As new beauty products release at an ever increasing pace, sometimes it can get easy to forget what we have or favor new purchases over long-time favorites and other past purchases. Whether you have a streamlined set of products or everything but the kitchen sink, I think there’s a tip that just might help you get a little more enjoyment out of the makeup products you already have. I’ve broken out my tips and tricks based on what might be the roadblock to using more of what you have already. These are exercises in “shopping your stash” but look at reasons for doing so that go beyond saving money (or just not acquiring more products).
What is shopping your stash anyway? Instead of purchasing something new and shiny, you turn to what you own to find something similar or a combination of products that can achieve a similar effect or look, and it also works for those who often find themselves wanting something new but are trying to reduce purchases. It’s really about using what you have to satisfy your current needs or wants.
The Concern: Same Look, Different Day
Whether by design or nature, if you’ve found yourself reaching for the same products day in and day out but have other products in your collection that you’re not using, this section is for you! Whether you’re stuck in a rut, faced with too many possibilities, or need to have easy and quick looks for school or work… I hope some of my advice will encourage you to expand your reach a little bit more.
REMINDER! There’s nothing wrong with wearing the same look every day so long as you enjoy that — but then you might want to consider decluttering your stash of products far outside that look you normally wear (read my post on curating a more mindful collection here).
Create New Go-To Looks
If you enjoy makeup beyond its functionality, it shouldn’t be a hardship to sit down at other times–weekends, evenings, days off–and play around. When you’re someone who tends to go for a similar look or use the same set of products very frequently, experimenting with new shapes, placements, and products is good to do outside of crunch time. It’s better to play when you have more time to do so, and you don’t have to worry about running late to work or having to go into work with a look you might not be happy with.
By setting aside some time to play, you can more mindfully create a new look or three that you like and enjoy and can then implement on a more regular basis. Think of it as creating a catalog of looks you can go to over and over again on the fly instead of just one. You don’t have make drastic changes; it can be as simple as going through your collection and realizing there are a few options for achieving similar looks.
I’m going to use neutral looks as my example, as I think it’s likely more relevant for this particular concern, but it should illustrate the point and can be applied to anyone who keeps going back to the same look, whether neutral or bold.
Breakdown the look you keep going back to.
Let’s think about why this look has become a go-to, because if you love it, and you feel happy in it, there’s no need to change it up unless you want to, but if you feel like you’re stuck with it, then that’s reason to deep dive into it and see what we can tweak. Next, break down the components of that look and determine which areas you want to keep as part of future go-to looks.
The areas where you feel like there’s nothing you want to change, think of as part of your makeup routine and often can be pulled out of the go-to look and used with something else. For many, it is likely to be using a particular foundation, concealer, or mascara; these are not things that need to change often or at all.
General components you’ll want to parse through:
- Base products — what are you happy with, what is working, what isn’t working, whether you have any desire to experiment with other combinations of products or finishes
- Cheek products — are you more the type that has one or two “universal” products that go with all looks or do you pick based on what else is on your face (eyes/lips)
- Lip products — what do you need a lip product do, how well does your current one meet that need/function, do you have others that can replace the functionality (not just the color)
- Eye products — how much time does it take presently to apply them, how is the placement working for you, what’s more important: changing colors, finishes, and/or placement, what expectations you have for brows (do you change them based on the makeup style you’re going for)
Play with different aspects of your go-to look to create new go-to looks.
Once you’ve established what parts of your look are actually part of your makeup routine, then the parts that are more fluid are the areas you can focus on changing, however subtly or dramatically you’re comfortable with. You might be someone who used to rock a neutral eye, smokey eye, and a green lip in the same week and have fallen into a rut, but you might be someone who only wears neutrals and so changes for you will be less dramatic to an outside observer (but may be quite dramatic for you!).
Go lighter or darker. Whether we’re talking about color on the eyes, cheeks, or lips, you can easily alter the effect of a look simply by making any one area lighter or deeper. For example, if you tend to wear soft browns on the eyes, barely-there blush on cheeks, and a rosy color on the lips, just switching out the lip color for a deeper pink, mauve, plum, or going for the gusto with a bold red, the look becomes richer and more dramatic as the contrast has increased. You can go for a deeper cheek color, perhaps dropping the placement slightly, and get more depth and contouring as a result. You can lighten the shades you use on your lid for a more brightening effect.
