Save Bottles of Old Nail Polish, Broken Pans of Powder Makeup and Flimsy Brushes from the Scrap Heap

Published in: Beauty Tips

Heya, ladies. πŸ™‚ How’s it going? Question for you: how do you feel about makeup repair? When one of your favorite products gives up the ghost, do you let it go softly into that good night, or do you try to pull it back from the brink?


I’m like an American Gladiator when it comes to pulling! I HATE to throw salvageable makeup away, especially discontinued or limited edition stuff. I’d rather keep a busted pan of something precious than relegate it to the big makeup dump in the sky.

Resurrect thickened nail polish with a few drops of nail polish remover (Or thinner, as MANY others have suggested in the comments)

Thinner and nail polish remover (one containing acetone) work best (actually, thinner works best), but household rubbing alcohol (isopropyl 91%) will also work in a pinch (although not quite as well). Just add a few drops to a drying bottle of nail polish, shake for 2 minutes, and you should be good to go. A quick way to get at least a few more uses out of a polish you may have otherwise thrown away. πŸ™‚

UPDATE: Thanks, ladies, for the comments about thinner vs. nail polish remover to salvage a trash-bound polish. I prefer thinner to either remover OR rubbing alcohol (it’s more of a long-term fix), and I only reach for the remover or rubbing alcohol when I DON’T have a bottle of thinner laying around. πŸ™‚

–> I feel bad about this… but for the first time in three years of blogging, after 80,000 comments, I had to ban two people today for being overly aggressive. I’m totally cool with respectful disagreements in the comments, but let’s keep it friendly. No hostility please.

I’ve also read that regular old clear nail polish will work as a substitute for thinner or polish remover, but I haven’t given it a try.

Smooth a cracked pan of powder makeup

There are quite a few variations on this one, some more complicated than others, but adding a few drops (3-5, depending on the size of the compact or pan) of rubbing alcohol to a cracked pan of eyeshadow and pressing with a spoon or a coin can make a broken powder product look like new again.


Putting the squeeze on flimsy makeup brushes

With a needle-nose or regular pliers, crimp the metal neck/sleeve of limp, lifeless makeup brushes. It packs the bristles together, flattening the head and making the brush denser and easier to control.

Got any other makeup-saving tips? If you do, share them in the comments. πŸ™‚

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 54 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Niki says:

    I broke a brush recently during a move, that will come in handy – thanks for the tips!
    .-= Niki’s last blog post… Essie The Art of Spring Collection – And Comparisons! =-.

  2. Sdpfeiffy says:

    I’ve heard of the first two tips but want to say big thanks for the third. I will have to try that!

    • Karen says:

      It works great! The little grooves in the pliers can dent the sleeve up, so the brush isn’t as pretty as it was, but it’s still better than just throwing it out. πŸ™‚

  3. ooh I haven’t heard about the brush trick before thanks! That one will definitely come in handy

  4. denise says:

    i’ve used the nail polish trick and the busted e/s trick and they both worked well. i just fixed a couple of broken e/s yesterday with rubbing alcohol. saved me a few pretty pennies, too! πŸ™‚

  5. Christina says:

    That brush trick is definitely going to come in handy!!!

  6. Alison says:

    As a nail polish obsessive it is not a good idea to use acetone remover to thin your polishes it ruins them, making them chip easier and not bond to the nail as well. You’re better off with an actual thinner which replaces the ingredients that dissipate while the polish is being used.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alison,

      I only use remover on polishes that I’d otherwise toss in the trash — otherwise toasted ones all dried up and crusty. Thinner works better, but I have gotten a few more applications out of polishes many times before by adding a few drops of remover to ’em. πŸ™‚

  7. Jennifer A. says:

    Just wanted to give a head’s up to say, don’t EVER use nail polish remover as a thinner. I don’t know about rubbing alcohol, but remover will degrade your polish. Using nail polish thinner is the safe bet.
    .-= Jennifer A.’s last blog post… BB Couture for Men, "Tools" Collection + some CND Effects =-.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jennifer A.,

      I do like thinner best, and I only suggest using remover to resurrect a functionally ruined bottle of polish, one that otherwise would have been thrown away. By no means will it return a thickened polish to its original luster, but it does make it usable again, at least for a few applications. πŸ™‚

      Hope you’re having a great weekend so far.

  8. marisol says:

    Great tips!
    .-= marisol’s last blog post… Tequila & I Are Still Friends =-.

  9. Brittany says:

    I had never heard the tip to resurrect eyeshadows. I wish I had known that a couple days ago. πŸ™ Thanks so much for the tips!

