As a beauty writer, I try plenty of new beauty products each month that will never make it to my “must review” pile, mostly because my skin just did not get on with them. Since I find it wasteful to throw out hardly-used products, and hygiene regulations here in Germany (especially during the pandemic) do not allow donating already opened packaging, I had to find alternative ways to not let them go to waste.
So, for the sake of sustainability, let me just share five ideas on how to repurpose skincare products that may not have worked for you on the intended areas of your face (or body).
1. Use Eye Products For Your Hands
Eye creams can be so tricky, as the eye area is often very fragile and sensitive. I have a whole collection of eye creams and balms that either caused teary, red eyes or led to the development of milia. The thing is, these are perfectly fine creams, often very high quality and expensive, in fact. So, it would be a shame to just throw them out!
I saw this repurposing idea on a video from Korean beauty blogger UNA Beauty Cloud, as she shared her nighttime routine. She said she always uses eye creams for her hands, as they are similarly moisturizing and often have the added benefit of being fast-absorbing, so perfect for a hand care treatment. Since many eye creams and serums also contain brightening ingredients, you even get the added bonus of fading age spots and hyperpigmentation, which is a common concern if your hands get a lot of sun. After all, it’s hard to remember to reapply sunscreen after every hand wash these days.
2. Repurpose Skincare Oils on Your Lips, Cuticles, and Elbows
Honestly, there are few products as versatile as a good facial oil, and even if it turns out to be too heavy or greasy for your face, you can find plenty of other uses for it. I personally love using face oils on my lips, preferably as an overnight treatment under a thicker lip mask or balm. This works better with unscented oils though, to be honest, and is especially great if you use a single-ingredient oil such as rosehip or marula oil.
You can also repurpose your facial skincare oils for areas of your body that need some extra attention, such as knees, cracked heels and elbows. Either massage a few drops into the skin in these areas, or mix the oil into a body lotion or balm. You can also use my stepmother’s decades-old hack and oil up your feet, then finish up with a thick foot cream and put on some fuzzy socks overnight to get baby smooth feet.
And instead of unnecessarily splurging on a nail oil, you can absolutely use your regular face or body oil to soften your cuticles, especially if the oil contains apricot kernel or jojoba oil.
3. Your Facial Cleansers Are a Great Beauty Tool Cleaner
This one may hurt a bit if the cleanser in question was very expensive, in which case you may be better advised to repurpose this skincare product as a body wash instead. But if we are talking about a mid- to lower-priced foam cleanser or even a micellar cleansing water that just didn’t work out for your face, then I greatly encourage you to use it to deep clean your makeup brushes, sponges, and even beauty tools such as a gua sha or gemstone massage roller.
Normal soap can damage the delicate hairs of your brushes, but facial cleansers are usually formulated far more gently (hence why experts are so appalled when people clean their faces with soap). Now, if your brushes are real animal hair, I would actually use shampoo instead—in fact, you can also repurpose any conditioner or hair mask that you may not be able to use up otherwise and give the natural brush hairs a bit of a treatment after washing them. Just massage a tiny dollop into the brush hairs, then rinse off. A makeup artist once gave me this tip, and it’s been saving me having to buy bougie brush cleaners.
Especially micellar water has turned out to be great for cleaning my silicone sponges, since it really draws out all the greasy residue from foundations and concealers. I basically just douse the sponge with cleansing water, rub it gently to move the makeup dirt, then rinse it with warm water a few times. Repeat until the water runs clean, or use a foaming product right after if the sponge is very dirty.
4. Turn Your Unwanted Chemical Exfoliators Into a Scalp Treatment
I believe it was Jude Chao (aka Fiddy Snails) who first shared this ingenious beauty hack! Chemical exfoliators are such a tricky thing to buy, as you never quite know how your skin will react to the dosage and type of acid used in them. I realized that I don’t do well with high doses of glycolic acid, for instance, and thus had a huge bottle of The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution left over that needed to find a new purpose.
Our scalp is really just skin, a fact that we strangely enough often forget. Just like the rest of our skin, scalps can get itchy and flaky from too much buildup, causing problems with our hair health as well. This is where your leftover AHA toners and liquid exfoliators can come in handy—glycolic acid in particular works best in my opinion, but mandelic acid and PHAs (polyhydroxy acids, the gentler cousins of AHAs) also can be great. Salicylic acid is good for oilier scalps, as it has lipophilic (oil-dissolving) qualities. Just apply a layer of the exfoliating liquid onto your scalp pre-wash, then massage it in for a bit to help release all the old skin cells and product buildup. Leave on for a good 20 minutes and then do your usual shampoo and conditioning routine.
Just apply your AHA toner onto your scalp pre-wash, then massage it in for a bit to help release all the old skin cells and product buildup.
Ever since I started exfoliating my scalp like this once a week, I’ve really noticed less itchiness and flaky bits ruining my good hair days. In fact, this DIY scalp treatment has become so popular in beauty community forums that a few hair care brands have started releasing their own versions, often much pricier than if you just use an acid toner or discarded liquid exfoliant!
5. Essences and Watery Toners Make a Great Depuffing Eye Compress
Now, this one may not work for everybody, so caution is advised if you actually reacted strongly to the fermented ingredients in essences—in this case, they would also trigger a reaction in your delicate eye area. You should also do this with alcohol-free toners and essences only, so as not to dry out your eyes.
But if your watery toners or fermented treatment essences just kind of didn’t wow you, or they seem to just be sitting on your vanity without you ever feeling excited to reach for them, then I can highly recommend using them as a depuffing, brightening eye compress. All you need are two cleansing pads—cotton or reusable, preferably a thin material—which you soak in the essence or toner. Now, either you do this with an essence that has been cooled in the fridge prior to use, or you just put the two cotton pads in the fridge for about 15 minutes, up to you.
Just make sure the pads are soaked through and nicely cool, that’s the key here! Then—you probably guessed it already—cover your (closed) eyes with the pads and relax for about 20 minutes. The fermented ingredients help brighten up your eye area, making you look less tired. Other ingredients often found in hydrating toners and essences such as hyaluronic acid or green tea water also work to smooth out fine fatigue lines, while the cold refreshes and revitalizes red and tired eyes after long screen sessions.
Do you have any other tips for repurposing skincare products? Share your knowledge with us!