Layer a new product over your go-to. This works well for cheek colors and lip colors, such as adding a different highlighter over your blush or a gloss over your go-to lip color. Again, this can be a subtle way to change the overall effect of a look without making a major commitment to change.
Try a new placement. You can apply blush lower or higher to see if you prefer a different placement, or you could try the halo effect or a cut-crease on the eyes.
New products, same (or similar) look. For those who have the products in their stash to do so, sometimes you can change the way the look comes out just by changing the products you use to achieve them. This works in two ways; one, we’re getting more use out of the products we already own, and two, we’re more likely to get a little more excited and inspired by working with a different product. I’d highly suggest that if you’re favoring a certain set of neutrals, try looking for other neutrals in your collection and create new pairings using them, even if the “look” ends up being similar.
Improve accessibility of your go-to products.
One of the reasons we have go-tos is because they’re foolproof: reliable, easy to use, and they work well. There might be a whole slew of products that fit this criteria but haven’t been set aside or organized in a way that makes them as accessible as your current go-tos.
Consider organizing by functionality, like having everyday essentials separated out!
Create a space for products by function. For me, I have a vanity with two pull-out drawers, which houses a lot of basics and a few favorites, whereas most of the makeup I have resides in larger, dresser drawers. In the vanity, I have an assortment of cheek products that work well for most looks or shades in formulas that are very easy to use–like a very blendable blush that can be built up or applied sheer. My idea of “go-tos” is probably one person’s collection, but the concept is the same: pull out favorites and make them more accessible. If you can save yourself five minutes of having to contemplate and find five products, you’ll be more apt to use them. Here are some ways to organize by function:
- Every day essentials — foundation, concealer, powder, etc. (these are products that are part of your makeup routine!)
- Work (or school) day essentials — products that you know are perfect for achieving the look(s) you need for work or school, often delivering on time-savings or efficiency
- Playtime favorites — products you love but don’t fit your day-to-day requirements (e.g. you can’t or won’t wear blue lipstick to work)
- By look — if you have the products, you can easily create pre-made “sets” of all the products you need to create your favorite looks, so you can just pull out the “set” easily and get to it
- Weekday lip colors — arrange a variety of lip products you feel you could easy incorporate into your typical looks so you can easily pull a different one to wear more frequently (instead of just the one in your makeup bag!)
Stay organized, period. I have a write-up on how to organize your makeup collection here, so I’ll keep this short and sweet: the more organized you are, the easier it is to know what you have so you can use what you have. How you organize has to make sense to how you think about products, how you reach for them, and what you use more often and what you use less often (but still makes sense to keep).
The Concern: I’m Overwhelmed by Choice
Lucky you! I know it might not feel that way… but seriously, having choices is a matter of thinking a little more clearly and consciously through the choices but you have them. They’re there. You just have to see through the “forest” (of palettes, probably) to see the trees, you know?
Have you cleared out the noise? Sometimes, the choices feel overwhelming partially because there’s a lot of noise: products that you don’t love, don’t work as well for you as you’d like (maybe they take too much work to get right), and so forth. Read my post on curating your collection here.
Rethink how you organize your products.
If you’re overwhelmed and can’t figure out what to use (and then just default to what you currently have out or have been using), it might mean that your organization system isn’t working for you the way that it should. Ideally, your organization system would let you recall what you have, where it is, and allow you to quickly access each product on the fly. However, you might have missed how you think about products and as a result, haven’t organized in a way that coordinates with your thought process.
For example, in those rare moments where the world’s my oyster and I can choose anything I want to wear, I usually start with eyes. More often than not, I’ll choose a brand, then either a palette by the brand or their singles (the latter of which I often have arranged by color). For me, I love playing with eye makeup over all else, so that’s the area I’ll change up the most frequently. I keep palettes I like to revisit together, like all my Pat McGrath palettes are together whereas palettes I’ve kept but am less likely to gravitate toward might be kept in a general-purpose bin (I have a clear, plastic bin that holds permanent palettes by mainstream brands — like Too Faced Chocolate Bars). I can just head over to my closet, pick the brand, thumb through the palettes, and voila — I’m ready to start.
Set aside time to create and play.
