Weekday Randomness: Turning your Discards into Decants

Sometimes I get asked how I manage to go through products so quickly, and while I am admittedly a 'slatherer' of skincare while battling the dryness of the desert, there are a lot of products that I try and simply don't like, don't work for me, are the wrong shade or type for my skin, or break me out.  So into the 'Discard' pile they go.

It's part of the trial-and-error nature of cosmetics; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes things are just mediocre.  I have so many wonderful products to investigate that it's not worth holding onto products on the meh-to-NOPE scale.  I'm also not going to resell products that I've used (obviously) and I'm not really into the logistical drama that comes with selling things.  I would pass them on but none of my local friends are into Asian beauty products.

So what do I do?

Decant all the things! Hundreds of tiny jars and bottles everywhere! 
Underfoot! In Piles! Under chairs!  In boxes! Driving my Spouse to the brink of insanity!
Decanting is something I already do with samples because they're usually much cheaper than full size and I like collecting pretty jars and bottles into which I decant the contents of my sample packets.

I also sometimes decant product from the full size into a smaller container to save space, such as these airless pump bottles, or because I want to keep the full-size in the fridge (cold and dark) without having to run back and forth between my bathroom and kitchen without my glasses on.

In this post:
  • How I got myself into this mess
  • Assembly of supplies
  • The decanting methods I used

How I got myself into this mess

Mizon bundle I got at a great price from Avecko
I didn't start out to decant all the things, but an out-of-state friend (and fellow Asian product addict) ran out of the Mizon Returning Starfish cream and I still had my repurchase from this Avecko Haul sitting in storage, unopened.

I was busily testing out the Leejiham Tea Tree 80 Cream and working my way through my testing schedule (see stash link below), so it made sense to pass the starfish cream along to her since I wasn't going to be using it anytime soon.

I figured that since I was going to be sending her a flat rate package regardless, I might as well send along some samples of products from my stash that she was interested in trying.  So I linked her to my spreadsheet and told her to make me a list of everything she wanted to try, and if it was tested/opened/about to be opened (I don't open things unless I am confident I can use them before expiring) I'd decant some for her and send it along.

You know how you make plans with a friend, and then another friend hears about it and wants to come, and then the next thing you know your squad has taken over half the restaurant?  Yeah.

Yes, that is 6 boxes + contents of a padded
envelope (all flat rate) = 7  care packages
The next thing I knew, it had grown into this leaning tower of care package love, destined for Asian beauty product users in multiple states.

I'm starting to get care packages in return, so it's morphed into a giant "share the products that didn't work for us" network of decanted samples, with jars, bottles, and sample packets whizzing across the continental US. :3

I would have happily sent things back home to Canada (or even to friends overseas) but the shipping costs were ... intense.  (Dear Canada; I love you and miss you more than words can convey, but you need to fix Canada Post shipping rates because they are OUT OF CONTROOOOOOL!)

FYI: You can fit a lot of stuff into a flat rate box or envelope, and you can print prepaid shipping labels right off the USPS site.  You can pick up the flat rate boxes (they're freeeee) right in the lobby of many post offices, and also drop off your prepaid-label-affixed package 24/7 if you can't get there during office hours (like me!) or even schedule a pick-up from USPS although I've never tried that route.

Assembly of supplies

Pipettes and Droppers and Jars, oh my!  Husband: "How long is this stuff going to be in our living room?!"
Pictured at left:
  • Plastic sheet to cover work surface (I slit open a garbage bag because that's what I had I'm classy like that, and worked in my living room for maximum natural light)
  • Nitrile gloves which I originally purchased as part of my pH testing kit (read more here: Better Beauty Through Chemistry: Unboxing of my Digital pH Meter supplies)
  • Plastic pipettes to transfer my products from full-size to decant containers (from Amazon)
  • Plastic dropper bottles (with dispenser inserts) to decant liquids into (from Amazon)
  • Plastic screw-top jars for creams, gels, etc. (from Amazon)
Not pictured:
  • Ziploc bags in 'snack portion' (aka: tiny) size, purchased at the grocery store (for powders and chunks of my Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick reviewed here) These ended up being dual-purpose as dispensers (read on for details)
  • Paper towels (lots of them) from the local grocery store
  • Tiny stick-on labels + a pencil to write the names, also a Sharpie to write on the dropper bottles since the labels refused to stick on their curved surface.
The decanting methods I used

For liquids I used plastic pipettes as tiny disposable syringes (which was necessary based off the HUGE number of different products I was decanting, washing/cleaning between uses would have been impossible) and they worked incredibly well.

