Unused Beauty Products: What Can You Do With Them?

I currently use four cosmetic products, daily — foundation, setting powder, highlighter and mascara. This was not always the case. At one point, I owned [and used] it all — the Naked eyeshadow palettes, the Lipsense [ha, I sold it!], the eyebrow pencil, the concealer, all of it. In attempt to rid my bathroom of all the nonsense [plastic, non value-add items, unused, etc.], I cleaned out my cabinets. Ah, you guys, I use four products daily, four. And yet, I pulled 50+ items from my bathroom cabinet. Of those, I would guess half were either never opened or gently used. As it turns out, the average woman owns 40 cosmetic products at any given time, yet only uses five. I am not saying this made me feel better, because it didn’t. However, it did inspire me to figure out what I could do with all of these unopened lotion bottles, old mascara wands, half empty containers, etc. As I emptied by cabinet, I created a four different piles: landfill, donate, recycle, or use.


I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of products I could recycle (many of my old hair products or lotions). However, I would not describe my surprise as “pleasant” when I learned that many beauty products are considered hazardous waste. In fact, the EPA now considers personal care products a contaminate of emerging concern for aquatic life. All this time, I have been pouring random things down the sink without even thinking twice about where they end up (e.g., nail polish remover). It seems like such a “duh” moment that I feel silly for not realizing it sooner. A couple of thoughts went through my mind here, if we can’t throw it down the drain, is a landfill any better? The answer is eh, no, not really. BUT, there are two ways to make it a little less painful. One option is to pour all of your leftovers into one container and dispose directly into the trash (clean out and recycle the containers of those you can). The second option is to contact your household hazardous waste facility to determine what products they accept, some will take your cosmetics/beauty products. Note to self: if you only buy (or make) natural products, you won’t have to worry about this mess.


Speaking of recycling, most containers can be recycled (at least those in my cabinet). Normally, I would say RINSE before you recycle, but given what we now know from the above, I encourage you to WIPE what you can using an old rag. Once done, throw the rag away in the trash. Along the same line as recycling, be sure to reuse what you can, too. There were several bottles that I saved to use for homemade products like cleaners, cleansers, etc. I also saved my mascara wands for cleaning small spaces in my bathroom such as the shower or tile grout.


I mentioned that many items in my cabinet were unused. Well, I have been using my same four products for over last year, so something tells me that I won’t be using them anytime soon. Of those that are still in good shape, I plan to donate to Connections to Success, a local affiliate of the organization, Dress for Success. Dress for Success “is an international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” If you have read one of my previous posts, Defining Sustainability, you know that Gender Equality is a personal passion of mine — especially as it relates to women in the workforce. There are many other options for donating (e.g., local women’s shelter, Goodwill, or even organization’s helping to support those who have recently went through a natural disaster or another form of tragic loss). Prior to cleaning out my cabinet, a friend told me about Wands for Wildlife — an organization that accepts old mascara wands to help provide care to small animals. They have had such a positive response, they now only accept wands two times throughout the year (February & October).

Selling on online marketplaces such as Glambot, Poshmark, or Facebook are also a few options to consider. For me, selling stuff like this tends to become more of a nuisance and then I never actually get rid of it, so donation it is!


Okay, I went back and forth on this pile for a little bit. At first I felt like if I wasn’t using it now, I wouldn’t use it in the future. So, for this one, I was very selective. I kept a few oils, a moisturizer, apple cider vinegar and a cleanser — all items that I felt I could use (not full enough or of good enough quality to donate) rather than completely waste.

By the end, I had completely eliminated the use for one of my baskets (that was previously completely full). If I really wanted to, I could put the remaining items in a much smaller basket as well, but I am making do with what I have. What remains is a clutter-free, purposeful cabinet.

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