Monday 22 July 2019

Ruth Griffin's beauty spring clean

Ruth Griffin - hair, Grace Burcok at Ciaran Nevin Hair using Ibiza brushes, Photo: Fran Veale
Ruth Griffin - hair, Grace Burcok at Ciaran Nevin Hair using Ibiza brushes, Photo: Fran Veale
Zoya Renew Nail Polish Rejuvenator
Inglot's biodegradable palette
Wash each brush individually. Photograph: ©Fran Veale
Clean your brushes every month. Photo: Fran Veale
Ecotools brushes can be popped in the brown bin when finished with
Keep your brushes hygienic. Photograph: Fran Veale
Store your products in a clear plastic case. Photo: Fran Veale
Use a 'filing cabinet' fold out makeup bag. Photo: Fran Veale
Ditch years-old products. Photo: Fran Veale
Re-activate your powder. Photo: Fran Veale
A cosmetic divider is a great way to store your beauty products. Photo: Fran Veale
Ruth Griffin

Ruth Griffin

I've just finished reading Shoukei Matsumoto's book, A Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind, and am inspired by his tips on creating a peaceful, ordered refuge in our homes. As the days get brighter and warmer, many of you will have given your home a declutter, a dust and a spring clean - now it's time to do the same for your make-up bags and beauty cabinets.

When was the last time that you cleared out all those old, half-empty shampoo bottles clogging up the shower tray, and ditched those "You never know, I might use it" lipsticks and blue eye-shadows from 1988 that are rattling around in your make-up bag?

We want our beauty products to make us feel and look better but also increase our overall sense of wellbeing, so if it is proving stressful even trying to locate your lipstick in a grubby make-up bag overflowing with products you don't use, colours you no longer like and broken containers, it's time to take action and get your spring beauty fling on.

Matsumoto's advice, "Love what you have, use what you have and clear out all the rest," is a simple and effective motto that we could all embrace. Today, I'll show you how to apply it to your cosmetics.

Between hair, body, nail, skin, hygiene and make-up items, most of us have hundreds of personal care products in our homes, but we use very little of them. It can be overwhelming to even know where to start in organising and clearing out our beauty arsenal - What to throw out? What to keep? What needs to be cleaned, and how should you go about that?

To help you get started, I have divided this Beauty Spring Clean guide into clear sections, telling you what products you should dump and which can be refreshed. I'll also tell you the best way to organise your products to give you quick and easy access when you need them, and make sure that a treasured gem doesn't become a forgotten remnant at the bottom of a drawer.

Just like with our clothing, many of the cosmetic products we use should change with the seasons. Now that it's time to store our winter woollies away - hopefully we've seen the last of the cold weather at this point - I'll highlight the beauty products you should also consider swapping out and storing away until autumn.

Cleaning is just as important as clearing when it comes to beauty tools. If your brushes are saturated with product, not only will they not last but they can leave your make-up looking smudged and unpolished. Clean brushes mean make-up will go on quicker and look better - and you'll use less of your products to get the same results.

A big part of this guide will focus on getting rid of your old beauty goodies responsibly. Did you know that nail varnish cannot be put in our black bins or poured down the sink? It is deemed a hazardous household waste and must be disposed of the same way as paint.

As research shows that more than 120 billion units of packaging is produced every year by the global cosmetics industry - most of it plastic - the impact of our beauty regimes is not so pretty on our land and seas. Every one of those plastic beauty containers will pollute our planet for many hundreds of years after we've ditched them. The new green bin charges should motivate us all to become more conscious of our household waste decisions. To this end, I'll list some recyclable products and the brands that will take back their packaging - and even give you money-off vouchers or a little freebie as a thank you.

So, set aside a couple of hours and follow this Beauty Spring Clean guide to create a make-up bag and beauty cabinet of which Shoukei Matsumoto would be proud.

Dump it: How to know when your products are past their expiry date

Ditch years-old products. Photo: Fran Veale

Every product you buy will have an expiry date written on either the product itself or more usually on the outside packaging. It will outline how long to keep the product after opening. The photo below shows what this symbol typically looks like — the ‘M’ represents the number of months for which the product should be kept. After this time, the products should be replaced, and for a variety of reasons. Some, such as mascaras, will be laden with bacteria that may pose a risk to eye health. Others, such as sun screens, will have ingredients that are no longer active, meaning that the product is no longer fit for purpose. You should definitely throw out anything which smells ‘off’, especially sponges and applicators.



