A Journey Through Purge-atory, Part 1: Lipsticks and Glosses

Just call me Virgil.

To save some money in the coming school year, I’m moving at the end of the summer into a two-bedroom duplex apartment. As moves go, this one will be almost comically easy, since my new building is next door to my current one. But I’ll be sharing the apartment with a friend from my grad-school cohort, and though she’s well aware of my makeup-hoarding ways, I can’t exactly continue to use my entire living space as as a vanity table. The more stuff I can eliminate this summer, the better, and I’m starting with lipsticks and glosses. I’m hoping this can be a semi-regular series of quickie posts in the two months leading up to the move.

I think most of us have a purge-atory: an area where we put beauty products that we never wear but can’t bring ourselves to throw away.  There they linger for months or years, victims of our ambivalence. I’m guilty of saving unworn makeup for all the worst reasons: because I wore it to a Janelle Monáe concert, or my mom gave it to me, or whatever. But really, there’s only one good reason for me to hold on to makeup: I enjoy wearing it. There are quite a few lipsticks and glosses that I haven’t worn in over a year but have justified keeping around for one reason or another, and the time has come to cut the cord.

Lipsticks first! I started my purge last month by giving away three of my matte blue-based red lipsticks. Full disclosure: I gave them to the friend I’m moving in with, so they’ll still be in my apartment. They just won’t be mine anymore, and that’s totally different, right? Clockwise from top: Wet n Wild Stoplight Red, NYX Bloody Mary, Revlon Really Red.

My friend had never worn a red lipstick before I gave her these, but she loves Really Red and looks smashing in it. I, on the other hand, have fallen out of love with blue-based reds. They flatter me more than warm reds do, but they also feel dressier and stuffier. I find myself wearing warm reds more often because they seem more modern and casual: I have no problem pairing Topshop Rio Rio with a t-shirt, but something like YSL Rouge Gouache looks out of place when I’m dressed down. Fear not, thoughif I fall back in love with cool reds, I’ll still have four to choose from: Rouge Gouache (glossy), NARS Mysterious Red (matte), Maybelline On Fire Red (satin), and NARS Flamenco (sheer). Even four seems like too many, considering how infrequently I wear red lipstick.

Over the last few months, eight other lipsticks have found their way into purge-atory (represented in the material world by the plastic bag hanging on my closet doorknob). Left to right: Maybelline Fuchsia Flash, Milani Flamingo Pose and Sweet Nectar, L’Oreal Fairest Nude, NYX Perfect and Black Cherry, MAC Capricious, and Laura Mercier Bare Lips. I’ve reviewed all of these in my Lipstick Chronology; the links go to the individual reviews. Looking at these early posts makes me think I should really retake some of the photos before getting rid of the lipsticks, but hey.

For all but two of these lipsticks, the problem lies in the formula, not the color. Fuchsia Flash is one of the two color-based exceptions. Fuchsia lipsticks usually suit me, but Fuchsia Flash has a harsh white base that makes the color jar with my skin tone. I actually offered it to the friend to whom I gave my three red lipsticks, but she wisely turned it down—she doesn’t share my fondness for screamingly tacky shades. Flamingo Pose is a beautiful reddish-pink coral, but I can’t stand the Milani Color Statement formula, which is heavy and drying and redolent of synthetic melon. Luckily, this particular shade of coral is quite dupeable, so I won’t be at a loss if I end up missing the color. Another grad-school friend wears Flamingo Pose all the time (I can take credit for that, too), so I’ll see if she wants an extra tube. Sweet Nectar is a double loss: not only does it have the Color Statement formula, but it’s perhaps my least flattering lipstick, a bright yellow-based orange that does nothing for my complexion. Fairest Nude is my HG nude in terms of color, but the L’Oreal scent makes this lipstick unwearable for me, and I’ve found a decent (though slightly less pink) substitute in Maybelline Nude Lust. Perfect is both drying and slippery, and it’s another very dupeable color. Black Cherry started to go off about a year ago, after just a year and a half of use—you might not be able to see it in this photo, but the top of the tube has turned darker. Capricious also seems to have turned: it’s coated in a translucent film that makes it look matte, which it certainly isn’t. I don’t know if this is just what happens to MAC Lustres after a few years, but I don’t want to take any chances. Finally, Bare Lips got lots of use before I figured out that lipsticks didn’t necessarily have to dry out my lips; then it got superseded by NARS Dolce Vita, Revlon Pink Truffle, and who knows how many other lip-friendly MLBBs.

