Makeup Rehab // How Many Lipsticks Do You Really Need? Pt 2

In my previous post about this subject, I talked about how long it takes to finish up a tube of lipstick, and thus how many you really need in your arsenal to have enough to use daily before they expire (but not much extra- because this is rehab). To sum it up: most lipsticks are rated to last 1 year, but many will hold on about double the length. If you hold onto your lipsticks for two years, you can expect to use 7 tubes of full-size product or 20 tubes of minis.

I made the remark, and I’m sure many would agree with me, that 7 tubes seems pretty restrictive, and while 20 sure seems doable, finding minis in the exact shades and finishes you want is not always an option.

Before I go into the second way I like to think about how many lipsticks I “need,” I wanted to touch on one thing. To those who are definite minimalists, 7 tubes may seem overkill, but remember this number represents the approximate amount you can have at any time to be “on track” for using up products before you need to toss them. You may opt to only have a few lipsticks (a red, a MLBB, and maybe a “power color”) and replace them throughout the two years, but if you have more than 7 full-size tubes of lipstick in your collection, it is highly likely you will be tossing unused product.

Now, for me, I’m okay with tossing SOME unused product. Because my goal for my collection is usability and aesthetics, not just waste reduction, I prefer to think about how many lipsticks I need in my collection by looking at Variety Potentials: formulas, finishes, colors families, tones, shade intensity, and brightness. Note that for this purpose, I am not going to go into “niche” lipsticks or unconventional colors right away.

The Variety Potentials: Now, for many of these you may think of some other ones or think two categories I list are essentially the same. You can do this on your own for what YOU think of these!

  • Color Family: Nudes, mauves, pinks, reds, purples, berries and fuchsias, corals and oranges (count: 7)
  • Formulas: Bullet, pan, crayon, liquid lip, stain (count:5)
  • Finishes: Satin, matte, sparkle/glitter/metallic (count: 3)
  • Tones: Warm, Neutral, Cool. (Count: 3)
  • Shade intensity: Light, Medium, Dark, Very Dark (Count: 4)
  • Brightness: Bright/Clear, Medium, Soft/Muted (Count: 3)

Now, obviously you can “mix and match.” You can have a bright cool dark nude that is a metallic lipstick in a crayon form, right? And that’s different than a muted cool, dark metallic nude as a crayon. If we were to mix and match all of these, we would end up with over 3,700 combinations. Think about it. To have one type of color family in each formula, that’s 35 things. Now to have one type of color family in each formula in each finish, that’s 105. When we factor in tones, we get over 300. Factor in shade intensity, then factor in brightness… Yes, it seems like a lot! Because it is!

The truth is, you do not need that much variety, but stores will sell you even more. Over 3,700 different combinations, and I didn’t even include al lthe different finishes, tones, and intensities. Think about the different MAC lipstick finishes- there are eight finishes just for a bullet lipstick. Brightness and shade intensities exist on a spectrum, so there could be 10 different shade intensities for the same exact color, tone, and brightness. The same is true for tone- you can have a neutral warm or a cooler neutral! There are also other “varieties” to consider, such as color pay-off (do you want sheer color, medium color, or full?). This is why it’s so easy for you to think you NEED this new lipstick, but looking at the numbers, you know it’s just unrealistic.

So how much variety do you need? I think the key to answering this question is to examine you and what you use lipstick for. Start by listing out the occasions you wear lipstick, and then think about what your preferences are and what it would take to meet your needs.

For me, this is what it would look like for one occasion:

  • Work: I don’t need much variety, but I like to have nudes, pinks, and mauve colors in medium to medium to medium dark tones, and medium to medium muted intensities. I need a formula that is easy to touch up during the day, so I prefer crayons (as they fit in my pocket without melting) and liquid lips that are not matte. I do like to change it up seasonally, so having a few darker options is preferable as well. A neutral to cool tone for all of them is preferable.
    • Lipstick collection option that meets all of my needs:
      • Medium nude crayon, neutral to cool tone (one or the other)
      • Medium-dark muted pink satin or creamy liquid lip, neutral to cool tone (one or the other)
      • Medium mauve crayon, neutral to cool tone
      • Dark mauve satin or creamy liquid lip
      • Dark nude satin or creamy liquid lip, neutral tone (for fall and winter)
      • Dark pink crayon, neutral tone (for fall and winter)

I decided to just think about what my “ideal variety” would look like for my other occasions, and I came to the realization that for me, having anywhere between 4-6 options for most occasions (work, date nights, traveling, special events) is the sweet spot. Right there, that’s about 20 lipsticks. For staying at home, running errands, or generally most of my “free time,” I like more variety- especially since I love to play around. While some of the variety overlaps, I estimate that around 25-30 different lipsticks is really all it takes for me to feel like I have enough variety for whatever I’m doing. Past that point, and I would have lipsticks that didn’t suit me- maybe I preferred another formula, just didn’t use a specific color enough to justify having it when something else would work just as well, or maybe even the color just didn’t work for me.

My number may be very different from yours. I know some people who work just fine with less than 5 lipsticks, and I know others who would claim a number higher than mine. I currently own 4-5x more lipsticks than what I figured I’d like for variety, so it’s easy to talk yourself into thinking you need more variety. But let’s be honest: do you really need multiple lipsticks that look very similar? Do you need the same shade in multiple forms (crayon, liquid, AND stain)? No! So the next time you’re looking at a new lipstick, be honest with yourself. Shop your stash and you’ll find something that serves the same purpose. And the next time you’re going through your stash to clear out some clutter, remember to go through your lip products and ask yourself, “Are they really so different that I should keep both?”

Happy decluttering and responsible shopping,




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