Creative ways to use up your beauty products

Got unloved beauty products you need to use up? Research shows the average woman in the UK owns around 50 skin, hair and makeup items. However, less than two-fifths of our collections actually get used on a daily basis.

What’s more, your beauty products likely expire a lot faster than you think.  Finding additional uses will ensure less waste and more bang for your buck!

We spoke to renowned aesthetician and celebrity facialist Chelseé Lewis to find out how to safely use up beauty items without putting skin at risk. From expensive serums to leftover hairspray, here are our top tips for using every last drop.

How to use up unloved beauty products

While they might not be their intended uses, there are lots of creative ways to get the most out of your products. And when better to get crafty than during lockdown?

“We all have so many products and sometimes they just sit there,” says Chelseé. “I think being in lockdown has taught us all how to use things up and save money.”

Check the expiry dates

Doing an inventory check is an important first step to clearing out your cabinet. Expired items are less effective and potentially harmful. These need to be binned – or ideally emptied and recycled if possible.

Although unopened beauty products can often be kept for up to 30 months, once opened they should generally be used within six months to a year. Most cosmetics and skincare items will feature a tiny symbol on the label to let you know how long they last.

Need a helping hand? Available on Apple and Android devices, the app Beauty Keeper lets you search the batch code to work out the expiry date. Plus, add in any new products with the date you’ve opened them, and it will do the rest!

As a general rule of thumb, products that contain water – or ‘aqua’ as it’s commonly listed on labels – won’t last as long. Those with active ingredients like retinol or peptides also tend to depreciate around six months after opening.

See how long your makeup items last here.

Use it on the body

This one is a classic hack and comes highly recommended by Chelseé.

From moisturisers to face scrubs, pretty much anything that’s officially designated for the face can also be used on the body. This includes toners, mists and facial SPF – just make sure it’s a high enough factor.

Spot treatments, face masks and facial peels aren’t off limits either! As Chelseé explains, these products can target concerns in other areas of the body too.

“Just because an item says it’s specifically ‘for face’ doesn’t mean that you couldn’t use it on another area of your body,” she says. “If I find out that a client is breaking out on their chest, I might bring the facial down to the chest and do exactly what I would do on their face.

“With the body, the skin is a bit more robust, so it’s fine.”

Plus, using up your products in this way could reap rewards for oft-neglected skin. As Chelseé explains, regularly moisturising and exfoliating our bodies is key too.

“Exfoliation is definitely a staple for the body,” she says. “You should be doing that once or twice a week, followed with a really good moisturiser or oil.

“A lot of people don’t tend to moisturise their bodies every day, but I think it’s really important. You really notice the difference.”

Try it as a brush cleaner

Not keen on your new face wash? Gel options can be repurposed as a cleanser for your makeup sponges and brushes.

As long as you’re washing it out thoroughly, even a product that’s broken you out in the past won’t pose an issue. In fact, sulphate-free shampoos or gentle soaps will work too. So long, expensive brush cleansers!

“I’ve been doing it for years,” says Chelseé. “Sometimes I even use just shampoo on my makeup brushes. But I make sure to really wash it out. The key is getting the soap out.”

Steer clear of using oil or balm cleansers for this. As Chelseé explains, these could lead to breakouts.

“Normally, when you use a cleansing oil, there’s a slight residue still left on the skin,” she says. “You wouldn’t really want to use it to wash your brushes as it would clog them – I’d be more conscious that it’s going to break me out.”

Indulge in a massage

While cleansing oils might not work on brushes, they’re the perfect ingredient for a luxe at-home massage. This trick is especially handy if the expiry date is coming up and you’ve got a big bottle to get through.

“Just sit there, even for an evening in front of the TV, and massage your face,” says Chelseé. “You’re getting a good deep cleansing but you’re also getting the microcirculation going.

“Sometimes I sit there with my cleanser and just do that. The next day you wake up like you’ve got a new face. It just gets everything moving around – it’s brilliant!”

And you don’t need to stop at your face. You can easily do the same for your neck, shoulders or any other body part that needs some love.

Have a cleansing balm to use up? The same method will work.

Treat your hands

Giving your hands some targeted attention is always a good idea – but especially when you’ve got expensive serums and oils you don’t want to slather just anywhere.