It’s time to say goodbye to some of my glosses, too. Left to right: Maybelline Vision in Violet, Boots No. 7 x Poppy King Seduction, Revlon Fire.

Vision in Violet, an opaque blue-based purple, is just not wearable in polite society, and I don’t attend enough Adventure Time costume parties to justify keeping it around.

Despite its deep plum-brown color, Seduction is practically transparent on my lips, and its rancid orange scent makes me wonder if I happened to buy a really old tube. Fire is beautiful but impractical: if I want to wear an opaque red gloss, I’ll stick with Rouge Gouache, which actually stays on my lips.

Having written all this, I’m reminded of something I noted in my last post: that “we beauty addicts are too fond of consigning products to oblivion in order to justify buying new ones.” I can’t help but wonder if my newfound zeal for purging conceals the desire for an excuse to buy new stuff. I don’t believe in forcing myself to use up products I don’t really enjoy, but I also don’t want to be too hasty in banishing unloved lipsticks to the landfill. There’s been much talk of streamlining and KonMari and minimalism in the beauty blogosphere this year, and while I think there’s merit to maintaining a small, well-edited collection, I also think we need to be honest with ourselves about why we want to free up space. I’ll admit it now: the more old lipsticks I get rid of, the better I’ll feel about buying new ones. Which I will do, eventually, because I’m addicted human. Lipsticks aren’t very heavy and they don’t take up much room, and the space left when a lipstick is thrown out is the perfect shape and size for, you guessed it, another lipstick. For now, though, I’ll be good; I just won’t claim to be embracing minimalism for its own sake. Let’s face it, I’m not much of a minimalist in any other aspect of my life, so why should I be different when it comes to makeup?

See you soon for another journey through purge-atory!

17 thoughts on “A Journey Through Purge-atory, Part 1: Lipsticks and Glosses

  1. I too have been purging a bunch of stuff – and filling up some of the space with newer stuff, although I do have significantly less than I did to begin with. Win?It is nice to lighten one's load, though.


  2. I am a hoarder – not in the 'whoops, I still have a T-shirt from high school' sense, but in the Actual Diagnosis sense. So I find the obsession with minimalism interesting. In many ways, it is also a consumerist philosophy – allowing your life to be overly concerned with (lack of) stuff, and purchasing expensive status objects purely because they fit a minimalist aesthetic. I always think of Will Self, who paid an astonishing amount of money to get his Volvo car 'de-branded'…I'm going to Japan later in the year and am interested in what will be most prevalent – the kitschy kawaii stereotype, or the Muji minimalism stereotype. Maybebib years to come, we'll look at KonMari in the same way we do feng shui now.


  3. Ugh, yes! The more free space I see, the more I want to fill it out. I want to give away my lipstick container, too. But sometimes the devil inside me says, you did a good job. You deserve a new lipstick.Anyway, your red lipstick theory makes a lot of sense. I can't seem to wear bright blue reds with shirt and jeans. Although I can do wine red. Most of the time, with casual clothes, I reach out to muted brown reds.


  4. I've had my run of buying make up like a maniac, but nowadays i feel sad for the lipsticks I don't get to wearing often. I've practically stopped buying make up and I'm working on making a dent on the stuff I do have. But then again, I just got 4 Illamasqua lip products the other day, so………Seriously though, I feel like I have just about every colour family covered in both blush and lipstick. I'm not one to scrutinize minute differences in colour, so one of every major colour is good enough for me. (That's still like 20 lipsticks, but I'm getting there, right?)


  5. The problem is that we live in a consumerist society, so any impulse to question our consumerism (e.g. minimalism) eventually becomes a consumerist impulse in itself. I'm thinking of the fashion blogs that make a big fuss about achieving a \”capsule wardrobe,\” in the process of which they manage to buy quite a few new items. You make a good point about KonMari perhaps being another ~exotic~ trend in the West. I've never read Marie Kondo's book (largely because I love my old useless stuff and don't want to be guilted into throwing it away!), but now I'm curious about it. By the way, I'm very envious of your Japan trip. I've been there only once, back in 2001, and quite a lot has changed since then! I remember the kawaii aesthetic dominating, but I was also a 13-year-old girl visiting a girls' middle school, so I probably got a skewed perspective…


  6. Ever since I started reading your blog, I've admired your devotion to keeping a tiny collection and getting rid of dupes and near-dupes. I could never approach my own stash in the same way! I think you're doing just fine.Yes, I should have mentioned that I group brown-reds into the \”warm red\” category. I don't wear those reds during the spring and summer, but they get a lot of use in the colder months.


