Thoughts on my makeup audit project: 2019-2023

I started my makeup audit project in October 2019 and by the end of February 2022 I completed using my last monthly arsenal. I was very glad to reach that milestone in the project and ever since then I’ve slowly completed the last phase of the project (except for nail polish) in a very unstructured way. In this post I want to summarise and conclude the project as a whole.

The premise for the project was to whittle down my vast collection a bit and to aid that quest I wanted to wear each item once, potentially one last time. You can find the proper run down of the project in my initial post from October 2019 here.

The audit was divided in categories and each category was handled a bit differently as you will see in my rundown of each below. In the beginning of the project I also did a little inventory of the major categories and just for fun I wanted to compare it to what I’m left with today. So I’m including some numbers and pictures so we can get a feeling of the massiveness of my undertaking. And for fun.

Powder eye products

Eyeshadows were the main part to audit in my monthly arsenals and lasted the full time period. A huge amount of palettes and singles were put away, but an even larger amount were saved. Below you can see the rejected powder eye products from Round 1.

After my first round of the audit was done in February 2022 I took another hard look at what I had kept. In Round 2 I compared similar items to each other and tried to be realistic on which items I would like to use moving forward and minimizing duplicates. A lot of old stuff was discarded, like all of my gorgeous Extra Dimension Eye Shadows by MAC, and I also decided not to depot my Anastasia Beverly Hills palettes and just let them go.

Work in progress

After Round 2 I sorted all of the remaining items, during the last half of 2022, and arranged all of my single pan shadows by colour and gave each palette a matching name. You can see them all below including the unnamed palette with highlighting shades.

I found them very visually pleasing and thought I would keep them like that for a longer time than I ended up doing. However, after using them a while I noticed I still felt overwhelmed by choice. I was always torn between using my oldest shades and my newer ones and all of those in between. So in January of 2023 I did a Round 3 (thinking it was my last) and I took a hard look at the age of the shadows (and blushes) that I had kept previously and put away anything older than 2016 with the exception of my Meow shadows from 2013. Nostalgia made me keep those Meow shades. Below you can see the shades from Round 3 including most of my MAC, Inglot and MakeupGeek shadows and MAC pigments.

Discards from Round 3

The new plan was to keep those remaining shades for the duration of 2023 and then let go of more old shades. But I still had this nagging feeling that I had too much to choose from. And I was not using my newer items nearly as much as they deserved. So in May of 2023 I went through everything again and decided that 2019 (when I moved to a new city) would be a breaking point for eyeshadows at least. Anything older than that would only be kept if I had a very good reason to spend some more time with it. So I do still use a smaller amount of shadows that are older than 2019 and they can stay for the rest of 2023. Then they are out as well.

My beloved Meow shadows have now been put in bags and I will not use them on the eye any more (I will however see if I can repurpose loose shadows and pigments as art supplies). Most of my Nabla and Urban Decay shadows are gone. I also let go of a few newish bits like the Swear By It palette by Nyx. I bought that palette in 2019 and have used it a lot since then. But the sheer size of it overwhelms me and I recently started feeling like the shadows were not performing as well as they did when I bought it.

I must admit that putting away most of the items bought before my move from Gothenburg was hard emotionally. I felt like I lost a part of myself when I moved and that was I part I was not keen on letting go of. Putting away these items just solidified this shift in my life. I know they are just things, but I attach memory to things and this was a tough one.

I started the project with 748 single eye shadows/pigments and 64 palettes of various sizes (three were highlighters in palettes that I mainly used on the eye). Right now, in August 2023, I own four fixed palettes and 133 singles for eyes. That includes all of my new additions since the audit started and to be honest those make out the majority of my arsenal now. So what I am left with is not all of my favourite or most worn shades, something one might think would be the case after a big declutter. What I have left is what was last bought when I already had all of those other older shades. So in some shade categories I feel like I’m lacking a bit. But I am in no hurry to replace anything just yet. I have plenty of options to play with until I feel like the time is right to invest in something new.

Lip products

These were audited in two big declutter sessions in 2020. During 2021-mid 2023 I did cull even more items that were older and the final post chronicling that can be found here. None of my current lip products were in my arsenal when the project started. Everything has been replaced. A natural replacement period since all the stuff I started with was older.

