Health and Beauty

Stretch it further: meds and makeup

oldmedicinecrop2We all have mornings when we can’t tell the razor blade from the handle. And that lumpy palm-full of conditioner is never a pleasant surprise. The stuff behind your mirror can turn, whether it’s meant to be brushed, rubbed, swallowed or whatever. And pricey replacements should be a last resort. Since we’re into making things last lately, here are a few ways to prolong your pills, to stretch your shaver a bit further—how to get more from your medicine cabinet.

There’s no need to shell out for a spendy new razor cartridge every two weeks. Atlanta’s Clark Howard, cheap-o guru, once used a 17-cent disposable for a whole year by keeping it dry. When listeners replicated his experiment, one ended up with his own cottage industry—RazorPro. While Brokelyn doesn’t recommend shelling out $15 for a mini-fan just for your shaver, there are ways you can keep it sharp without the fancy gear.

Water from the shower and air, combined with salt from your skin, will rust out your blade. To keep it dry, either blot it with a towel (Howard’s technique), blow-dry it or rest it on a vent. From there, suggestions vary from cryogenetic freezing or magnetic holders, to soaking blades in vodka between uses. A Howard listener and engineer recommends either rubbing-alcohol, oils or glycerin (even using glycerin shaving cream). Then, store your razors somewhere dry. Also, try putting less pressure on the blade as you shave—lightly wipe instead of pressing down.

Surprisingly enough, the cotton balls in pill bottles are more than just cushioning. They help keep the air in the bottle dry, as moisture is a med killer (as is heat). So, ironically, the “medicine” cabinet is an awful place to store them. Every six months, dig through your shelves and toss any pills that are crumbly or discolored. If your prescription needs to be kept cold, keep it in the fridge door to avoid freezing.

scoredpillsAs a cost-cutting measure, one in six Americans have started cutting their pills in half. Doctors will even prescribe meds double-strength, intending for patients to take half doses. This doesn’t work for all medicines, of course—only pills that are “scored,” that have the line running down the tablet. And beware the obligatory precautions and warnings.

The classic enemies: air, heat and moisture all threaten the well-being of your makeup. The first step is keeping everything clean to avoid getting oils, dirt and bacteria into the cosmetics and on to your face. This means washing your hands and face before application and using a clean brush, sponge or applicator. Wash these tools with warm water and mild soap, soak for 30 seconds, rinse and lay flat to dry. Sponges should be cleaned with every application; powder puffs, every week; natural brushes, every month; and synthetic brushes, once every three to four months.

Another way to stop air from getting into your favorite toiletries is investing in a few pump bottles. Less air gets in, so cleansers and moisturizers will last longer than the normal six months. Other cosmetics should be stored in airtight containers. And avoid that temptation to show off a pretty perfume bottle on your vanity. Put it somewhere dark for a longer life.

Stretching your mascara is a no-no

Nail polish, lipstick, and face cream can all go in the fridge—which should make them last longer than the average year. As a general rule, if cosmetics’ texture or smell changes, it’s time to say good-bye. You can, however, coax some life out of clumpy foundation by adding a bit of alcohol-free toner. The one item of makeup that everyone says especially not to stretch is mascara. Replace your tube every three months, and don’t ever “pump” the wand—it just forces more air and bacteria inside.

Under normal circumstances, here are the guidelines for how long cosmetics should last: liquid foundation, three to six months; cream foundation, four to six months; concealor, six to eight months; powder, one year; mascara, three months; lipstick, gloss, one year; pencils one year; facial cleaners, moisturizers, six months; toner, one year; natural cosmetics, six months.


  1. “I now realize that I have been smearing toxic ooze on my face for well over a year!”

    i personally will continue to do so as i cannot afford to replace a $60 bottle of foundation!

  2. Carrie

    CC, the foundation shouldn’t hurt you as long as you apply it with a clean sponge/clean fingers every time so you don’t get contaminants on and in the bottle.

  3. Faye, how can you match your skin w/o trying it on though? That is my fear with drug store foundations, and the reason why foundation is the one thing I still buy from the dept. store counters…

  4. Adriana

    @CC — I’m not 100% positive, but I believe that Rite Aid’s return policy includes opened cosmetics – you should look into it and take advantage of that!

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