If your brush has broken nibs or spikes, I would really recommend dumping it. It will break and drag your hair every time you use it. A good way of testing this is to run the brush over your skin. If it pulls or hurts your skin, you know its time for a change of hairbrush. You should also throw out any hair clips that have lost their protective nibs as they could similarly damage your hair. And take a look through hair ties and throw out anything that’s overstretched or frayed.



The expiry date for each product is indicated on its packaging. This is a general guide to how long you can expect your products to last:

Mascara: 3-6 months.

Foundation: 6 months for non-pump applicator foundations; up to 18 months for pump applicator foundations.

If your foundation has gone off, you should see some discolouration. However, if your foundation looks ‘separated’ — ie the oil and liquid parts look divided — do not throw out. Some foundation formulas, such as the MAC Face and Body Foundation, just need to be shaken to combine. 

Natural make-up: 3-6 months.

Natural products have no parabens or preservatives. Keeping them in the fridge may extend their shelf-life, but only by a few weeks.

Powder blush: 1-2 years.

Powder eye-shadow: 2 years.

Liquid eyeliner: 6-8 months.

Lip and eye pencils: 1-2 years if sharpened constantly and the lids are left on. Missing lids are a prime culprit for bacteria growth.  

Lipsticks and lip glosses: 1 year.

Concealer: 2 years.

Sunscreen: 3 years.

For best results, however, use within the date stated by the manufacturers. Out-of-date sunscreen can still be used as a non-SPF body moisturiser.

Make-up brushes: 5 years plus.

See the tips below for caring properly for your brushes.



Ditch those years-old products that have much better formulations/colour swathes available. For instance, powder foundations are now nearly all jet milled. As such, they have a silky texture that’s more flattering than old formulas, especially on older skin.


Refresh it

Broken packaging?

Invest in clear plastic pots — available at Boots and Penneys from €2 — in which to re-house any make-up with broken packaging. Make-up without a lid is a certain home for bacteria to build up.



Brushes and packaging are not the only things that need cleaning — don’t forget to wash your make-up bag itself a few times a year. I just throw mine in a cool cycle in the washing machine, reshape while it’s damp and leave to dry naturally. This is more important than you think, as there can be a lot of broken bits of make-up on the inside of your bag, which cause bacteria to build, covering all of the brushes and items you keep in the bag.

If your bag is not suitable for the washing machine, use a hot soapy cloth and scrub the inside. Rinse and leave to dry naturally. Don’t be tempted to lash all of your make-up back into your bag until it is 100pc bone dry, as dampness can cause mildew to form that can infect your make-up. Using a wet wipe, clean tissue or cotton bud, clean your items of any excess product before you return them to the bag.



1 Invest in a scooper — €1.50 from Salon Services shops nationwide — which is a long thin, bevelled tong. It will get way down into old make-up products and bottles of lotions to get every last drop out.

2 Cut the end of plastic lotion bottles with a scissors and scoop out the last bits stuck at the end of the tube.

3 To get the last out of your shampoo, conditioner and shower gels, just remove the lid and put warm water in the bottle and shake vigorously before applying.



Melt old lipsticks together to create a rich new colour.

When you get to the bottom of a few lipsticks, scoop out what’s left with a small knife. Place them together and heat over a low heat or at short intervals in the microwave and mix thoroughly. Pour the new mixture into a small plastic pot and leave it in the refrigerator to harden. Hey presto — you’ve made yourself a new lip colour that can be applied with a lip brush.

Alternatively, mix the last scrapings of a beloved old lipstick with petroleum jelly and, again, melt on a low heat. Pour into a small container and let it sit in the refrigerator to set. 

Fix cracked pressed powder, bronzer, or eye shadow by pouring rubbing alcohol in it.

Leaving the powder in its original container, use a spoon to break up the contents into a very fine dust. Then gradually add a few drops of rubbing alcohol into it, stirring until you’ve created a thick paste. Leave it overnight, allowing the alcohol to evaporate. The powder will be left solid and whole again.