Being overwhelmed by choice doesn’t mean you’re lacking the creativity but rather you’re lacking the ability to decide what to use. This means you might need to give yourself a little more time to figure out what to use before you start. If makeup is a creative outlet or is a hobby, you shouldn’t be afraid to set aside time to play; time that isn’t limited by having to run out the door afterward. Sometimes, I’ll apply all the products I’m testing in the morning and after the eight or so hours of testing for longevity, I’ll remove everything and start again just to play.
This is actually what I did almost all the time when I was an undergrad. There were lots of mornings I’d go bare-faced and come home in the afternoon, put on full makeup but not go anywhere. Sometimes the look worked, sometimes it didn’t, but it was always fun. Knowing that you have time to play and that it’s no big deal if it goes awry takes off the pressure to make it look “good.” By doing this, you may also discover some products and combinations to enjoy that you can bring into your regular routine.
Pick one product and build a set of your own.
You have the choices, so start by making one choice and building from there. If you have 25 palettes, pick one–and one! because if it’s still your stash, it should be worthy of being used!–and go from there. You can swatch shades on the back of your hand or on your arm to tentatively create some color combos before putting them into action, or you can play with them digitally using our “compare” tool when browsing swatches by palette. You can take that purple lipstick you bought but haven’t worn yet and think about exactly how to wear it and what else you should pair it with.
Try challenging yourself to use a single palette for an extended period of time!
This can be a good practice to put into place by the week, month, or season. You can create weekly, monthly, or seasonal products to use and reach for, which will ensure that you’re rotating through what you have and creating a greater variety of looks. Maybe you’re a coral-year-round person like me or you only feel corals make sense in summer, so make sure you pull some out when summer rolls around. Maybe you love glitter during the holidays but prefer dewiness in the spring, so make your product picks reflect some of those preferences.
Can’t pick? Roll the dice. If you’re finding it difficult to even pick one product to start with, then let randomness take away choice and do it for you. Go into your collection and pull out several products; like a few different products you could use on eyes, a few on cheeks, lips, etc. You can put each category into a bag and blindly pick one product (or set of products) for each and figure out how to create a look using that random combination of products. You can also assign each product a number and use a random number generator to then pick products at random. At the very least, it’s likely to push you for some creativity!
Slowly, surely, and methodically work through what you own.
If you’ve set up an inventory, or if you’re fortunate enough to remember everything you own, then consider working through your collection methodically. You can keep track of when you last used something to ensure that you’re regularly using the products you have. You could start by picking a brand and working through the products you own from them, so that might mean using a particular palette for a week and rotating through some of the cheek/lip colors for that brand or mixing two or three brands together depending on what products types you have for a particular brand.
Wear a different lip color every day until you’ve worn all the ones you own!
You could go on a quest to use a different lip color each day until you’ve used every single one you own. You could commit to using each foundation you own for at least a week. You could use one palette for a month and see just how many ways you can really wear it.
Pro tip: Keep a journal or file of notes of your favorite color combinations as you work through products you own. Our Vanity system allows you to keep track of what you own but also allows you to input when you last used something, whether you’re repurchase it, how well-used it is, and even has an open-ended notes’ section (just for you to see!).
The Concern: I don’t have the creativity anymore!
It happens to all of us. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut because we just can’t think of something better to do or we don’t have time. It could even just be a general feeling of being inundated with new products or trends that everything feels a bit less inspired.
Enjoy the ride — don’t stress.
Makeup should be fun, not a source of stress, so don’t fret overly much about not being “creative” or “unique” or “good” with makeup. We aren’t all coming up with new techniques or having the most blended, blown out smoky eye every day. It’s all good. Makeup washes off, and tomorrow’s another chance to practice. Sometimes, we just need to ride out the rut we’re in for a bit before we feel the urge for change.
There might be more important things going on your life where makeup needs to take a backseat, so allowing yourself to embrace a go-to look instead of feeling guilty you’re not using other products might be more productive for you in that moment. When you really feel the rut and really want to get out of it, I think you’ll find plenty of ways to do so within this post.
Commit to a challenge.
