How to Organize Your Makeup – My Tips & Tricks

Makeup Organization
NARS Lip Pencils in 4″ square Linus Deep Drawer Organizer

Over the years, the key to finding organization solutions that work has been finding ones that are scalable, not too expensive (as affordable as storage things can be, which is always a challenge!), and enduring–something that will continue to be made over the years.  I use large chest of drawers as the general storage system, and then I use individual drawer organizers to keep everything under control inside.  I’d also love to hear how you keep your stash organized! :)

So, if you’re interested in what I’ve found to work best after years of trying… 

One of the best solutions I have found are the Linus Shallow and Linus Deep Drawer Organizers available at The Container Store. These are miracle workers, because they’re available in so many sizes, and as they come in short and tall heights, even more versatile. They can work in many different places, whether they’re inside bathroom drawers, vanities, on tabletops (like your desk), filing cabinets, and many drawer systems.  You can definitely find similar organizers at home goods stores or even dollar stores.  The main advantage of the ones I use is just that they come in a lot of sizes, and you can always get them (or more).  I use these all over my house, too!

Drawer Organizer Sizes & Most Popular Uses

  • 3″ sq. (Shallow) — not recommended for makeup; works well for hair ties, rings, very small things
  • 4″ sq. (Deep) — lipglosss, eyeliners, eyeshadow pencils, cream eyeshadows, lipsticks
  • 3″ x 6″ (Shallow) — eyeliners, liquid eyeliners, lipglosses, lip balms, small compacts (think a MAC/Urban Decay eyeshadow)
  • 6″ sq. (Shallow) — virtually anything! often use these for cream eyeshadows, larger bronzer/blush compacts, lipsticks (stood up), lipglosses (stood up)
  • 6″ sq. (Deep) — same as the shallow version, just taller sides, and I use it similarly, though I often use this size for standing glosses or lipsticks up
  • 4″ x 8″ (Deep) — a taller, slightly wider medium rectangle that is excellent for holding larger compacts, like eyeshadow quads, blushes and bronzers, etc. (MAC MSFs, Chanel quads, Dior quads all fit perfectly in this width); also excellent for lipglosses if you want to stand them up (taller sides)
  • 3″ x 12″ (Shallow) — small compacts (most eyeshadow compacts fit, like Bobbi Brown, MAC, MUFE, UD), smaller blushes (MAC blushes fit, for example), lipsticks (stood up), lipglosses (stood up or lying down with two “sets” lying down with labels facing outward)
  • 4″ x 12″ (Deep) — a longer version of the 4″ x 8″, it just holds more of the same; this is one of the sizes I use most often
  • 6″ x 9″ (Shallow) — again, anything, as it’s a medium rectangle in size; I often use one of these for brands I don’t have a lot of products for, as I can fit an assortment of products together in it
  • 6″ x 12″ (Shallow) — a larger version of 6″ x 9″–just longer–so it fits a slew of things; I use them often for cream and powder eyeshadows
  • 6″ x 15″ (Shallow) — the largest rectangle-shaped drawer available; I don’t use this as it doesn’t fit my system (mine fits 12″ with about 3/4″ to spare)
  • 4″ x 16″ (Deep) — a longer version of the 4″ x 12″ — as it is too long for my system, I don’t have any of these but they would work similarly to the others! Great for larger compacts, blushes, quads, palettes, etc.

I cannot sing the praises of these drawer organizers enough. They’re like puzzle pieces, as they can slide along each other, fit around an assortment of sizes–you can compartmentalize the drawer just as you need it to be but have completely independent units. They also stack! Depending on the drawer height you have, you can stack them. Like cream eyeshadows, you may want them all facing up so you can see the colors, and because cream eyeshadows are so short, you can easily nest the same size right on top.

Makeup Organization Tips

Determine how you’re sorting everything, whether that’s by brand, color, type, limited edition vs. permanent, or whatever the case may be. The more you have, the more likely you’ll need to refine on at least two levels (e.g. brand, then type; or type then color). Really think about how you select your makeup each time you want to apply it; do you pull a few products out at the beginning of the week? do you think, “Oh, I need a coral blush!” because you want to create a system that makes it easier and more efficient for you to grab what you need when you want it.  I organize by: brand, formula/type, limited edition/permanent, name (I alphabetize a lot of products). I dream of doing more by color, and some brands are better organized than others!

Make labels and/or colors visible for easy access! Sometimes labels are the easiest to see (like for lipsticks/lipglosses), other times you can see the color (like with cream eyeshadows, sometimes the side or the bottom). For products that you can’t see the labels, you can get a label maker and label the side that is shown. Right now, I alphabetize the majority of the compacts, which keeps me in the right area.

Keep basics handy! Things like foundation, primer, moisturizer, etc. that you use regularly and often use the same shade/product, consider keeping altogether in a single organizer or separated from everything else. On the flip side, anything that’s really “special occasion” or something you know you wear once or twice a year, you might store elsewhere.

Save money by reusing tins, bins, jars, empty candle jars, etc. to store and hold your makeup. Cutlery/silverware drawer organizers are also useful for storing makeup if you don’t mind single units with multiple compartments. (I used to use these, but I like being able to swap and customize as needed.)

Give away, recycle, or throw away anything that you know you’re not using and will never use. Every time I do a major reorganization, I go through and purge entire brands at a time based on what makes sense to keep for future comparisons (some brands just aren’t as referred to as others).  What I can donate, I donate; anything else gets passed on to friends and family.  I do the same every six months or so with products that I haven’t reviewed yet as well.