  10. Devs says:

    I have to try the nail polish tip! That describes most of my nail polishes (dry and almost gone…..)

  11. Nancy says:

    Wow the crimping tip was definitely one of the most original ideas I’ve heard for makeup. Definitely trying this out if I get the chance.
    .-= Nancy’s last blog post… A Little Late =-.

  12. amy says:

    Great tips, I have been salvaging old nailpolishes with polish remover for years. It works but it does wash out the colour a bit sometimes. I use the alcohol method to push back shattered eyeshadows too. There are some great videos on you tube teaching you to do that and you can use alcohol to press your loose pigments too.
    .-= amy’s last blog post… MedusaÒ€ℒs Makeup Volume For Electric Lashes Mascara Smells a Bit Like Fruit Candy =-.

  13. gio says:

    Great tips! They will all come in handy, thanks for sharing.
    .-= gio’s last blog post… Gilty Pleasures Weekly Blog Tour, 24/01/10 =-.

  14. GG says:

    I also have to agree that using nail polish remover isn’t the best for restoring crusty old polishes. If you use a thinner with good old fashioned, toxic toluene (I love Seche Restore) you’ll get a functional polish that’s totally reusable and saved from the trash. It’s also invaluable if you use quick dry top coats – like the legendary Seche Vite, which can get pretty thick and useless after a while – and I also use it to clean the necks of my nail polish bottles. Multi-use product, gotta love that!

  15. Mica says:

    Perfect timing! I just realized this morning that two shadows in one of my Kat von D palettes are broken! Can’t wait to try this out.

  16. Claudia says:

    Thanks on the tip to fix broken eyeshadow pots!!!
    I am going to try that ASAP!
    .-= Claudia’s last blog post… NYC 140B Empire State Building =-.

  17. Kristina says:

    Just a little safety warning. Using remover to thin polish had been known to make some polishes explode. Also, if you are using it on polishes that you are about to throw out, then using thinner can resurrect a polish, so you will never have to throw it out; polish lasts a lifetime. Those thick, yucky old polishes have just evaporated a bit, so the thinner will restore them to their former glory.

    Rubbing Alcohol can ruin some powder products as well. Some powders do not take to liquid at all and render then useless.

    • Karen says:

      YIKES! I’ve never heard that before, Kristina. I really only recommend the above tips for products that were otherwise garbage-bound, but they have come in handy for me many times over the years.

  18. Sakura says:

    I have to agree with some of the other commenters here. Remover will not fix your thick polish.

    I mean, it’s in the name! Remover. It breaks down polish, which is the opposite of the desired effect.

  19. Andrea says:

    Please, ladies, do NOT use remover in your polishes! Nail polish remover has solvents that BREAK DOWN nail polish, and thinners have solvents that are IDENTICAL to your polish. Remover WILL ruin your polish!

    It’s like when you’re at the bottom of your bottle of Ranch dressing; what would you add to thin it? Cream or vinegar? (cream is the thinner, vinegar is the remover)

  20. snoopysteph says:

    Thanks for posting this, especially about saving broken powder pans. I’ve tossed many expensive shadows because they broke in transit – I wish I knew the alcohol trick back then!

  21. Jenny says:

    Thank goodness you posted a link to the “thinner”. I seriously had no idea what this thinner product was! I was thinking of paint thinner LOL! I just learned something new today! And the pliers trick is so ingenius! Will definitely do that to a few of my brushes that need a bit of “oomph”.

    I’ve used the nail polish remover trick for quite some time.. and really had no problems with it. I mean, I don’t pour a lot in it, I like to use a couple of drops and it works perfectly. If I ever run into a nail polish thinner, then I’ll definitely pick it up. But for now, the remover works fine for me.

  22. Katherine says:

    Karen, I’m really sorry to hear that you had to ban two people today πŸ™ However, I really think you had some good advice! I’ve heard the first two tips before, but I’ve never heard about re-crimping your brush ferule! Thanks, I learned something new today πŸ™‚
    .-= Katherine’s last blog post… Week 3 resolution recap + Week 4 resolution =-.

  23. Kate says:

    Banning people? Whooooeee, it’s getting drama-rama up in this biz! And on a makeup blog!

    Also, Karen, I’d never heard of the brush trick before but I just tried it (used Steph’s suggestion of wrapping the ferrule with paper towel) and it worked a TREAT! Girl, you are ingenious!