Cheek products

I started the audit with 67 shades of blush, 9 contour shades and 22 highlighters. After Round 1 of cheek items was completed in March 2021 I did a blog post displaying and swatching my then current cheek arsenal, which you can find here. I had by then not discarded that many cheek products and you can see the rejects below.

The rejects from Round 1 (a few are not pictured since they were re-homed)

After that I wore all of those remaining shades for a while and then did a Round 2 in increments during the last half of 2022. A larger number of items, pictured below, were given the boot during that time period. A lot of lovely items that were simply past their prime or otherwise deemed unnecessary.

Discards from Round 2

In January 2023 I had 14 cheek items left. One duo with a highlight and a sculpt shade. 11 powder blushes and a pale lipstick that had been demoted/promoted (?) to cheek shade. I then completed my last round, Round 3, in the end of January and was left with 6 items (7 shades).

Round 3 – the final blush declutter

Those seven shades consists of 4 powder blushes, one cream blush (the aforementioned lipstick), 2 shade/contour colours that doubles as neutral blushes and one highlighter. From 22 to one highlighter! Mad.

To complement those older bits I have some newer bits as well. Several of the shades in my Hindash palettes (Beautopsy and Monochromance) can be used as blush and my other Lisa Eldridge velvet lipsticks are being applied to my cheeks regularly. In addition to that I’ve also acquired three pots of lip/cheek colours by Trinny London and Manasi7. So my options are not limited yet not as abundant as before. I have got my eye on some shades that I feel like I’m lacking but I’m hesitant pull the trigger as of right now.

Nail polish

My nail polish arsenal have been and are being audited twelve items at the time in my still ongoing series The Twelve. I will continue to do that series until I have worn all of my shades. I rarely buy nail polish anymore and I highly enjoy the ones that I have.

Miscellaneous items

These were cream and liquid products like foundation, concealer, primers, brow products, mascara, cream eye shadows and liners. These items have been audited continuously and documented on my Instagram stories (saved as highlights).

The timeline

I purchased quite a lot of new makeup items during the audit period (since the project lasted three and a half years) but not anywhere close to what I was buying in previous years. I’ve bought replacements of foundation, concealer, powder, makeup sponges, colour corrector, eye primer, mascara, eyeliner and brow gel. I have also bought some extra foundations, concealers and powders to try out. I am on a bit of a journey with trying to find base products that really matches my colouring and skin type. I’ve also picked up or been gifted (by family) eyeshadows from Lethal Cosmetics, Terra Moons, Glossgods, H&M Beauty, Glam Shop and Hindash. And I have experimented a bit with cream colours for lips and cheeks (Trinny London and Manasi7). As mentioned these new items make up the majority of my current collection.

The project was fun most of the time and and I did enjoy choosing a new arsenal each month. My makeup creations also became more creative thanks to the monthly arsenals. They helped me become very aware of how much makeup I owned and how long it would take me to do that first round of wearing everything. But I stuck to my original plan, to use all the items before (potentially) discarding them. This approach made the audit a very very long project, but I always felt and still feel that it was the right thing to do for the reasons below;

  1. I find it difficult to let items go in general. Using each product gave me the opportunity to form a proper opinion based in reality rather than a sentimental memory.
  2. My monthly posts including swatches was a great way to chronicle what I I used and what I let go of. The pictures and swatches remains.

Addition in hindsight: All of these rounds really helped me in making my final decisions on letting all of the older stuff go. I could never had made that decision from the get-go. The longevity of the project also solidified my feelings of overwhelm with that much abundance. The products were just sitting unused there and going to waste. The long auditing process created this result and I am now grateful for the lessons learned.

What I have learned

It’s been an ongoing conversation with myself about my habits and how I use makeup and what part of the process that makes me happy. A few truths have been revealed;

  • I do like variety but there is a limit. Owning too many items is overwhelming for me. At the same time I am no makeup minimalist nor do I aspire to be one.
  • Due to excess, many of my items had expired or become ancient without being worn much at all. It just feels so wasteful.
  • I’m not a makeup artist anymore and do not need every colour or product category under the sun.
  • I hate not being able to repurchase a favourite item. Of course products can be discontinued or brands can go out of business but limited edition releases are exactly that, limited. I also want to be able to recommend product I like to others without a time-limit.