Have a small bin/container for new/used-but-not-put-back makeup so you can put it in a designated space, and then when you have time, you can put everything where it belongs.

Storage System: Ikea Besta

I use large Besta drawer systems to hold all of my makeup, except nail polishes (which can fit in the drawers, but I use something else for nail polishes in particular). The Besta system is extremely customizable, and when I decided I wanted a permanent system, I spent two and a half hours working with an Ikea employee to design the system I use. The most time-consuming aspect was figuring out exactly how many drawers would fit and ensuring that they would fit perfectly. There are smaller Besta units available, too, so you may look into those as other options. You can also opt for larger (they will be taller) drawers, fully-extending drawers (too expensive when you need 16 of them!), glass doors, shelves, etc. You might even get a similar-sized unit to this one but opt for 8 drawers and then four shelves with glass doors on one side (better for hair products, skin care, etc.).  If you live near an Ikea, you can actually get Ikea Family pricing on the Besta system and its many parts/accessories, which is 10-15% off.

  • Besta Shelf Unit (Article #501.021.38) x 1 (Link)
    • For a unit that’s half the width and would fit 8 drawers, consider Article Number: 101.021.35
  • Inreda Drawer Without Front (Article #901.812.23) x 16 (Link)
    • Make sure the size is 23 5/8 x 2 3/4 x 15 3/4″
  • Besta Tofta Drawer Front (Article #301.784.07) x 16 (Link)
    • You can choose your finish; I have high-gloss black, but you can get regular wood for less ($5 to $10 less per drawer front)
    • Make sure the size is 23 5/8 x 6 1/4″
  • Besta Leg, Square, Chrome Plated (Article #801.341.90) x 3 (3 2 packs, 6 legs total) (Link)
    • Two on left, two on right, two in the middle for support

There is also the Ikea Alex system, which is an excellent system that’s a set of tall, narrow drawers, and it’s nice that it comes exactly as is–no configuring necessary. The Alex is available in white, in either a set of five or nine drawers, as well as a wider six-drawer unit that also comes with wheels, and the wider version is available in black or white. I have the wider six-drawer unit in black. I opted against the nine-drawer unit because a lot of the furniture in my home is from Ikea, and all of my Ikea furniture is in black-brown. The other drawback is that the Alex has short and tall drawers, and a lot of glosses can’t fit standing up in the shorter drawers. The drawers in my Besta system are all the same except the very top and very bottom drawers, which are about 1.5″ shorter–but they can accommodate most glosses, just not some of the exceptionally tall ones. I recommend the Alex for anyone who likes white furniture (or is willing to paint!) and doesn’t need a lot of height per drawer.

For nail polish, I use Ikea Helmers. They’re just total space-savers and get be loaded up with polishes. They’re available in red, gray, and white, and each unit has six drawers. Ideally, you’ll want to lay down a sheet of shelf liner to minimize polishes (or anything else) shifting. Each unit holds between 500 and 800 polishes, depending on the size of the bottles.  If you have the wall space and have less than 100 or so polishes, you might like a nail polish rack, so you can display them and see everything at once.  They can look really pretty, but they aren’t the most practical solution if you have a lot of polish!  Michael’s also has crafting drawer sets (often referred to as Melmers) that may be more accessible, but you’ll want to wait for a coupon. They’re stackable, and there’s a whole crafting organizational system that goes along with it, but I don’t have any personally so I can’t tell you much  more!

Makeup Organization
An array of drawer organizers

Makeup Organization
NARS Lip Pencils in 4″ square Linus Deep Drawer Organizer

Makeup Organization
NARS  Eyeshadows (Singles) in 3″ x 12″ Linus Shallow Drawer Organizer

Makeup Organization
NARS Blushes in 4″ x 12″ Linus Deep Drawer Organizer

Makeup Organization
Make Up For Ever Aqua Creams in a 6″ x 12″ Linus Shallow Drawer Organizer

Makeup Organization
Estee Lauder Lipsticks & Lipglosses in a 6″ x 9″ Linus Shallow Drawer Organizer

Makeup Organization
Urban Decay Lip Pencils & Lipsticks in 2 x 3″ x 9″ Linus Shallow Drawer Organizers

Makeup Organization
Urban Decay Eyeshadows in 6″ x 12″ Linus Shallow Drawer Organizer

Makeup Organization
Giorgio Armani ETK Eyeshadows in 2 x 6″ x 12″ Linus Shallow Drawer Organizers – Stacked!

Makeup Organization

MAC  Lipsticks in 6″ x 12″ & 3″x12″ Linus Shallow Organizers

Makeup Organization
MAC Dazzleglasses in 4″ x 12″ Linus Deep Drawer Organizer

Makeup Organization
Make Up For Ever Aqua Creams in a 6″ x 12″ Linus Shallow Drawer Organizer (stacked)

Makeup Organization
shu uemura & Shiseido assortments 6″ x 9″ Linus Shallow Drawer Organizer

Makeup Organization
A drawer with no organizers–reserved for Urban Decay palettes

Makeup Organization
Urban Decay Lip Pencils & Lipsticks (each in 3″ x 6″), Lipglosses (6″ square) Shallow

Makeup Organization
bareMinerals/Buxom — drawer overview to see how the various sizes fit together!

Makeup Organization
Ikea Besta Storage System I Use — 16 Drawers