How To Save Money #10: Reduce Cosmetics Costs

I would love to be able to say, don’t use cosmetics at all, but that dog won’t hunt. And the use of cosmetics isn’t bad in and of itself. I just wish that we could all appreciate each other without the benefit of them. Plus, we Americans purportedly spend $8 BILLION on cosmetics each year. As my beloved sister-in-law Dawn once said when I told her some people had spent over $20,000 for an unsuccessful operation to save their $4.99 goldfish, “I can think of better and more socially responsible ways to spend that money.”

However, the fact remains that we do spend that much on cosmetics. But we don’t have to spend quite so much. We can reduce how much we spend on cosmetics in several ways:

  1. We can buy fewer cosmetics. By this I mean we can do just fine with less than what we think we need.
  2. We can buy cosmetics that last longer. By this I mean cosmetics that, if you practice good sanitation when you use them, can last indefinitely (or until you use them up). In addition, these cosmetics don’t usually have the toxic ingredients that many cosmetics have.
  3. We can buy good-quality cosmetics for less money. By this I mean we can do some canny shopping and buy items that are less expensive but just as good as, if not better than, the big name brands, or we can find places that sell brands for less or have frequent sales.

This post is here to give you information so you can do all three, if you like. This is a longer post, packed with good information, so get yourself a cup of tea, sit down, kick up your feet, and relax as you read through it.

Buy Fewer Cosmetics

Most of us who have any cosmetics at all have more than we need; often things we never use. Maybe the cosmetics were the wrong color, didn’t work on us, or were unpleasant in some way. We might have purchased them on impulse (putting a cooling-off period into practice is a good way to prevent impulse buying). Or we might have purchased them online without having a good idea of their quality or color. Or we just didn’t like whatever it was once we got home. It is hard to throw them out because they are “perfectly good”; just not good for us. That’s one way in which we buy too many cosmetics–we buy things that aren’t suitable. Maybe we intended to take or send the product back, and never got around to it, so the cosmetics sit in a drawer.

Another way we overbuy is by having more than we need in terms of different items. Some women buy cosmetics the way others buy shoes—with a “gotta have ’em all” mind set. I am just as likely to want to try out 16 or 18 or 100 different shades of eyeshadow as the next women, but I know I won’t use them. So why spend money on them?

There are a number of ways you can buy fewer cosmetics and still have everything you need.

  1. Before purchasing anything, check out reviews on it. Ask your friends and definitely read the reviews at Use your judgment when reading any reviews, though—sometimes people have axes to grind, so they are not as objective, fair, or honest as they could be. Or they might claim to have “tried them all” when in fact they have never tried anything else. Or their skin color and type might be different enough from yours that their experiences aren’t relevant. Or they might simply have blind brand loyalty. So read what others say, but read between the lines, too, and use your own judgment.
  2. Read up on the latest styles in cosmetics, with an eye toward what your particular fashion style is. Are you classic? Casual? Sporty? Romantic? Emo or gothic? Etc. (Eye makeup styles.) Look to have what you need to suit your style. If something appeals to you but you know you will never wear it because it isn’t your style, then don’t buy it.
  3. Evaluate what you have and get it organized. Make a list of what you have and what is missing and keep that in your purse so you can check it before buying cosmetics. (If possible, for what you have, mark your list with that item so you know its exact color. For example, for an eye shadow, put a smudge of the color next to its product brand and name. Cover up with clear packing tape to keep the colors from rubbing off.)  Sometimes in the past I found myself buying something I already owned, such as a lip liner in the same color as one I had at home. On the positive side, that meant that my tastes were consistent; on the down side, that meant I had two identical cosmetics.
  4. Buy just the bare essentials. Even if you want to be able to put together a look that can range from natural to dramatic, the bar essentials are
    • foundation or an all-in-one foundation, concealer, skin tone evener, and finishing powder
    • possibly some kind of concealer, skin tone evener/corrector, and/or what is called a “mineral veil”
    • blush
    • eyeliner
    • mascara
    • eyeshadow (two sets of two or three coordinating shades will do; one natural set, one dramatic, though you can even get away with just one if you select the right colors)
    • lipstick
    • optionally, lip liner in a paler shade than your lipstick

You might not need foundation or concealer if your skin is in good shape. Some skin tone eveners, such as mineral powders, can act as a foundation and concealer in one. You also might be able to make some products do double or even triple duty; many eyeshadows can also be used as eyeliners, for example, and some eyeliners can be used for brow color if you need that. Sometimes blush can do double duty as lipstick and even eyeshadow.