Mix pressed powder with facial moisturiser to make a tinted moisturiser.

If you have a smashed bronzer, don’t dump it, just squash down the powder to a very fine dust and mix it with your normal moisturiser for a DIY tinted moisturiser.

Don’t bin your perfume if you can see a few drops left.

Instead, pour the last few drops of perfume into an unscented body lotion to create your own scented lotion.

Turn an old make-up compact into a solid perfume container.

Empty an old compact, clean it and fill it with beeswax and essential oils to create a solid, easy-to-carry perfume. 

Salvage an almost-empty lip gloss by soaking it in hot water.

If the last of your lip gloss is stuck at the bottom of your tube, just pop the whole tube into a cup of very warm water for a few minutes to get it liquid again.

Salvage dried-out mascara by heating it. 

If your mascara is drying out, to get the last few applications out of the wand, just use the same process as above and pop the tube into a cup of very warm water for a few minutes. Remove from the water and swirl the wand around the inside of the tube before applying.

Clean off an old mascara wand and use it as an eyebrow brush.



Re-activate your powder. Photo: Fran Veale

Sometimes our powder products like eye shadows and pressed powders can ‘cake over’. This happens when the powder has been dampened and subsequently dried, which stops the formula from working. You’ll know this has happened when the powder has become uneven, bumpy and discoloured in areas. Do not throw caked-over products away. Instead, to re-activate the powder, take a small blade or even a firm eyebrow brush, and scrape away at the areas that have dried over. When the powder has returned to an even colour and texture it should be good for use again.



9 Holland 1 Barrett.jpg
Zoya Renew Nail Polish Rejuvenator

Is your nail varnish thick, gloopy and dried out? Don’t bin it! Instead, put a few drops of varnish thinner in it and shake thoroughly to bring it back to life. Try Mavala Thinner for Nail Polish, €9.50, from and selected pharmacies. Or for a ‘5 Free’ chemical-free option, try Zoya Renew Nail Polish Rejuvenator, €14.89, from Holland & Barrett nationwide. 

When you’ve finished with a nail varnish, it should be disposed of in the same manner as paint, so please don’t pour it down the drain. The chemicals are potentially quite harmful and shouldn’t be part of the water supply.



Clean your brushes every month. Photo: Fran Veale

This should be done every month to keep your bushes hygienic and also to keep your make-up looking fresh and free from smudges. In between deep cleans, you can use a tissue to gently remove any excess product from your brushes each time you use them.

If you use a liquid foundation brush, sponge or Beauty Blender, you should cleanse them after every use, as these items are used the most often with wet formulas and are a prime cause of bacteria build-up. It only takes a few seconds and is well worth doing.

Keep your brushes hygienic. Photograph: Fran Veale


● Moisten the soap with water.

● Rub the brush bristles (head only) over the soap and gently lather.

● Rinse the brush bristles in lukewarm water until it runs clear.

● Always avoid getting the metal part and handle wet if possible as this can loosen the hairs.

● Be careful not to leave soap residue in the centre of a densely packed brush.

● Reshape your brush and lay flat to dry on a towel, tissue or clean surface.

● Wipe the soap of any suds or residue, let the soap dry and store for next use.

● I use Blank Canvas Cosmetics Solid Brush and Sponge Cleansing Soap, €14.99, from and pharmacies nationwide.

Wash each brush individually. Photograph: ©Fran Veale


You can use baby shampoo as an alternative to brush soap. Fill the base of your sink with very warm but not hot water and a generous amount of baby shampoo. Place the heads of your brushes into the water, then wash each brush individually — you may have to add some shampoo to your hand. Swirl the brushes around until all the product is cleaned off. Rinse with cool water, reshape when damp and leave to dry.

* To avoid the build-up of hair products and oils on your hairbrush, wash it every two months. Use shampoo in very warm water, removing all old hair and fluff. Rinse thoroughly and leave to dry.


Organise it


Cosmetics dividers, wash bags, and clear plastic vanity cases are great ways to store your products and group them together. They’re available at Ikea, Penneys, Boots, and storage solutions stores.

