My Big Beauty Purge


Fiona Gibson has decided that everything – well, nearly everything – must go.

I’ll admit it: I am a beauty hoarder. Anything given to me or bought on a whim –  even stuff tried and not liked – is stashed in a big glass-fronted cabinet in our bathroom. And there it remains. Nothing is ever thrown away.


The cupboard’s so full, small items tumble out whenever the door is opened. I feel queasy just looking at it. Plus it’s a health risk: billions of bacteria, gently multiplying in gunk. Time, then, for the Big Beauty Purge.


First up, I dump the lot on my bed for closer inspection. I’m actually shocked by the age of some of the products. There are lipsticks and pressed powders from when I worked as a beauty editor on a magazine in – ahem – the late ’80s. Madonna was still married to Sean Penn. Some of these mascaras and eye shadows pre-date mobile phones.  I don’t use them now, obviously, yet here they lie, cluttering and slowly decaying for one reason only: because I hate waste.


I’m also addicted to things in mini sizes, the assumption being, ‘This’ll be handy for travelling.’ Fine if it’s quality stuff, but we’re hardly talking Cowshed here. Why am I hanging onto 13 tiny bottles of unbranded shampoo and a Novotel soap? Why do I thieve hotel toiletries at all, as if fearing some global shampoo shortage? Also: body lotion. Like most women in their forties I don’t relish the prospect of withering to a crisp. But still…. four tubs of body butter, all but one smelling decidedly rancid?  I also find a metallic, glittery lotion so old it may have been purchased to celebrate the fall of the Berlin wall. There are bath salts purloined from a Cornish holiday house when my daughter was a toddler – she is nearly 14. I remember them being bright yellow. They are now beige.


Then there’s make-up: eye liners worn down to stumps and lip palettes that smell of old ladies’ drawers – and not in a good way.


It is great, though – the sorting, I mean. It feels purposeful and cathartic. I’m ruthless in my binning of the stale and the hideous, and discover forgotten treasures along the way. I’ve found perfectly good Boots No. 7 and Neal’s Yard cleansers, a bevy of quality serums and enough decent moisturisers (Lancôme and Guerlain – how could I have misplaced these?) to keep me going all year. So, instead of blundering around in beauty halls, buying stuff I don’t need, I’ll now know exactly what I have at home.


Post-purge, life already feels more streamlined. I can sit on the loo without having to avert my eyes from the chaos behind the glass doors, and can actually find the goodies I love, rather than raking through manky old tosh.


I now have the beauty cupboard of a proper grown-up, and I could kiss it.


Fiona’s new novel, Take Mum Out, is published on March 13 (Avon) 

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0
Related - Columns
  • Jane Porter

    I need to have a wardrobe purge like yours. You must feel very smug and satisfied.

  • Joanne Greenhalgh

    Brill. I’m not that bad, but did blog about my 22 strong hair product shelf when I only use two of them. I know I’ve got makeup that pre-dates Hubby (together 11 years) and I very much doubt that at 39 I’m ever going to sport electric aquamarine eyeshadow, but you never know…

  • Beklet

    I did this last year and gave away all the toiletries that I would never use. I found make up that was bought in the 90s as a teenager. I’ve now boosted my beauty trove and have been using up all the samples. I also found some excellent make up to add to my collection

    All my purchases can now be reserved for just pure frivolity. It’s great.

  • Deb

    You are so right about hotel toiletries – why do I need them for travelling? Wherever I go there will be others! I will just snaffle the old Molton Brown for my gym pag and that is ALL!

  • Beanie O’D

    I have to confess I’m another hotel toiletries hoarder. I had to clear a load out recently. Even a mini Aveda shampoo is not going to be worth holding on to if it’s 8 years old!

  • Debra Brock

    The original pic looks pretty reasonable to me as a collection. This is alarming! x

    • jen pobble

      Nothing wrong with a big collection if you actually use everything!

  • Nic

    I can so relate to this having recently cleared out the bathroom cabinets of manky old shower caps, hotel toiletries that never did ‘come in handy’ and a carrier bag’s worth of random tops and packaging.

  • betsymartian

    I did this last time we moved house and sent a pile of stuff to charity and threw a pile of stuff in the bin. Now I try to be pretty strict about skincare type things but it’s much harder to do that with make-up because I might have something *similar* but just the *littlest bit* more pink / less green / cream / powder / matte / gloss. I’m trying 🙂

  • Nicola Rossall

    I had a damn good purge of the bathroom and my dressing table in the spare room last weekend and it was so satisfying. Again, never ending random things of body lotion and travel shampoos.

    I found a good half dozen mini Molton Brown hand soaps too which are too small to be useful.

  • Fiona Gibson

    Am really heartened to discover that I’m not the only hotel toiletries hoarder. I worried that it suggests I’m really tight but I think it’s just an instinct – that ‘this’ll be handy’ thing

    • Debra Brock

      Fiona I went to a hotel last year that had Le Labo Rose as their toiletry. Ten days worth straight in the bag, right there.

  • Badgirl

    All that space… Time to start filling it up again 🙂

  • lesley mg

    Hmm perhaps you have shamed me in to throwing away the no 17 (not 17 as it is now) make up bought with my staff discount when I worked in boots in the late 80:s or the sensiq eye shadows that i stock piled when almay stopped the brand…

  • Sue

    Love a good clear out! Great piece.

  • BoucheronBaby

    I got all my friends at work to bring in unwanted new, or lightly used, make up and products and we donated them to an excellent organisation offering assistance to women who have suffered domestic abuse:

    Not only supporting women to look and feel better, but a great way to cut down on environmental waste 🙂

  • wiiaholic

    I need to do this! Not just with make up either…

  • Sam W

    Gah I really need to do this been putting it off for YEARS

  • Nita

    Hotels, ferries, free samples. Yep, I too am a hoarder.
    Last week, I sold my house, so I panicked! Sorted through all my goop. Threw lots, gifted tonnes and packed the rest. There are 12 boxes…
    This week, the house sale fell through.
    Do I unpack the boxes when I start ‘running out of stuff’, or do I treat myself to more? After all, it’s all been a very upsetting experience.
    I’ll wait and see.
    X Nita X

Related - Columns + see all

SALI LOVES: Lisa Macario’s slogan sweatshirts

Any words you want, hand-stitched on a flattering sweatshirt? Sali Hughes is spoilt for choice

Sacred Brows

Comedy writer Sarah Morgan gets microbladed and finally sees what all the fuss is about

Sponsored Post: Harvey Nichols Holy Grail Edit, Week 5

The best foundations, as chosen by Sali

SALI LOVES: New Look Funnel-Neck Midi Dresses

The perfectly flattering dress, for practically nowt.