A 101 guide, the basics about something so basic as storing make up? Really? Yes, but I promise: This post will not be about where to put what type of product and where to get what container. Instead, it will help you examine your make up storage needs from a curating perspective, i.e. how to utilise whatever space you have to store your make up in a way that supports and enhances your creative process and streamlines your make up routine.
Here's what not to do: Leave all of your products in a standard, one-section travel bag. That's what I did for years and each morning I spent the few minutes I had to put on my make up scrambling through the bag, trying to find my eyebrow pencil or whatever. Throwing lots of small pieces into a larger container is never a clever storage method: not only was finding specific items a huge challenge, the labels on the outside also rubbed off quickly, powder products broke and I forgot about half of the stuff I had in there and ended up with lots of duplicates and dried out mascara tubes. As I got more and more into the topic of wardrobe building I realised just what an important component of your personal style the organisation of your stuff is: you can curate the most perfect set of clothes, but if you are just going to throw them into the back of your closet, you are not only reducing their lifespan, but also negating most of the benefits of a well thought out wardrobe, like being able to instantly put together an outfit for every occasion.
In essence, both building outfits and putting on make up is about combining lots of small things into a bigger visual concept. It’s not a random process, there’s a certain structure about it, a system. Both your wardrobe and make up organisation should support and enhance that process and not make it more difficult.
Now, because your make up storage should support your own individual routine, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. To figure out your ideal storage method, you'll need to put on your curating hat and carefully examine your routine and unique beauty look. Read on for a 3-step guide on how to do just that.
step 1: preparing your kit
Before you can analyse your routines and build an organisation system, you first need to prepare your make up collection and make sure it includes everything you need, but nothing more. Here are 4 basic questions to get you started:
where do you want to store your make up?
If you want to reorganise your make up, use the opportunity to rethink a basic question: in which room of your house/apartment do you want to store your make up, i.e. where do you want to put on your make up every day? The bathroom is perhaps the most obvious choice: with a sink nearby you can go straight from your skin care to your make up routine and do things like wash brushes and wet sponges without having to switch rooms. Sometimes, however, the bathroom is not the best option. When we lived in London, we had the tiniest bathroom you can think of and it did not even have a window, so the lighting was terrible. Getting ready in the morning at the same time as my boyfriend was almost impossible so I eventually moved all of my make up to a desk in the bedroom near my closet. The lighting and mirror situation there was much better and I would always get dressed, then put on my make up and jewellery all in one go.
have you detoxified your kit?
I’m actually not a big fan of the term make up collection, because it implies make up products are collectibles and something to own, rather than use. Before you start thinking about how to best store your make up, make sure you have gone through every single item in your kit and sorted out anything that is not in good shape or that you don't use regularly.
is every product in your kit an active part of your routine?
Even though you should aim to get rid of most things you haven’t touched in weeks, some products just need to be stored for a while, either because they are seasonal products, back ups or colours you only wear on certain occasions. Identify those products and then separate them from your main set. By separating I don’t mean lock them in your basement or completely out of sight, just don’t put them in the same storage unit as the rest of your make up (even just a different drawer is fine) and don't consider them a part of your active make up set during the following two steps.
is your make up kit complete?
If you have just detoxified your make up collection you might be left with quite a few gaps. Aim to fill those gaps before you continue working on your storage method. You'll need to be able to see exactly how much space you need, how many products you own per category, etc. Similarly, if you are in the process of overhauling your entire personal style or even just your make up look, do so before you continue with step 2.
step 2: choosing a basic organisation system
Once you have prepared your kit it's time to figure out a basic organisation system for your products. Like I said in the beginning, storing lots of little things in a big box is not a good idea: Even if your make up kit is relatively small, you need to somehow separate/organise its contents. The key factor to pay attention to here is how you use those contents on a daily basis. Do a little analysis of your own make up routines a la Into the Gloss' Top Shelf and think about what kinds of products you put on regularly and for what occasion. That way, you will get a better idea of the internal structure of your make up kit and can choose a matching organisation system. Here are three common ways to organise make up:
Organising your make up by category, i.e. grouping all of your lipsticks together, then your eye shadows, etc. is perhaps the most common method. It is a good choice if you like to rotate different products to fill a certain step in your routine, e.g. a few different lip glosses you wear several times a week depending on your outfit.