Buy Longer-Lasting (and Safer) Cosmetics

How many of you have ended up throwing out cosmetics, even though there was plenty left, because they were just too old and therefore most likely contaminated and a health risk? (Especially for eye makeup–none of us wants to risk our eyes. And you do wash your hands before and after every use of your cosmetics, right?)

Most standard-type cosmetics—that is, cosmetics that have any kind of fluid, liquid, or moist ingredient—should be thrown out after three to six months. This is because the ingredients that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria don’t work indefinitely. In addition, some of those liquid ingredients are suspect.

Recently, I’ve been looking into mineral makeups. I investigated them a long time ago, but I think their time has come. A mineral makeup is generally a dry powder that you can lightly apply. Mineral makeup offers a host of advantages over other kinds:

  • Because it is dry, if you use it properly and don’t contaminate it, it should last indefinitely, unlike any makeup with liquid ingredients, which should be tossed after three months.
  • Mineral makeup can be put on in layers, so you can go for a very light look/coverage, or you can go for a fuller coverage.
  • When applied properly (and when the right color for your skin), mineral makeup looks so natural that you generally cannot even tell someone is wearing it.
  • For those with sensitive skin, mineral makeup’s gentleness can be a nice bonus. Many people even claim that their acne lessened or went away entirely once they started using mineral makeup.
  • Because mineral makeup has physical minerals in it, it has an SPF (about 15, usually) without having harsh, dangerous poisons.
  • Mineral makeup is noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores).
  • Mineral makeup can often do double or triple duty as foundation, skin tone evener, and concealer.
  • You can often use the same mineral makeup for eyeshadow, blush, and lip color (depending on the colors, or course!).
  • When using mineral eyeshadow, you can use them lightly and dry for a subtle look, layered for a more dramatic look, or wet for an even stronger look. Mineral eyeshadow can also be used wet as eyeliner.
  • Although mineral makeup is sold in grams, because it is lightweight, a few grams (say, 5 to 10) is a lot of powder that will last you a long time.
  • Mineral makeup is very easy to remove.

Using Mineral Makeup

One note of advice: Mineral makeup can be messy to handle and takes a little practice to learn to apply. There are a few very simple techniques for using it properly. The most important are to

  • clean your face
  • apply  moisturizer and let it sink in/be absorbed for about 15 minutes
  • use a soft, fluffy, good-quality brush for the foundation powder (people often use a brush type called the kabuki brush; you want one that is soft and that doesn’t shed its bristles)
  • dip the brush in the powder, then swirl it in a small, shallow bowl, plate, or similar item to get the powder to go into the brush instead of just sitting on the outer bristles
  • tap the brush on the edge of the same bowl (or the powder container) to remove excess loose powder
  • very lightly brush your face all over; where you start depends on your preferences, though I like to start at the outside and work my way in

I’ve looked around for information on how to apply makeup and the most complete information I found was at the Jane Iredale Web site; they offer a a series of videos on applying makeup.

Makeup Remover

When it comes to removing makeup, you can find all kinds of products promising all manner of things at fancy prices. I’ve found that most makeup can be removed with plain, warm water and a wash cloth; eye makeup that is waterproof can be removed with a tiny dab of plain jojoba oil on a cotton ball.