    • Karen says:

      LOL! I can’t remember where I heard the brush one. It’s hit and miss though. Sometimes the brush fans out a little too wide, but it’s like gambling. If it works well and you get lucky, it’s like you’ve gotten a brand new brush!

  24. diane says:

    Hy! I’m all about saving nail polish! πŸ˜€

    have a fun day, waiting for the Monday poll!

    .-= diane’s last blog post… Fell in love with Valentino pre fall 2010 =-.

  25. Christy says:

    Thanks for the tip about resurrecting a dying brush! I tried it with my powder brush and it worked a real treat. You are fabulous, Karen!

  26. Sheila says:

    does the rubbing alcohol/eye shadow trick also work for highlighting powders?

  27. knownever says:

    that tip about brushes is great! i had never heard it before. thanks for taking the time to compile these tips
    .-= knownever’s last blog post… Dior Crème de Rose lip balm =-.

  28. Sylvie says:

    I watched a video on youtube posted by Enkoremakeup about pressing your eyeshadows when they’re broken. He mentioned that rubbing alcohol doesn’t work on matte eyeshadows, has anyone verified that? I have a broken pan of matte2 eyeshadow that I’ve been dying to fix, but I don’t really feel like going out to buy glycerin just to fix it, so it’s getting my palette dirty all over.

  29. Kim says:

    Gotta love the people that always send you over the edge and make you do what you never thought you would (ban!)… Just hope that they don’t get on another computer (or swap/renew I.P. addresses) and come back for more. Although it’s easy to ban one username, there’s always another way to come back if they’re diligent about getting THEIR point across. Here’s to hoping you’ll never have to do that again (*cheers motion*).

    In other news, sure, some of the above comments seem legit enough (disagreeing with others makes the world go ’round!) — it might freak me out to put a drop or two of acetone into my somewhat-drying nail polishes. That stuff is sketchy!

    Truth be told, I haven’t used acetone in months. I applied a nice, fresh coat of a mauve polish on my tootsies back in early November when I knew I’d be showing off my claws in Puerto Rico in flip-flops… I still have remnants of that same polish on my toes (CAN YOU SAY YIKES?)!

  30. Renata says:

    Well, I have a trick to rescue dried concealers or compact foundations. And it works whenever I buy one that I don’t find creamy enough for my eye area.

    Simply add a tiny drop of face primer and mix. That’s it, it’s perfect.

    (I don’t know if this works with any kind of primer, but I tried three or four, all of them worked well, and turned my products into the cremiest texture!)

    .-= Renata’s last blog post… Coooompre batoooom! =-.

  31. Elle says:

    Thanks for the tips, Karen! I knew about the eyeshadow trick, but not about the other two. I wish I had known about the plier trick earleir, though, since I just tossed a (admittedly old) brush out last week since the bristles were all weak. Oh well , at least I know for next time.

    …and don’t feel bad about putting the smack down if you have to…this is your blog and it should be a happy place. πŸ™‚

  32. What a great tip on how to rejuvenate a tired make up brush. I will definitely try that.
    Thanks Karen

  33. Sarah says:

    i kno this is an old post, i jus happened to stumble upon it while searching. i recently discovered loose mineral eyeshadows on etsy and i love them, but i just CANNOT handle the mess! it’s definitely not for quick or precise application which is usually what i need. i do my makeup and run out the door. i just wanted to ask you, if i press my pigments myself with the alcohol/glycerin mixture recommended online, would i be ruining or changing the pigments in any way? it seems not to affect anything but its form in the online tutorials, but i’d feel much better hearing it from a makeup PROFESSIONAL. i just don’t want to ruin the color or how it’s supposed to look. all i want is a cleaner application with no fallout and to not waste any of my pigment when it falls or flies all over the place. mineral shadows are prettier, but pressed shadows are more convenient. please help! <3 Sarah

  34. Emma says:

    Wow people getting overly aggressive about a nail polish tip!!! I think it is pretty pathetic. Just think for every lunatic you have 100 fans who love your blog Γ’β„’Β₯

  35. FloridaMom says:

    Try the Lady Soma Skin & Nail Treatment – My wife (of 30 years ) swears by it for her nails. And I love the smell!

    To quote from my wife, “For some years, I have suffered from splitting nails and have tried many products, none of which succeded in giving any improvement. Now, in a few short weeks, my nails are strong and beautiful again thanks to the Lady Soma Skin & Nail Treatment. This is truly an amazing product, and I am recommending Lady Soma to all sorts of women!” You could say that Mrs. Morris is quite pleased with the product!

    C J Morris, Hampshire UK

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