by frequency of use
If you don’t really switch out products that much from day to day and instead have a few different set routines, e.g. for work, going out at night and weekend activities, you could consider grouping your make up accordingly. This is how I currently organise my make up. Like I said in my Everyday Make up Routine post, my daytime make up is sectioned in to three levels. Depending on the occasion, I either do them all or stop after the first or second level. Alternatively, if you don’t have set routines, you could also just class your products into groups according to how often you use them, i.e. every day, nearly every day + less frequently.
If you like to alternate between a few complete looks (e.g. smokey eye + nude lips, peach lips + peachy blush + creme eye shadow), you could try storing your make up in groups of the products you need to create each look (or at least the parts of the process that change). For example, you might have one base section for your concealer/foundation/powder and then several sections with lip/eye/cheek products that each represent one whole look.
Of course you can also combine two or even all three of the above methods to form your own perfect organisation system, for example section all of your make up into everyday, every week, every month and then organise by category within those sections. This is a good option especially if you have quite a lot of make up to store.
step 3: choosing a storage method
Now comes the fun part: Once you have chosen a basic organisation system, you need to figure out how to implement that system and look for actual containers to hold your make up. Before you start browsing Pinterest, Instagram and the likes, do this: Lay out all of the make up you need to store on a table and divide it into groups, according to your chosen basic organisation system. This will give you an idea of how much space you need to house each section.
Now, of course there are a ton of different ways to store make up and between Pinterest, Into The Gloss and your favourite decor blogs you'll be able to find all the inspiration you need. Always use your basic organisation system as the main criterion to select between different options and keep the overall size of your set, plus the space you need for each section in mind. In the end, make up should also be fun, so try to tailor whatever storage method you choose to your own personal style. Below you'll find four different storage methods styled with my own make up kit, all of which could be tailored to smaller or bigger collections without too much effort. My personal favourite is the modular box system. What is your’s?
modular box system
Modular systems like this one, consisting of several stackable elements, are great for all kinds of make up kits, because they allow you to easily create whatever structure you need to suit your make up collection. I found these wooden boxes at the craft store, but you can also find modular systems made from PP (polypropylene), glass or acrylic material at places like MUJI or anywhere they sell office storage supplies. Don't forget that everything can be customised: In this case I just added some coloured masking tape to the edges, but the options are pretty much endless.
all-in-one solution: drawers
Drawers made for office supplies or jewellery are the perfect solution if you want to store your make up completely out of sight. Of course, these MUJI drawers are made from transparent acrylic material, but even so, they create a much more tidy and organised look than an open-storage method. If you are using bigger drawers or have a lot of make up to store I definitely recommend you further divide each drawer into sections. MUJI sells special dividers for all of their drawers, but you could also just use smaller boxes to create separate sections.
assorted pretty glasses + containers
Storing make up in lots of assorted containers can be a pretty and easy way to create a truly customised structure for your make up if you can’t find a ready-made one. To make it work shop around and try to find a range of harmonising containers, like glasses, wooden boxes, little bowls or even empty cans. Make sure you include narrow/long containers for pencil-shaped items but also wider, shallower ones for products like foundation, powder, eyeshadows and blushes.
all-in-one solution: jewellery case
Jewellery cases are another easy, decorative way to store your entire make up collection and be able to hide it all away once you are done with your routine. Most jewellery case come with in-built sections to store tiny things like rings and bracelets so before you buy make sure that the jewellery case you pick matches your chosen organisation system well enough. The individual drawers of jewellery boxes are usually quite flat and work best with items like pencils, brushes and flat compacts. If you have lots of bulky items, a traditional train case might be a better choice.