Saturday, 2 October 2010

Mouldy Old Kohl And Broken Bits Of Blusher: The Shameful Secrets Of My Bonkers Make Up Bag

My preoccupation with perfume storage has been comprehensively documented on this blog - I have devoted several posts to the subject, for example here and here, and am constantly agitating about the Heath Robinson ecosystem I have devised using a set of drawers and a beer chiller. The latter is packed to the gunnels and wetter than it should be; indeed I am seriously considering removing all the bottles from their boxes some time soon, to maximise space and also as an urgently needed anti-warp measure.

So you could be forgiven for thinking that I am equally vigilant when it comes to looking after my equally bulging collection of cosmetics - for after all, make up and scent have equal status in the female beauty armoury. Not so. I am sorry to report that my cosmetics suffer from wanton neglect at my hands, and a recent casualty has pulled me up short and made me resolve to mend my abusive ways.

For the other day I discovered patches of mould on the end of an eye liner pencil. I can't do proper close ups with this camera, and for the sake of readers' sensibilities, it is probably a good thing, though you may just be able to make out a tell-tale pale sheen on the tip. Yes, you know those little spots of whitish mould that develop on chocolate after a while? They are like that....lots and lots of them. So many that they have started to join up and form conurbations. And they glisten in a disconcerting way. Now that I have photographed the pencil, taken one last look at the tip, and had a go at capturing this bacteriological phenomenon in words, that is it now. The offending implement is in the bin, straddling a slimy banana skin and a greasy bag that had samosas in it, so I am not tempted to fish it out, or - God forbid - attempt a smoky eye with a very special silvery glint.

A cursory rummage in my make up bag has thrown up the following items that are probably past their best. First up is a MAC eyeshadow in Green Smoke that is smashed to smithereens (which didn't stop me chasing the last few frosted particles around the dish in the Ladies at Euston station before heading to The Perfume Diaries talk...For let's face it - someone wearing a frock backwards - even deliberately - to a high profile London event isn't going to be too precious about poking some shimmering shards with a little plastic stick.) Oh yes, I forgot to mention that the sponge tip of the applicator was loose and riddled with holes: a couple of foam shreds were actually hanging off the end like bait on a fishing rod. But going back to the splinters of eyeshadow, for the record I would just like to say that I do take my car to Autoglass at the first sign of a chipped windscreen. Had I waited until the windscreen resembled my eyeshadow pot, I probably wouldn't be around to write about its shattered state and compromised visibility...

And then there is my blusher. We'll pass lightly over it, with no jokes please about "At Risk Rouge". It is in a similar state to the eyeshadow, basically. The particular shade I favour has been discontinued by L'Oreal, though I managed to buy a back up on Ebay, which I will bring onstream when the current one becomes completely unuseable, which as you can see isn't particularly imminent. Lastly, I spotted a nail polish that may have seen better days. I mean, I am not entirely sure about this - it may just need a good shake.

Okay, so I fully accept that I mistreat my make up, but even though I curate my perfumes, keeping as many as will fit in the fridge at a perfect 10 degrees, I don't buy into this whole "mascaras should be kept for six months" argument. Some people put make up in the fridge, I understand. I suppose I could see a case for mascara being popped in there during a heatwave. Or eye liner pencil after 10 years, say.

Yes, shelf life is the other thing that bugs me about the cosmetics industry. The official line is that if you don't use up your lipstick or whatever in fairly short order, it will poison you. I may be misrepresenting this slightly, but I know they don't like you keeping make up for decades. Well, of course they don't - it's that old chestnut of "built-in product obsolescence" - whereby if we chucked the stuff away more regularly, we'd end up buying more. Mind you, that doesn't necessarily hold true, for I am forever buying impulse lipsticks. I just don't throw away the ones from 1992. Or only if I have grown out of the colour. But there again, pale frosted peach could come round again. The fact that it would look ghoulishly ghastly on lips of pensionable age is beside the point. I want to keep all my options open - even the Munsterish blackcurrant shade I once wore to a Hallowe-en party to accessorise my black eye. (Mr Bonkers has asked me to point out that I was going out with my previous partner at the time. And I really did walk into a door...)

Now if The Non-Blonde happened to see this post, she would be horrified. There is a very real risk that I would be struck off her blog roll, or at the very least urged to buy a better camera. Have you seen her amazing close ups? Those lipstick swatches on forearms are the business!

To sum up, I am not proud of my shabby treatment of cosmetics. I just think that for the most part, my priorities lie elsewhere. It comes down to the fact that I can only care for one category of beauty product at a time. It is probably a good thing I don't have children.

