What Makeup Should You Probably Throw Away?

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I need to get rid of these

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I need to get rid of these

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We’ve all had to Old Yeller some of our dearly beloved products. Like so many beautiful things in life, the swirling colors of your bronzer and bold pigments of your night-out smoky eye shadow fade with time and use. Mascara dries out, tinted moisturizer oxidizes, and you’re left with some Sophie’s choices—what do you throw out and what do you keep? Then the follow-up reckoning: why do you keep it?

Maybe it’s that Bobbi Brown eyeliner you wore to prom but haven’t sharpened since graduation. You remember agonizing over Black or Black Brown. Now you agonize over throwing it out or building a little hyperbaric chamber to store it in forever, like David Duchovny’s hand in Zoolander.

There’s also the regrettable death of products that perhaps still had life left to live, but were cut down in their prime due to a sweeping purge in the name of Adulthood. No more shimmer! Matte everything! There’s goes your Nars Night Series Eyeshadow Singles and MAC Lipglass, innocent victims of a shinier era.

Then there’s the Bad Decision Purchase you just can’t let go. The bad-boy product you wish you knew how to quit. That very expensive but suspiciously brown-based nude-colored lipstick that you were on the fence about until the salesperson said you looked like Brigitte Bardot. The next thing you know, you’re teasing your hair in your bedroom mirror, slathering on that lipstick, selfie-ing away. Slowly, in the illusion-shattering light of #nofilter, the dormant, reality-sensing corner of your brain starts to send conflicting messages to the hotly active delusion-making center. Maybe you don’t look so much like Brigitte. It’s possible you’re bearing a striking resemblance to a zombie Hairspray extra.

And now that lipstick has been in a cabinet drawer next to your bathroom sink for, say, the entire Obama administration, expanding and sweating in the humid fog of your hot showers, contracting and chemically unraveling in the cold damp left behind. Every once in a while you take it out, roll it all the way up, and, if no one’s around, smell it. If there were a very floral funeral given for a beached whale, this is what that smell like. Let’s face it—you’d have one less problem without it.

Maybe you keep this product around because you think one day it will work out. Maybe you keep it around as a cautionary tale to yourself. Fool me once, shame on my devotion to certain beauty icons; fool me twice, uhh, well, shame on my persistent devotion to those icons. Fool me three times—OK, this is getting ridiculous.

And you don’t have to throw them all away at once. My mom still has one honorary eyeliner from her college days in the '70s. You hate to see 'em go, but you love to see them not infect your eyes anymore...

So tell me: What’s a product you keep around even though you know it’s maybe outlived its shelf life? No shame in admitting it.

—Trace Barnhill

Photo by Trace Barnhill.