How can I reuse or recycle … old cosmetics?

Make-upAfter the post on nail varnish last week – and after going through my old make-up collection to find supplies to accompany a friend’s (absolutely terrifying) Halloween costume for a party next week, I realised I’ve got quite a lot of make-up left over from back in the day when I wore it regularly and extensively.

Despite knowing that you should throw eye make-up away after a few months to prevent contamination, I didn’t ever actually do it so now have a number of old, but mostly full, tubes of mascara; a heap of pots of powder eye-shadow (singles and multiples); a pick-up-sticks worthy amount of eye and lip liner pencils; lipsticks of every hue (except the bright red we needed for the aforementioned Halloween costume); some bronzer balls from when I thought, incorrectly, I should rock the “bronze look”; and, some random cream things that I think were supposed to be used as eye make-up or blusher, or possibly both (an impulse buy for sure).

So any suggestions on what I can do with this stash? They’ve all been used in part so couldn’t go to a charity shop or the like – so any ideas for new uses?

(Original photo by val-j)

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46 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle … old cosmetics?”

  1. Victoria Finney says:

    kids…bored…entertainment! yay! Hours of peace and quiet.

  2. s0ndy says:

    Host a costume party, make the theme something ridiculous like ‘dance party or clown mania.’ It would be a great way for you to go crazy with your excessive stash of make up and you can do your friends make up too.

  3. anna says:

    I don’t know the answer, but surely there must be an option of creating paints?

    • M Bootle says:

      Not really creating them but you could probably added powdered blusher or eye shadow to a white paint to get a subtle – or not so subtle – matt colour. Might be a nice idea for a make-up loving teens room with shiiny lipstick coloured gloss work.

  4. Scott says:

    Give the lipstick to your local handyman or general contractor, who can use it to mark drywall for electrical boxes.

    Your neighborhood 10-year-old sleuth might be interested in the powdered eye shadow when learning to dust for fingerprints.

  5. Urm…. dressing up?

    God, my typing is crap today, i made 5 mistakes in that top bit, and probably loads more here!

    • Jo says:

      My heart goes out to you …Misspelling shame is one of the worst shames of all . (I know , ’cause I’ve tried out just about every type of shame . It did alot to help me retain a significant level of low self -esteem :) ) . My assignment , for both of us , is to purposely misspell every word , in all our e-mails this week ( except for the ones of professional concern ) . yeww must bee ovverr fortee to bbee suufffeerriiinngg ffrrumm thiz ,preooblemm :) . ffeww off thu unndder ffoorrttees , seemm too suufferrr frrum thhis tipe uff shaime . HHHAVVE FUNN ! ~ jO

  6. Amanda Kerik says:

    Most of the powders can be mixed with petroleum jelly to be made into eyeshadow / lipstick.

    Some people use lipstick as a tint when they’re making homemade lip balms.

    Clean the mascara off of the wands and use them as eyebrow brushes.

    I’ve heard of some people using the powders as tints in craft paints (usually white, but it would work with others I assume)

    Use them as semi-paints in crafts then spray with fixing spray.

    Most of the make-up has horrible chemicals in it – including formaldehyde!

    Maybe you could wet the powders down with water, let it dry and use it as chalk?

  7. sum1 says:

    you could melt all your lipsticks into a pot, and make a completley new lipgloss

  8. trish says:

    take an old pill box and put each lipstick in its own section, use a small lipstick brush to apply to your lips.

    compacts, keep them for the mirror, you can stash some cash in where the powder used to be.

    i’ve also heard of mixing the colors with a shortening, and using the coloring on your lips/eyes. i dunno if i’d want grease on my face though… maybe mix it with some facial lotion?

  9. Marissa says:

    Sometimes your local drugstore will recylce old lipstick contsiners.

  10. Trisha says:

    You can mix powders and eye shadows with polymer clay to give it a marbled look.

  11. Anonymous says:


  12. matty says:

    I think you should have a slumber party and put makeup on people and have some fun with you girls. ya that would be great wouldn’t it??

  13. Elouise says:

    I heard of a shelter for young women with HIV at which the caregivers were focus on restoring dignity to girls by doing their hair, faces, nails and so on. Why not offer unwanted cosmetics to shelters for women or hospices who have similar approaches?

  14. su says:

    I wonder if we could use them as art supplies. Lipstick and eye make up and everything else can probably be used as paint if it is mixed with other things like resin and varnish and whatever you make paint out of. I have been thinking the same thing. Eye pencils are also good for crayons and sketching, especially when they dry out. There are artists who use those sugar peeps to make art. Why not make up of all kinds?

  15. Beth says:

    You can use powdered eye shadows and blush to create gift cards! Take a rubber stamp of an image, stamp it on plain cardstock and use a brush to color in the image. it comes out soft, but layering makes it deeper/brighter. i do this with bird stamps

  16. lucy says:

    here r some tips on old “new” makeup.

    old or cracked blush:
    mix it with some aquafor or vasaline and it makes a shinny new lip gloss (or cream blush)

    to dark or to lights foundation:
    for when its to dark add a thick skin sensitve sunblock and for when its to light sprinkel in some powder bronser untill desired color.

    craked or old nude shimmery eyeshadow:
    mix with aquafor(not vasaline) to make a skin hilighter.

  17. Ruti says:

    You could use a make up brush to put your lipstick on, so that youuse up the very last bits – make up artists seem to do this anyhow.

