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The Product Graveyard: What to Do With the Stuff That Sucks

By Amalah

Hi Amy!
What do you do with products you tried but did not like? Or products that worked for awhile, but not long enough to use all of? My current product graveyard is a drawer- I can’t bring myself to throw out some of these products — the really offensive ones I can toss, but the mediocre and once upon a time products? Taking up very precious space. It feels so wasteful- I might as well be throwing money away! Anyway I was wondering what you do with products you don’t like or no longer use?

So very funny that you asked this…as JUST this past weekend I took a gift bag full of product rejects up to my mother for her birthday. Lipsticks, shadows, Bare Minerals (more on THAT LATER OH MY HELL), and a boatload of moisturizers. And every loser in every Price Tag Cage Match ever.
I also got her some delicious cashmere, but honestly, the bag o’ semi-new makeup and hair products may have been an even bigger hit.
I give away a LOT of stuff, especially since the Smackdown graciously furnishes and encourages all my cosmetic experimentation. But once or twice a year I dig through my makeup drawer and sort out the products I’m just not using. My mom gets the vast majority of it, since we have pretty much the opposite complexions and skincare needs. (Me: pale, combination bordering on oily, increasingly allergic to all sorts of things and unable to tolerate ANY fragrance in ANY lotion-y type thing; Her: olive, dry, aging, skin allergies are for the WEAK, PFFFT.) Stuff that doesn’t work for me has a decent shot at working for her. Plus, she doesn’t get to splurge on that sort of thing ever, so even a little sample pot of fancy night cream is a big treat.
The biggest challenge, though, is getting her to actually USE that little sample pot of night cream. One time, after a disastrous perming experience, I bought her some Pureology shampoo and conditioner. Like, four years ago. And then I recently discovered those very same bottles still sitting in her shower. She was saving them for a special occasion. My mom, she is the CUTEST EVER.
Meanwhile, the stuff was so old and rancid it had completely separated and smelled EXACTLY like dog shampoo. It still took me two more visits home before I had the heart to tell her that she needed to chuck the stuff, but now I know to check the levels of everything I give her and remind her of the ticking-clock of cosmetic shelf life. Use it! CARPE DIEM!
I use similar sorting rules for my makeup drawer as I use for my closet — if I haven’t used/worn it in a year, it’s gone. Six months gets a long hard look. I usually give skincare products a second change when the seasons change — stuff that made me break out in the summer might be perfect in the winter when my skin is much drier, and vice versa. So I encourage everybody to give those in-between meh-ish products another try when the weather changes.
When you’ve really determined that something isn’t right and the Sephora return-policy deadline has passed, give it away! It’s fun! Do you have a mom, a grandmom, a little sister in college? A fellow product whore who might have a drawer of her own to trade? Or a friend going through a hard time who could use a little just-because pick-me-up?
I mean, you don’t say something like, “Oh, these products didn’t meet MY exacting standards but maybe someone like YOU could use them.” Dress them up as a pampering gift bag (maybe with a Sephora gift card or something new like spa slippers or a manicure set) and give them away on a random, no-holiday day. Obviously you don’t pretend that you’re giving new bottles away, but just be honest that hey, this stuff didn’t work for you for whatever reason, but SOMEBODY sure as hell should enjoy it.)
Certain stuff should always get tossed — mostly mascaras and eyeliners and other things that actually touched infection-prone areas of the body. Compacts that are cracked or bubbly from oil aren’t worthy of getting passed on. Make sure the recipient is aware that the stuff is used and has an idea of when it was purchased, warranty void where prohibited, your mileage may vary, blah blah blaaaaah.
Honestly, all I need now in the world is a friend with a lighter complexion than mine and oiler skin. Have I got a GOLDMINE of crap for her.
(Likewise, I would also accept a friend who owns a bunch of winter-colored lipsticks that would suit someone like me. COUGH COUGH.)

Published December 3, 2007. Last updated December 3, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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