So easy!  This is going to go by so much faster than I thought! Wait, what's that sound of disaster approaching?
Just like a dropper, you squeeze the bulb, suck up your product, insert the tip into the dropper bottle, squeeze to dispense the product, and then when your bottle is filled to your liking, you pop in the dispenser insert so it doesn't leak all over the place.  These bottles also have a neat little 'seal' feature (when it actually works) that when you screw on the lid, it catches on the seal ring at the bottom.  Unfortunately, it doesn't always seal completely so warn your recipients that leakage may occur.

Unfortunately the jars/creams did not go as smoothly, even when I tried to cut down the pipette; the texture of most creams was just too thick.

Creams do not like getting sucked up into narrow passages, FYI.
So, I ended up grabbing the ziploc snack-size bags I had purchased and scooped product out of the jar into the bag with a spatula, and then cut off a corner of the bag and used it like an icing piping bag to full the jars, which is how I refill my airless pump bottles:

Image from my older review/demo on airless pump bottles (link) so please don't panic at the lack of gloves!
The great thing about using this 'piping bag' method is that there is no waste; once you have filled your decant container to your satisfaction, you just pipe the rest back into the jar, like I showed in the airless pump bottle review.

No product waste, woop!
The most annoying part of the process was taking pictures, cleaning up residue, and leaning over for hours filling what felt like an endless supply of tiny jars and bottles until I was cross-eyed.

I eventually roped my husband into writing labels for me so I would not have to de-glove between decants/get residue all over, because despite all my efforts, things are going to get a bit messy from time to time.

It's really easy to fumble tiny containers when you're wearing nitrile gloves slick with product, so there was occasional casualties that landed on the plastic sheet after a somersault through the air that would make an Olympian proud.

Exile Exhibit A: Cosrx AHA BHA toner, too harsh for me
Even though this was a tremendous amount of work and a bit costly once I purchased all the supplies, knowing that my unwanted products were not just going to waste in my 'exiled' drawer was a huge relief.

Not to mention the warm fuzzies from knowing I was assembling care packages that my friends were excited to tear into like Elvis on a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich.  It's as exciting as a regular haul, but you get ALL THE THINGS, it was free, and it's full of looooooove.

Some of them sent me unboxing and reaction pictures, which was adorable. Another regaled me with reports that the Holika Holika Soda Pore Cleansing BB Deep Cleansing Oil (reviewed) pulled out 'grits' (blackheads, sebum plugs, and sebaceous filaments) better than any of the oil cleansers she's tried before, and she's thrilled.  (And I'm thrilled that she's thrilled!)

There's the beauty of decanting your discards; just because something didn't work for me doesn't mean it won't be someone else's HG, and it can be really challenging to find samples of the products you want to try.

For example, the Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner was not a successful dupe for my beloved Mizon AHA BHA Daily Clean Toner (comparison review here) as it was highly irritating to my skin and thus there was no point in me using it past the comparison period.  (Call me crazy, but if it's irritating my face, it's gotta go.)  Rather than stashing an 80+% full bottle in my 'discard' pile, I was able to decant it all and let others try it before investing in a full-size bottle.  Fly free, unwanted products; may you find new homes where you shall be loved.

I did also decant things that I do like/use/will repurchase from my stash that aren't readily available in sample sizes, in case you're wondering if all of the products in the first image are rejects- they're not.  But I didn't mind dipping into my stash so my friends could try out some new goodies.

After all, who doesn't like getting care packages? :3

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed/mentioned in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever.  This blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.


  1. Woah this is such a great idea. I also decant samples because why not but I'm really impressed with all the tools and techniques you've used for the full sized products! I need to go shopping for supplies :D

  2. What a cool idea! I wish we could do something like this on an intl level. Shipping is so expensive and trying out a full size is sometimes more cost effective than just hunting down samples :/

  3. I really wish shipping prices would be fixed so we could do this throughout the globe, it would be awesome! While I dream, I'm having this share-relation ship with Moi Sanom because she lives in my city and when we meet up we're always like "didn't you have..X? Could you bring me a bit to test out?" I really love it, it's a great way to foster friendships and find holy grail items (and save money!) Speaking of money, you get boxes for freeeee? I'm jealous now.

  4. Do you wipe the inside of the small plastic containers before decanting? Just wondering how OCD I need to be before transferring products...

    1. You can! If I am worried about that I clean it with rubbing alcohol and then allow it to fully evaporate to avoid adding alcohol to skincare. :)

  5. I tried using an airless pump bottle for a gel-like cleanser and lightweight gel moisturizer, but found that they dispense with a LOT of force and shoot the product.

    I thought they would pump similarly to the Cosrx pump bottles, or the Elf airless pump primers.

    Am I not buying the right product, or have you had a similar experience? I know that you really enjoy decanting into the airless pump bottles.

    1. Hmm, I haven't had that issue, but I also haven't purchased any in a while (I tend to reuse the ones I have) so many try to find a different brand and give that a try?