“If I’ve got something really expensive that I want to use up, I’d definitely go for the hands,” says Chelseé. “The hands are like the face – they’re always on show.”

Known to oxidise quickly, many vitamin C serums have relatively poor shelf lives compared to other types. It’s extra important to be vigilant about using them up. Luckily, they’re a great choice for hands.

“You get age spots on the hand,” says Chelseé. “Vitamin C would be a good one to really even out skin tone, renew the backs of hands and really revitalise.”

Plus, with many of us suffering the effects of the seasons and added sanitising, when better to give the hands some extra love?

“Our hands are getting a bit of a beating at the moment,” says Chelseé. “So, definitely TLC for the hands right now.”

In fact, as Chelseé explains, you can use exactly the same ‘protocol’ as you would on your face on your hands, as well as other delicate areas like your neck and décolletage.

“I always say to my clients, the neck and the hands are the first places to see signs of ageing,” she says. “When cleansing or moisturising your face, bring it right down the neck – you’ll notice the difference.”

Give your feet some love

Feet rarely get much attention, so using up products on them is a win-win for everyone. Thick night creams or body butters will be particularly effective at hydrating cracked heels and dry toes.

As Chelseé explains, this makes an ideal night treatment.

“If there’s a cream that you don’t really like, use it as a foot cream,” she says. “Put loads on at night, put your socks on and go to bed. It’s a fantastic treatment, don’t let it go to waste.

“Think about it, you’re asleep for up to eight hours – if you’ve got that conditioning going on throughout the night, it really does make a difference.”

Get crafty

Want to make the last drips and drabs go the extra mile? It’s time to get crafty.

While the final squirts of hairspray won’t do much for your hair, they’ll work like a charm on your eyebrows. Spray a small amount onto a brush or spoolie and brush over for a similar effect to clear mascara, with a firmer hold. Voila!

Given we typically end up with some hairspray on our foreheads and scalps when we use it normally, this shouldn’t upset your skin. However, it’s always worth doing a patch test if yours is sensitive. And avoid spraying directly onto your face.

Only got a few drops left of your favourite essential oil? Turning it into a homemade nail cuticle oil will stretch it out. This works for leftover olive, jojoba or almond oil too.

And lest we forget about soap! From DIY car fresheners to a homemade bath soak, here are our favourite ways to use up old bars.

Think outside the box

Lots of your favourite beauty staples are far more multi-tasking than you think. From lip balm to micellar water, you don’t have to stick to the use that’s been prescribed.

Didn’t like how your body oil felt or just need to use it up quick? Try it as a bath oil or even hot oil treatment for your hair instead. Even better, do both at once.

Simply apply the oil evenly to brushed hair, massaging into your scalp, then cover with a shower cap. It’s best to wait up to 20 minutes, so why not hop into the bath, adding a few drops in their too for extra luxury?

Once your time’s up, rinse out the oil from your hair and go in with your usual conditioner. Trust us, any split ends will thank you.

Likewise, lip balm might be marketed for lips, but it’s actually great for other areas of the body too.

“Lip balm is great because it is quite a good emollient,” says Chelseé. “You can definitely use it for taming the eyebrows, or on the skin of your elbows, knees, cuticles, toes, and the heels of the feet.”

“Again, before you go to bed, put loads on, socks on, and it’s got that chance to really soak in over those hours. It’s a little bit like a foot treatment.”

Micellar water is another secret hero. It can clean more than just your face! Apply to a cotton pad to clean your ears too.

Apply the same rules to your makeup bag

Mixing and matching uses works just as well with cosmetics. Just because a bronzer is meant for your face doesn’t mean it can’t work fantastically as an eyeshadow.

Likewise, lipsticks make great blushes. Foundation can even be used as a lip colour if you so desire. Just go with a thin layer to avoid looking cakey.

“I don’t see an issue with that, unless you’re one of those people that is constantly licking or chewing their lips,” says Chelseé. “Sometimes you can’t find that colour.”

You can also stretch out the lives of forgotten favourites more easily than you think. A few drops of argan oil can bring cream-based products like brow gels back to life, while saline solution can revive dried out mascara. Be mindful of expiration dates though.

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Words: Tilly Alexander