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9 Genius Ways to Organize Your Makeup Bag, According to Makeup Artists

Are an avalanche of beauty products taking over your makeup bag? Here, beauty pros spill their trade secrets, simple solutions, and top tips for keeping your cosmetics under control.

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Stock up on clear containers

“Organization is key when it comes to your beauty wardrobe,” says Kira Nasrat, celebrity makeup artist and Violet Grey ambassador. “The same way you organize your socks and T-shirts is how you would with you lipsticks and shadows.” She recommends the Muji organizing containers. “I have my everyday essentials in a makeup bag for touch-ups throughout the day. The rest of the makeup gets labeled and filed.” She separates all her products and organized them by category (face mists, serums, face oils, moisturizer, primers, foundations concealers, etc). For eyes and lips, she does the same thing, but sub-categorized by color and texture. While chances are you don’t have quite as many products, you can still smartly organize by face, eyes, and lips.

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Less is more

When it comes to your makeup bag, less is more. You really only need the essentials. (Once your beauty wardrobe is organized, it will be easier to determine what products you actually use day-to-day.) “I always carry a hand sanitizer, mints, floss, lip balm, concealer, a brown smudgy eyeliner, La Prairie Cream Blush, Charlotte Tilbury Retoucher, and TATCHA Blotting Papers,” says Nasrat. Another strategy is to pick products that are versatile, says Bailey Sarian, an ipsy stylist. “A lipstick, powder, Q-tips and mascara is all I carry.”

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Consolidate your lipstick collection

If you love multiple lipsticks but don’t want to tote around ten or more tubes, celebrity makeup artist Mickey Williams suggests getting crafty when consolidating your collection. “I use bobbin boxes for my lipsticks. They keep me organized as an artist and I also use them for my own makeup stash. Each well holds about three-quarters of a lipstick, and I label each, so I can go back and refill when needed.” Pro tip: The process (cutting, pressing, and pushing the colors into each compartment) can be a bit messy, so wear gloves. These are the seven lipstick shades every woman needs in her beauty arsenal.

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Store brushes separately

Brushes need to be taken care of—and cleaned properly. “On the road I use a roll up, brush bin, or a pouch.” Tossing them into your makeup bag not only bends their form but also tracks makeup all over your product containers. Let’s not even discuss bacteria build-up and transfer to your face,” says Williams. The bottom line: Keep them separate, in shape, and wash them regularly. Did you know makeup brushes are one of the 11 everyday items people don’t wash nearly enough?

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Carry a travel pack of cotton swabs

Sarian doesn’t leave home without a travel pack of Q-Tips. Why? Because you can do so much with them (plus the case keeps them free of nasty germs or bacteria that might be lurking in your makeup bag)! “People don’t always think about Q-Tips but they always come in handy!” You can use them to smudge mascara along the lash line (to create an eyeliner-esque effect) or to clean up runny mascara or bleeding lipstick.

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Toss old products

Say farewell to products you don’t use or that are old, expired, and broken. Some makeup has a shorter shelf life than others, notes Nasrat. Mascara should be replaced every three months, whereas eye shadows can last a year or two. Lipstick is typically good for a year and foundation is best used within six months to a year. Also, toss out anything that’s broken. “It’s not worth dipping your hand into shattered eye shadow every morning just to save that little bit of product,” says Jennifer Trotter, pro makeup artist, bridal beauty expert, and founder of Lip Service Makeup.

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Keeps small items tidy

Another way to keep your bag neat: Keep all the smaller items under control. Trotter suggests buying a pencil case for smaller items, like lip liner, eyeliner, tweezers, and cuticle scissors. Celeb makeup artist JoAnn Solomon keeps her eyeliner pencils grouped together with a hair elastic. Simple yet genius!

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Invest in a roll up bag for travel

If you have the space (they roll up into the size of a football) and really want to organize like no other, Williams recommends a makeup roll up with separated clear compartments, like the JOY Better Beauty Case. “These bags are perfect because they keep items organized and easy to find.” (Related: Check out these must-follow hacks for packing makeup in a carry-on.)

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Buy a new bag annually

Make a resolution to buy a new makeup bag at the start of each year. “Make sure it’s big enough for your daily essentials to fit fairly snugly (to avoid jostling and breakage),” says Trotter. Stay away from a delicate bag that can get ruined if you break a eyeshadow or the lid falls off your lipstick. Instead, look for a plastic coated bag that can be wiped down with water or spot cleaned (the interior and exterior). Look for a bag with different zip compartments, like Sonia Kashuk Always Organized Cosmetic Bag.

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay is an avid traveler who has visited 45 countries across six continents. At, she covers both domestic and international travel. When she's not writing, you can find her doing yoga and adding to her ever-growing list of future adventures.