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As it takes a lot to find the perfect makeup – trial and error with concealers alone equates to more time than you care to admit – we tend to hold on to a good thing. As a result, our makeup bags become a catch all of brands, shades and expired products (which not only performs poorly over time but can wreak havoc on our skin!).
To help you spring clean your makeup bag – we consulted with celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg, known for her work with Kaley Cuoco, Chelsea Handler and Kristen Stewart among others, for pro advice. Dump out your bag, and let’s get started.
Brushes notoriously go unwashed as their cleaning is low on most of our priority lists. According to dermatologists and makeup artists, this contributes to bacteria buildup and skin issues. Jamie recommends cleaning (at least) every two weeks: Get them wet, then rub against a bar of soap – alternatively, you can also use brush cleaner or shampoo (just not the volumizing kind). Use your fingers to wring out water and product. Set the brushes over the sink’s edge to dry so that water does not collect (can cause damage to the wood and glue used to bind the base of the bristles). Apply this cleaning method to Beautyblenders as well.
Brushes notoriously go unwashed as their cleaning is low on most of our priority lists. According to dermatologists and makeup artists, this contributes to bacteria buildup and skin issues. Jamie recommends cleaning (at least) every two weeks.
As with any makeup, when brushes stop delivering results – when they fray, shed or lose shape – it’s time to replace them. Microbial-resistant sponges (such as Beautyblenders) last 3-4 months.
Brush up your collection with one – or all – of Jamie’s recommendations:
- Anisa Beauty Pinnacle Foundation Brush, $30
- Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Complexion Brush, $42
- Anisa Beauty Eye Treatment Brush, $18
- Jenny Patkin Luxury/Vegan All Over Face Brush, $30
- Smashbox Angled Blush Brush, $18
- Beautyblenders, $20
To avoid a makeup meltdown, we’re all about a tinted moisturizer for the warmer months. Along with light coverage, you get hydration and SPF in today’s phenomenal brands. But despite an attachment to these all-stars, toss and repurchase after 6-12 months. Visual cues and product performance – namely smell, consistency and distribution of color – can help guide lifespan as packaging and how you store product (in a cool, dry drawer vs. in your bag sitting in a hot car) are variable factors.
- Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint, $48 – A beloved brand among TQE editors, this tint boasts SPF 40 and features active levels of Hyaluronic Acid, Squalane and Niacinamide.
- Beauty Counter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer, $50 – This multitasking gem was just upgraded to include 8 flexible shades, incorporates responsibly sourced palm and organic vanilla and is delivered in a more sustainable package. The sheer coverage and mineral sunscreen with SPF 20 may have drawn us in, but it’s the Vitamin C and long-term effects for firmer skin that make this a year-round staple.
Thanks to dark circles since birth, concealer is my foremost go-to product. Hydrating and light-reflecting formulas offer coverage and a refreshed look, but concealers (and other cream-based products) have a shelf life. Replace every 6-12 months.
Jamie’s a loyal fan of the following:
- Tarte Shape Tape, $30 – Available in 35 shades, this award-winning (Allure Magazine and my own testament) brand provides full coverage without creasing or caking. Shea butter, mango butter and licorice root contribute to the flawless finish.
- Ilia True Skin Serum, $30 – Available in 20 shades and enriched in skincare ingredients (stabilized Vitamin C, Mastic and Albizia Julibrissin Bark Extract), you get beautiful correction and coverage that blends seamlessly into skin.
I have also tried – and loved – Merit's The Minimalist ($38) for my undereye woes. I buy multiple shades (of the 20 available) to accommodate shifts in my skin tone over the seasons.
Of all the makeup in your bag, mascara is the most crucial to keep current. It’s prone to bacteria growth since it’s wet and has proximity to your eyes – and with it, the risk of spreading bacteria to eyelids and eyeballs as you apply makeup – the consensus is to replace mascara after 3-6 months.
Jamie is loyal to a brand I also covet:
- Thrive Causemetics Mascara, $24 – Aptly named “Liquid Lash Extensions” and available in three shades (Rich Black, Brown Black, Deep Blue), this mascara is invincible. It does not smudge, clump or flake even through my fullest days; despite its staying power, it washes off easily at night.
While I live in Thrive mascara, another fun favorite is LoveSeen, the $20-24 false eyelashes designed by the woman “who dresses America” (yes, Jenna Lyons). And with the right tools (Duo Glue, $9 and The Lash Tool, $20), you don’t need Jamie’s expertise to apply.
Blush & Multi-Purpose Products
While the guidelines advise powder blush (and pressed powders) be replaced every 12-18 months, creamy products have a shorter shelf life of (at most) 12 months. In both cases, clean brushes to avoid contamination. Jamie’s favorite is 100% clean and carbon neutral, and made with love:
- Jamie Makeup Blighlighter, $34 – Available in five shades (nude, cherry, coral, pink and penny), Jamie’s “blush meets highlighter” makes cheeks glow and beautifully layers for dimension. It’s so fun to use – I love to experiment with the shades and use my fingers (brushes are welcome but not necessary!) to apply on cheeks, lips, eyes. And this hydrating beauty has staying power. “Dab a little, blend a little and you glow,” Jamie says.
Eyeshadow, especially the powdered variety palettes, can be an investment, so you will be relieved of its lengthy shelf life of two years; water-based or cream brands have less longevity as they can contain oils, which break down product faster.
Jamie’s makeup kit includes these beauties:
- Kosas 10-Second Eye, $15 – This clean eyeshadow applies like a gel watercolor to make eyes pop, while still being infused with skincare ingredients (shea butter, jojoba oil and more).
- ATHR Beauty Palettes ($20/quads; $48/10-shades) – A gorgeous brand obsessed with sustainability and clean beauty innovation – it was the first zero waste eyeshadow palettes in the industry – Athr has incredible shade ranges all featuring skincare benefits. Jamie is ever so slightly obsessed with the latest palette, The Citrine Crystal Eyeshadow Quad, that delivers on the brand’s “one swipe payoff.”
Given the predominance of wax (and absence of water where bacteria tends to grow) in lipstick, it has a longer shelf life than glosses or balms. Feel free to keep your favorite shades 1-2 years, watching for texture changes or a change in smell. Err on the earlier side of this timeframe for replacing lip glosses and balms as they are exposed to air and bacteria from wand and finger application.
Jamie is a huge fan of light balms or glosses, particularly those with healthy ingredients to smooth lips. Among them:
- Kjaer Weis, $30 – Organic, high pigment lipsticks in nourishing formulas.
- Joah Beauty Glassify High Shine Lip Gloss, $7.99 – Infused with Vitamin E and avocado oil for a hydrating high shine.
- Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain, $32 – Multipurpose beauty rich in botanicals from a clean beauty OG.
Skincare is the Best Foundation
This beauty writer could not address makeup without broaching our most important tool – healthy skin. Sarah Uslan, a Bobbi Brown makeup artist protégé now skincare entrepreneur, reiterated that while tossing expired makeup is vital to our hygiene, our beauty is tied to prepping skin before makeup. “If your skin is lacking hydration, moisture and luster then anything applied over will fall flat. If skin is dehydrated or dry, I use my LULA Potion ($125) and give a little lymphatic facial massage to plump up the skin. I always prefer to create through skincare versus layers of makeup.”