    Any bronzers or powdered make up could be used for kids pictures – just use prit stick and you have a cheap alternative to glitter. You may want to fix it after though e.g. with hair spray or by laminating the finished piece.

  18. nishita says:

    what do you with used up containers?? like after the powder is done & done for what do you with compacts & mascaras?

    ive a good collection of these & im looking for a good way before i finally re-use them to make random stuff..

    • Jadah says:

      I found an article saying that Origins cosemtics stores and counters were taking any empty cosmetic containers and recycling them – in case you can’t find another way to reuse an empty container.

      (the article was titled “Recycle cosmetics cases at Origins” by Siel Ju on the Mother Nature Network –

  19. Becky says:

    Throw it out!

  20. Jessie says:

    Your old blushes can be used as nail polish all you do is mix a clear coat and the blush together and youll have your own nail polish

  21. Hannah says:

    M·A·C Cosmetics has a recycling program:

    “Because we share your commitment to the environment, M·A·C accepts returns of its primary packaging through the Back to M·A·C Program. By returning six [6] M·A·C primary packaging containers to a M·A·C counter or M·A·C Cosmetics online, you’ll receive a free M·A·C lipstick of your choice as our thanks to you.”

  22. laurel says:

    i use left over containers for paint, and the blush for the blush on clay crafts, and nail polish to make things stick, and shine with tiny confettie pieces u can now buy in the dollar stores, many uses for makeup, if u really thjnk of it…….

  23. Jean says:

    Donate your makeup to a local theatre group for their use-

  24. tara says:

    You can’t give old make-up new make-up uses because IT IS OUT OF DATE! yeah donate ruined make-up to hiv women, and to theather, make them get bacterias and all, who cares. Nice thing to do, for sure!

    You can save the wands and applicators of lip glosses, use the containers to put creams and stuf when traveling, use lipsticks and all maybe for candles or to give color to them, or for art work, to write on the walls or mirror, you can save the package for decorative uses or photoshoots. You can use loose powder containers to put glitter for example because they have little holes in them so it wont be all over the place…

    I think that is it. be special carefil with mascara. If it smells bad throw it away and wash the wand with sanitizer and alcohol and all that stuff.

    If the make-up is not out of date but you dont like it, then yes you can do all that stuff – donate or give another use as a cosmetic or body paint.

  25. Sheila says:

    I know this post is old but I wanted to share some ideas: I use empty eye shadow/blush/powder containers to hold mixed lip colors: I remove the metallic pan, place pieces of the lipsticks I want to mix in them (just cut a small amount off), hold the pan with tweezers over a lit candle and stir until they mix (never let them boil, and you can avoid the heating if the lipsticks are creamy enough), then let it cool down, leave it in the fridge for 30 min or so and glue the pan back in the container. It is also a good way to carry aroung diferent shades of lipstick, in an old pocket eye shadow box.
    And, as many other people sugested, you can also use the old shadows to make paint, mixing the colors with white glue (or any other suitable medium), or customize nail colors adding different shades of eye shadow.
    I once had to fix a little hole on a wall, and mixed eye shadow with that stuff you use to fill in holes and cracks (sorry, forgot how it´s called) till I got the exact same color of the wall, so i didn´t have to paint afterwards :)
    Hope someone finds this helpful :)

  26. Sheila says:

    Ups!!!!Forgot some things :)
    I also use an old big makeup container (the type that has “drawers” keeping shadows, lipcolors, etc, so you can keep many small things separated) to keep small jewelry, and an old pocket eye shadow container to keep the basic jewelry when i travel :)
    I think you could even use the small eye shadow containers (all of this, assuming you clean them well, of course) as a pill box…

  27. Joy says:

    The best thing to do, as many others have mentioned, is to make paints. Mix old lipstick with some gel or something similar to a fluid, and paint. Especially with horrible, bright colors that you can’t imagine it being flattering on anyone, might make for some good colors.

    Liquid liner, if it isn’t too runny, I heard makes some pretty nail art.

    The mascaras, after a year, aren’t going to be mascara. They will be pools of bacteria in a tube. Just save the brush. You can probably come up with something for those snazzy little brushes. Did the brush in Kool-aid and give streaks to a young girl’s doll’s hair.

  28. jah says:

    i use liquitex clear acrylic medium (comes in matte, semi, or gloss) mixed with various items (like pulverized eye shadows) to create paints. super easy & a 16oz bottle lasts ages~ also works as a paper glue & clearcoat ~one of my fave art supplies!

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  30. Laura Rowe says:

    Hi There

    You have probably sorted this out by now but if not then you should
    sell your old cosmetics on Ebay or have a car boot sale or jumble sale!

    That way they won’t go to waste and you will get some money back!

    If your mascara drys up, put a small touch of hot water in it, it will revive it!

    Good Luck


  31. Laura Rowe says:

    Hi There

    You have probably sorted this out by now but if not then you should
    sell your old cosmetics on Ebay or have a car boot sale or jumble sale!

    That way they won’t go to waste and you will get some money back!

    If your mascara drys up, put a small touch of hot water in it, it will revive it!

    Good Luck


  32. Sam says:

    I’ve tried selling partially used cosmetics on eBay. I don’t think they allow it. I also called our local shelter for abused women and they will take only new – nothing opened or partially used.

    I have so much makeup that I’ve barely touched…

    • aicardi says:

      If you have open or old make up that you don’t want to throw away you can always donate it to a funeral home . They can always use these products to make up the dearly departed.

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