In future I vow to be more ruthless about throwing out items of make up that have "condemned" written all over them. Or they would if they had a few more atoms of pigment left for the concerned onlooker to write with. A recent TV documentary - INSIDE THE ROTTING ROOM (link to it here) - rather put the wind up me the other day about the issue of decay generally. And although I'd like to hang on to my five year old honeycomb for now - as it comes from the B & B next to the church where Madonna's son was christened : - ) - I have just been down to make a cup of tea, and while I was there I threw away a pot of marmalade that has a funny tang, and a nearly used jar of orange curd with a suspect brown fleck on the bottom. It could well be a crumb of toast, but for once I am going to play safe.

Photos of make up are all my own - I am mortified to say! Photo of me from the family archives : - )


  1. "It comes down to the fact that I can only care for one category of beauty product at a time. It is probably a good thing I don't have children."

    This literally made me laugh out loud!

  2. Yes, that one got me chuckling too!

    I will confess that I rarely if ever throw makeup away. I have some lipsticks from the 80s that are frankly a bit whiffy. You know how oils/crisps/peanuts/walnuts get that tang of... well... rancid fat? Hmm.

    You have encouraged me to weed them out. Better to part with them than spend a day smelling like gone-off salad dressing.

  3. Hi Farah,

    Between you and me, I also have some old cleanser is separating out into brownish oil and other opaque gunk. Those dispersing agents have clearly long since given up the ghost...

  4. "Rancid fat" and "gone-off salad dressing"? Hmm, you're right - a bit of a putsch may be in order. You are of course my main lipstick enabler, as I have bought several lippies on your recommendation (eg Clinique Sweet Honey and that brown L'Oreal one that is supposed to make me look like a former Miss World).

  5. My goodness, it's a wonder you haven't gotten all sorts of mucous membrane infections wearing all those mushroomy products!

    I think it's time to go shopping for some 'fresh' cosmetics.

  6. It's great to get the view of a health professional on the matter...yes, we had the input of an astrophysicist on the Night Star post, a social psychologist on the "burning coals" swapping issue, and now a nurse on the the topic of cosmetic hygiene!

    In my defence I haven't worn the eye pencil since the development of the mould - I am sure I caught it in time - and that is the only item with actual certified mushrooms. And I don't wear those very old lipsticks - I just like the comfort of hanging on to them... The main problem seems to be with stuff getting smashed. I don't think I've had either the eye shadow or the blusher all that long. Under five years, certainly. : - )

  7. Just toss the junky lot and invest in clean, new stuff. If you need comfort, have a hot toddy :-)

  8. I don't mind keeping old powder makeup - there are eyeshadows I know I've had for three years, and liner crayons for FIVE, and they're fine. Fine, I tell you. I'll keep liquid makeup for a year or so, too.

    But mascara? Six months, and those dudes are outtahere. They grow all kinds of nasty junk. I like my eyes better without infections!

  9. Oops, I appear to be turning into an unsanitary pariah! : - )

    Though my late mother always said: "You eat a peck of dirt before you die.", or whatever the mascara wand equivalent of that saying may be.

    On balance, I think it is time for a new blog post...

  10. I apparently go further than you in prioritizing beauty product categories - while the perfume bottle collection has broken my self-imposed ceiling of fifty and is dashing madly for three digits, I have no makeup. Other than lip balm. Which, come to think of it, has been around for a very, very long time...

  11. Hi CF,

    Wow, that is interesting! My naked face rarely ventures beyond the front door - except for the occasional coat-over-pyjamas dash to the post office.

    And that makes two of us owning elderly lip balm! If I do go on to develop mouth ulcers as a result, I think I may have an even older tube of Bonjela knocking around somewhere...

  12. Interesting! I throw out mascaras past 6months, and anything that doesn't look or smell right. My biggest regret is throwing out half a dozen (or maybe 10) mac eyeshadows that were 4 years old, including the cherished green smoke. There was nothing wrong with them, other than being 4 years old. I think this was part of the same misguided clearing-out that saw the disposal of all my sports bras. Hormones have a lot to answer for.

  13. Hi hebe,

    That's interesting - I have about six MAC eyeshadows, four years old or younger, and they are all staying put. Though I might ask Santa for a new Green Smoke, for reasons of sheer practicality. It is like a powdery game of ice hockey with the few bits that remain.

    Sports bras are timelessly useful items, so I quite understand your regret there. Mind you, I think that "Fame" look of leotard over thigh length footless tights may be over now, but I am not a regular gym attender, and we have seen the return of some other scary 80s fashions...

  14. Yeah, I keep thinking that _someday_, surely, I'm going to give in and try (1) makeup, (2) hair color, and (3) coffee. But, no, it looks like I'm going to continue to go into the future barefaced, increasingly-gray-haired, and caffeinated with Coke and iced tea. I might, someday, perhaps, try the very subtlest of lipstick. Maybe.

  15. Like you, I don't care for coffee, but I do do 1) and I will do 2) when the time comes! So far I just have a few silver hairs in the underside of my fringe, but I am sure it is only a matter of time.

    You could always experiment with lipstick at home first to see if you liked the effect?

    And does Himself have a view on these matters?