  7. Haha, I feel a sense of pity for my unworn lipsticks, too! It reminds me of when I was little and I tried to show all my dolls and stuffed animals the same amount of love so no one would feel left out. 20 lipsticks is…far, far fewer than I have. I think I'm at 70-75 right now, and there are still more that I want! I have to keep reminding myself that I won't wear a bronze lipstick more than once or twice, and a matte-finish lavender isn't that much different from a satin-finish lavender.


  8. I read Marie Kondo's book a couple months ago and really enjoyed it. What I like is that she doesn't bother with guilt trips or make rules about how much you have to use things or how many things you should own. Mostly it's about identifying your feelings about your possessions. I particularly liked how she talked about acknowledging why you own things, and not feeling bound and obligated by those reasons–maybe buying something made you feel happy, and then you never really wanted to use it, so that thing has fulfilled its purpose and you don't need it anymore.The \”does this bring me joy?\” metric feels a little goofy when you're reading the book, or at least I felt that way. But when I sorted through my clothes, and after going through a bunch of pants that don't fit right and t-shirts commemorating things I don't need to commemorate, I did feel a kind of happy gratitude to pick up a shirt I like and enjoy wearing.That said, I haven't tried the technique on my books and papers yet. (My childhood home is for sale, so I really need to do something about book storage, preferably before all my favorite children's books come to live with me.)


  9. I'm always fascinated reading other bloggers' purge posts, it's just so interesting for me to see what others' preferences are and which formulas turned out to be duds. I shall stay away from Milani Statement lipsticks!I think I understand what you mean by blue-based reds feeling a little too dressy – I think they have this Old Hollywood feel to them that doesn't read very modern when paired with jeans and a t-shirt. I have a few too many cool reds myself, and I don't find myself reaching for them very often. As for bright, pigmented glosses – I almost never, ever wear mine, and I've vowed not to purchase any more in the future. It's a bit of a lip disaster waiting to happen.Now, for the purge motivation – yes, I agree wholeheartedly. It drives me nuts to watch YouTubers toss out half of their drawers one day, only to replace them with new products the next. For me, the reason for decluttering and trying to reduce my stash is not really to be able to get new things right away; I do actually want to have a smaller collection, because I've found that I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by the number of options, and anxious about products expiring/ being forgotten/ going to waste. I'm looking forward to the next part of your Purge-atory!


  10. I'm glad to hear that MK focuses more on active appreciation than on renunciation or regret, as I worried she might (my Puritan roots were showing themselves, clearly). It's true that sometimes the act of buying something is more fulfilling than having and using that thing, so why not acknowledge that? I'm all for acknowledging and dealing with impulses instead of pretending they don't exist. I'm curious, though, what she suggests we do with objects that don't bring us joy but are still useful or necessary.Papers are so hard for me to get rid of! The space under my futon is a seething hell of old class notes and half-filled-out forms. As for books, my collection has yet to get out of hand. For someone getting a PhD in English, I really don't own many books: a couple hundred, I think, not counting my children's and young-adult books back home. By the way, I'm really flattered that you read my blog despite not being a makeup person!


  11. I do think Milani's new line of matte lipsticks is fabulous, but yes, stay away from the regular Color Statement line! I remember when they were first reformulated a few years ago, and Milani sent the entire collection to dozens of bloggers, most of whom duly produced rave reviews (\”just as good as my high-end lipsticks,\” etc). That experience taught me to be wary of positive reviews from anyone who has received makeup for free…I love feeling Old Hollywood, but I have so few excuses to do so. I've tried to make casual blue-based red happen over the years, at department events and such, but the amount of attention I've gotten from visiting male professors on such occasions has made me uncomfortable. The fact is that intense blue-based lipstick sends a certain message, and 99% of the time, I don't want to send that message.I've been loving your minimalism posts, too, and I don't doubt that there's a worthy impulse behind them. But YouTube can be such a shitshow of excessive consumption, ugh.


  12. Well, I may not love makeup, but I love enthusiasts! Last year I went to Balboa Park in San Diego and there were all these venues for hobbyists to show off their things–koi, orchids, turtles–and it was great. I like it when people talk intelligently about the things they enjoy. It's infectious, and it makes me feel comfortingly like the world is full of interesting things.


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