Whether you join an online community, get your friends in on it, or simply hold yourself accountable, committing to a challenge (or theme) is a good way to start a trickle of community when you feel like you’re running on empty. If you’re making the challenge up yourself, you can make it as rule-heavy or as free-form as you want. Here are some challenge ideas to get you started:
- Palette a Week (or Month) — use the same palette for an entire week (or month or longer; set the time based on what makes sense for you, as if you only wear makeup once a week then weekly isn’t much of a challenge)
- Holiday Themes — use the various holidays that occur throughout the year as a way to create looks, e.g. using a mix of pinks and reds for Valentine’s Day (or perhaps an anti-Valentine’s Day response!)
- Seasonal Themes — fresh and dewy or pastels for spring or icy blues for winter
- Movie/TV Themes — use your favorite movie, show, or characters to inspire your makeup looks, like what would the Mother of Dragons wear today?
- X Days of Y — commit to a specific time, like 7 days or 30 days (something that’s a challenge but still feels doable, if you wear makeup twice a month, then committing 30 days might be daunting, why not try twice a week?) and keep it in a theme, like 7 Days of Green or 30 Days of Color or 14 Days of Metallics.
Immerse yourself in inspiration.
There’s no shortage of talented people sharing their creations every day (probably every second of every minute of every hour). You might have to spend a little bit finding people who inspire you specifically, but they are out there. Whether that’s following people on Instagram, watching tutorials on YouTube, browsing looks submitted by readers and myself on Temptalia (I’ve shared over 700 looks in the newer system!), or taking inspiration from your favorite makeup artists off the runways.
I personally follow an assortment of people that post interesting, creative, or looks outside my comfort zone. I love seeing what Pat McGrath is up to (also, am big fan of her products, so, duh) along with Natasha Denona. I find Linda Hallberg ridiculously inspiring with a slew of looks from bold, graphic liner to avant garde to neutrals to wearable glam. Makeup artists like Lisa Eldridge, Mali, Rebecca Shores, and Jordan Liberty regularly share a variety of work that is more “wearable” along with more complex looks.
I recommend checking your favorite brands and browsing through people they’ve reposted as a way to start finding people who embody your preferences/aesthetics. If you enjoy following brands on Instagram, that’s also another way to get inspiration interspersed on your feed, by following your favorites. You can also browse hashtags like #makeupinspiration on Instagram to and see what (if anything) catches your eye at a given moment.
Remember, you’re getting inspired to try a look, technique, or color combination; it’s not about buying new products to achieve a look!
Break the “rules.”
Long-time readers will know that I don’t like the concept of “rules” in beauty and that I’m a firm believer in trying something and seeing if you like it… because makeup washes off. You might even think of your own “rules” that you’ve set for yourself and deliberately break it in the name of all things fun–you might even think about certain ways you’ve set-up makeup thinking, like I tend to think of using coral blush/lip color when I’ve used green eyeshadow–so I could “break” that “rule” by opting for a beige, brown, or peach color instead.
Don’t be afraid to break so-called makeup “rules” — maybe you’ll love the result, maybe you won’t, but hopefully, you’ll have some fun!
Here are some ways to change things up that may go against popular notions; try going against the grain and embracing one of these:
- Wear shimmer in the crease
- Wear bold eyes and lips or bold eyes and cheeks or bold EVERYTHING
- Wear cool and warm tones together
- Wear tones that aren’t supposed to be “flattering” on you
- Wear light where dark “normally” goes (or the reverse)
- Go subtle where you normally go bold
- Wear a glossy lid and rock the creased look
- Wear less or more than you normally would
- Match everything
- Wear vampy shades in the summer, corals in the winter, pastels in the fall
- Wear eyeshadow that matches your eye color
- Wear bold eye/lip/cheek makeup without foundation
And just to be crystal clear: these are more common ideas of the “dos” I see within the community, past and present, but it’s your face, so do what you like (regardless of how any other person may feel about it!), whether that’s following the “dos” to a T or ignoring any statement that follows the word “rule.”
Share your tips & report your findings!
I’d love to hear from you on what has helped you “shop your stash” more, and if you’ve done any shopping of your stash recently, what did you learn or discover during the process.
Consider organizing by functionality, like everyday essentials separated out.
Try challenging yourself to use a single palette for an extended period of time!
Wear a different lip color every day until you've worn every one you own!
Don't be afraid to break so-called makeup "rules" -- maybe you'll love the result, maybe you won't, but hopefully, you'll have fun either way!