Store your products in a clear plastic case. Photo: Fran Veale


Keeping all your beauty products in individual bags is a great way to know exactly where everything is — ie all serums in one bag, all eye creams in another. Shoe dividers that you can hang on the back of a door are also a brilliant storage solution in a small space. Simply hang on the back of your bathroom door and separate all your different products in separate pouches.

A cosmetic divider is a great way to store your beauty products. Photo: Fran Veale


Use a ‘filing cabinet’ fold out makeup bag. This is a super speedy way to get ready in the morning — no footering around looking for different things — this is a one-stop shop for all grooming needs in a jiffy. I use this for the school run and keep it in the kitchen. It has everything I need in different pouches — hairbrush and products in one, skincare and SPF in another, and lastly my make-up essentials in the last pouch.

Use a 'filing cabinet' fold out makeup bag. Photo: Fran Veale

Recycle it


Ireland produces 61kg of plastic waste per person each year. A lot of this junk comes from our beauty regimes. For example, the cardboard that envelops perfumes, serums and moisturisers contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest each year.

With advances in technology, there are increasingly more beautiful packaging options that we can pop in the brown bin with a clear conscience. Packaging can now be made from chalk, seaweed, mushroom, corn and bamboo.

I would love my favourite beauty brands to up their game and give me more options for biodegradable/greener/ultra streamlined beauty packaging, wouldn’t you? Happily, the EU has launched plans to make all plastic packaging on the European market recyclable by 2030, but in the meantime, here are some beauty brands to look out for that already use recycled and recyclable packaging, and are moving towards fully biodegradable, compostable packaging.

1 L’Occitane

The French company is helping customers cut down on their plastic waste by offering eco-refills for its most popular products. Using 90pc less plastic than its traditional bottles, the brand estimates it saved 124 tonnes of material last year alone. L’Occitane also uses recycled materials in much of its packaging and limits air transport where possible.

2 Kevin.Murphy Hair

This Aussie brand is an absolute trailblazer when it comes to minimising its environmental impact. It uses packaging that is recyclable or biodegradable, along with ingredients that are sustainable and renewable. It also encourages hair salons to reduce their carbon footprint with its green salon initiative.

3 Aveda

The brand uses 100pc recycled plastic in its PET bottles, helping the company to save 600 tonnes of virgin plastic each year. 

4 Dior

Dior has removed all cellophane and cardboard wedges from its Hydra LIFE range. And those luxury skincare instruction leaflets have been replaced with a scannable QR code.

5 Tata Harper

This natural, organic line uses recycled glass because “unlike plastic, glass can be recycled indefinitely”, explains founder Tata. Any plastic that the brand does use is derived from renewable corn rather than petroleum, and containers are constructed from 100pc recycled paper. Even the gilded font is made from soy ink. 

Inglot's biodegradable palette

6 Inglot

The make-up brand has introduced a palette made from biodegradable bamboo for €18.

7 Eco Tools

This American line uses no plastic at all, and wants to produce more sustainable beauty tools. When you’re finished with these brushes, just pop them in the brown bin. Priced from €3.50, or €19.99 for a six-brush set, at Boots and pharmacies and health food stores nationwide.

ols make up brushes.jpg
Ecotools brushes can be popped in the brown bin when finished with

8 Johnson & Johnson

The personal care giant recently banned plastic from its cotton buds.

9 Unilever

A notable mention goes to the beauty powerhouse which has recently committed to making 100pc of its plastic packaging fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Well done!



MAC run a programme where they encourage you to bring back your empties to any MAC counter for recycling, by swapping six of them for a free lipstick of your choice.  You can return empties from lipsticks to eye shadows, and even the eyelash boxes. 


This company created the beauty industry’s first recycling programme for cosmetic packaging back in 2009. Beauty packaging can be returned to its stores.


The eco-friendly store takes back its packaging. Return five of the Black Pot products and you’ll get a free fresh facemask. 

& Other Stories

The store offers a 10pc off voucher for their beauty empties. 


The skincare experts offer a recycling loyalty card. 


Beauty powerhouse Garnier has teamed up with recycling firm TerraCycle to allow you to drop off hard-to-recycle bathroom rubbish at its depots (or post it for free), in exchange for points that can be turned into a donation to a non-profit group. All brands of personal care products are accepted. See for more information.

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