A Few Words on Cosmetic Safety

Unfortunately, some common cosmetic ingredients are not safe. Even in mineral makeups, there are some ingredients to watch for and avoid. Fortunately, the list is pretty short: Talc (not a big concern to me, though I prefer to avoid it) and bismuth oxychloride. (There are also some concerns with mica as well.) Unfortunately, many of the big name/brand name mineral makeups contain these ingredients. Here are some sources (in alphabetical order) for mineral makeups that don’t contain talc and bismuth oxychloride (and whose prices are good compared to other companies):

Not all, but some of these manufacturers do include mica in some or all of their formulations; if that is a concern to you, check the ingredients.

Caveat: This entire post is for informational purposes only. Do your own research and make up your own mind about what is right for you. For more thorough coverage of products and their ingredients, see They rate thousands of specific products according to their ingredients, provide a list of the ingredients for those products, and discuss why those ingredients are of concern. I personally don’t have an issue with many of the ingredients in mineral makeups, such as titanium dioxide, but others might, and it is good to know exactly what it is you are getting. Remember, too, to  use for reviews, though I haven’t found a broad range of mineral makeups being reviewed there yet. Also, no cosmetic is safe if you don’t use good hygiene practices with your makeup and tools. And always, always,always wash your hands thoroughly before and after applying cosmetics.

Buy Less Expensive Cosmetics

You don’t have to walk into a department store and spend $40, $50, $60, or even more (sometimes in the hundreds) on just one item. With canny shopping, you can get an entire basic makeup kit—good-quality foundation, blush, eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, lipstick, and a good set of cosmetic brushes—for under $60. Find a good-quality brand you like that offers sales, and resist temptation to purchase more than you truly need or can use. Ulta has a line of makeup that is very reasonably priced; you can often get it at with a “buy two, get two free” offer, where you can purchase any four of Ulta’s products and only need to pay for the two most expensive items. This idea of canny shopping also applies to your tools. I  just purchased a set of 11 brushes from that received an excellent review; I used a 20% off coupon to get the set for about $13.

A Few Words on Prices

One way to determine whether a price is good or not is to take the price and divide it by the number of grams you get. That gives you the price/gram. For example,

  • Erth gives you 9 grams of mineral foundation for $13. That’s $1.44 per gram.
  • L.A. Minerals gives you 8 grams for $19.95, which is $2.49 per gram.
  • Physician’s Formula Talc-Free Mineral Wear Mineral Loose Powder Duo is 10 grams for $13.99, which is $1.40 per gram.
  • Smoky Mountain Minerals normally offers 12 grams for $24.95 ($2.08 per gram), but they are having a sale of $9.95 for the same amount ($0.83 per gram).

Or Make Your Own!

For the best deal, consider making your own cosmetics. This is not only the most economical route, but can be a lot of fun, too. Plus you can make your own custom cosmetics that are exactly the color you want them to be. sells pretty much everything you need. For example, they sell a mineral powder base for a price that works out to be under $0.20 per gram (or less, if you buy more).

Their site includes recipes, though some of the ingredients in their recipes are listed as hazardous at the Cosmetics Database, so you will have to do some research to modify the recipes to make them safer.

I am sure there are other sources for cosmetic ingredients as well. I plan to experiment this summer, so I will make another post when I have done more research.

Speaking of Redheads and Very Fair-Skinned Folks

Why is it that most of our choices for mascara are so dark, with names like Brown Black, Black, and Blackest Black? Any dark brown to black mascara looks completely unnatural with very fair coloring. Thank goodness there are now a few companies offering fair and auburn-colored mascara and makeup whose colors are compatible with fair and redheaded coloring. Two of them are Redheads Fancy and Just For Redheads.

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6 thoughts on “How To Save Money #10: Reduce Cosmetics Costs

  1. VotstaunseCon says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  2. You’re article is so rich in information! Keep up the good work 🙂

    I’ve been making cosmetic my own and as soon as I started I realized the risk of making your own cosmetic. It is that if you don’t store them well they may cause allergies or even skin infections in younger aged people because the stuff you make don’t have any preservatives. So I would recommend both buying and making your cosmetic. The cheaper is not always the better so that also what we need to look out for 🙂

  3. Under Eye lifter remover says:

    Wow, this piece of writing is good, my sister is analyzing such things, so I am going to
    convey her.

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