These truths inform something about my purchasing behaviour moving forward;

  • I was never a full-on makeup collector to begin with but I did have a bit of a collectors mentality when it came to certain brands. However, I do no longer desire to acquire makeup like that. I do not want to own things for the sake of owning them, I want to have products that I use or can see myself using regularly. I do not need the same shade from five different brands and I do not need shades for other people other than myself. So no more collecting!
  • Products have a limited shelf-life. Of course I knew that before but the audit really highlighted the fact in a blunt way. I’ve always seen my powder items as long lasting and that is in a sense true since they last vastly longer compared to their cream or liquid counterparts. But now when I went through eyeshadow after eyeshadow I noticed how old they actually were. Many were more than 10 years old! And I’ve barely used some of them since I had too much stuff to choose from. I have also discarded many shadows during the audit due to smelling off and performing differently than when I first got them. A category where I really have to consider this aspect is lipsticks. I love a variety of shades and finishes but I only have one mouth and seven days a week (and I do not wear makeup every day anyway).
  • I miss the days when I had an intense relationship with a specific product or shade, like I did back in the day when I owned fewer items and also had less money that could be used for buying makeup. I do not long for a sparse arsenal but I do long for a used arsenal. I want to get back to the feeling of knowing the names of shadows by heart. Less can be more in that sense.
  • I care more about the quality of the packaging than I used to. Aesthetics and function are key points of value along with having favourable feelings about a brand and how it acts in the world. I do not have any set parameters for how I judge that but go on gut instinct.
  • I currently prefer owning eyeshadows as single pans in compacts/palettes that I can modify myself. I would like to avoid buying fixed palettes except when there is a specific brand/creator I want to support or if a palette is so damn unique and/or exciting that I just cannot help myself. But I will definitely be mindful of why I want it and have a look at what I own before buying new shades, that is goes for palettes and singles alike.
  • I want to avoid limited edition items. I used to chase every limited edition release. Nowadays I am a bit turned off when something is limited. I want to find firm favourites that I can replace when I run out. I want my swatches and opinions on a product to be of use for others and not be irrelevant in six months time.
  • Some types of products are simply not for me. I do not need any bronzers or false lashes. A very limited arsenal of liquid liners, eye pencils and highlighters is enough. I do not need to cater to anyone else’s taste and face but my own.

Purchasing behaviour moving forward

I never had the intention to stop buying makeup or have a minimal arsenal. That was not the purpose with the project and I feel the same now that it is over. But I want to be mindful of what newness I bring into my life. I only have one face. Knowing that I still own an abundance of items, even after this audit, I will consider the following points before purchasing something new;

  • Do I already own this from another brand? Back in the day, I often bought duplicates of shades from different brands just because I was in a collector mindset. Nothing wrong with that, but I want to avoid it moving forward.
  • What is the shelf-life? Will I get much use out of it before it expires?
  • Is it a permanent item?
  • Can it be substituted with something else that I already own? Two different products do not have to be colour-dupes to be able to perform a similar function.
  • And the one one that can trump all of the above – Does the thought of trying and using this product make me really really excited? If the answer is yes, that is something to take note of since it is unusual these days. It might be a launch from Lisa Eldridge or a collab with a creator I want to support. Or maybe it is an intriguing new brand that I want to check out and form an opinion on. I used to get excited for specific brands, collections and makeup looks more often back in the day, but now I rarely get excited for new things. But when this does happen I do not see a problem to act on the urge as long as I choose somewhat wisely when I do.

Makeup for me is a bringer of joy. I love feeling enamoured with an item or a colour but that love only comes into fruition when I actually use the items regularly. I do not want the beautiful shadows to collect dust and go bad. I want to wear them! I want them to be tools to create beauty on my face. I want to be inspired by shapes, shades and the emotion they create together with a great outfit. I want to yet again create inspired by films, art, nature, people I admire and fashion (present and past).

This project was vast but meaningful. I am glad the projects is concluded and the result is a reward that will last for a very long time.

If you made it this far, I applaud you!

Thank you for reading!

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