's getting manky.
posted by Polychrome at 3:27 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can switch to a bb cream moisturiser for most of your foundation and reduce your need there to just samples too. L'oreal makes a nice bb cream with spf that smooths into thin sort of foundation and costs about the same as regular face moisturizer.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:55 AM on April 19, 2016

Thanks for your input, y'all.

I'm not concerned about bacteria, just about pigment and texture changes from things separating and fading and oxidizing, which happens with my powder makeup even when I am meticulous about storage and brushes and all that within about two or three years. Not enough to get all worked up about, but enough to want to spend some time finding a better way.

Unfortunately I don't think Sephora samples will work in the long run for me. Too many times I have gotten a product from them, come back in a year and they have changed formulas or application or shades and I have to go through the whole thing over again. Also on bad face days when putting on makeup helps me leave the house, having to go get some samples would be impossible. So I'll probably go and pick up some stuff to play around with but I'll be looking elsewhere for makeup to keep on-hand.

Thank you for the link to Stowaway, Jaclyn. That is almost exactly what I was looking for. I will probably order some things from them soon. I do have reservations about how few shades they offer for BB cream and concealer, so I'll look for some reviews and wait for another coupon, but it definitely seems worth a try.
posted by Mizu at 2:50 PM on April 21, 2016

So I'll probably go and pick up some stuff to play around with but I'll be looking elsewhere for makeup to keep on-hand.

Can I make a specific recommendation I think you might like? Ask for a sample (they may even have deluxe samples, although possibly not in a shade light enough) of Cover FX Custom Cover Drops. This is my new "foundation"--it's actually a pure liquid pigment that you mix into whatever you use on your face (moisturizer, sunscreen, serum) to tint it. The coverage can be like a sheer tinted moisturizer if you mix in one drop, up to a full-coverage foundation (or even concealer) if you mix in 4 drops, and anywhere in between. So it's like having the benefits of a full suite of makeup with different coverage options, but just in one small bottle. And because it's a pigment rather than a full formulation, I suspect it may have a longer shelf life than foundation (but I haven't had mine long enough to verify this).

The downside as you'll see in the reviews is that the bottle is pretty cumbersome and messy. I keep meaning to transfer some of mine to a small eyedropper bottle. If you do that the rest of the bottle will theoretically last longer because it won't be exposed to air or contaminants as frequently.
posted by mama casserole at 6:57 AM on April 22, 2016

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