2020 Empties Roundup : The Final Stats

2020 Empties Roundup : The Final Stats

For the past few years, I’ve been doing some slightly-geeky data-lead blog posts that rounds-up my usage for the year and comparisons to the year before. If you’re interested in reading my 2019 Empties Roundup you can find that here. Essentially I track everything from whether I would repurchase a product to what it was and how much it cost, and we’re back with my 2020 Empties Roundup.

Unsurprisingly as I am sure you can imagine my usage is completely different this year to 2019 and 2018. I, of course, used up far less makeup as months passed with me barely putting it on at all, I fell into a bad skincare rut when going through some personal issues by barely remembering to slap some moisturiser on at night.

At the start of the year, I set myself the goal of spending only £250 for the year on non-essential beauty purchases. Until around June, that went… fine.  I don’t think I went too crazy and I definitely had in mind my already bloated collection through the year – but my guess is that I’ve spent roughly double the original budget I’d plucked out of the air for the year. And after almost six months of not buying much at all, it was nice to put some things into my collection that I’d had my eye on for ages and made me excited to try something different out. Plus after all the additional stress this year has had on us, where-ever you can find the little things that cheer you up – I say take it.

I did stick at being good at mainly keeping one product on the go at once – I very rarely have more than one mascara open, unless I’m trying to get a new one to it’s best whilst an old one is at its end, and my night-time skincare regime I use things start to finish before opening something new. Whilst I still open my cupboards and I’m greeted by a lot of products. I know they’re stored in perfect conditions and have never been opened so nothing should be going bad. Because I’ve also been off the blogging radar a lot this year, I’ve accepted far less PR as I knew I’d find it difficult to get to and didn’t want the pressure of reviewing things, so my collection hasn’t ballooned as much as previous years.

Total Products Finished & Total Value

I was unsurprised that my usage for the year was down completely this year, but I was surprised at just how much less I did finish through 2020. It’s important to note that for anyone new, 2018 was the year that I really went through my collection and made sure anything that was half used up got finished up, I also had a lot of samples and deluxe sizes built up from beauty boxes and that year was the year I concentrated on finishing things up completely.

Value price I calculate on the full RRP of a product no matter how it’s come into my collection, it’s what it would cost me to replace the product but it doesn’t reflect how much I spent. E.g PR products are counted, items from beauty boxes are counted etc. If a product is available in that size e.g a deluxe sample of mascara is the exact same size as a mini one that is sold then I also count the value, but I don’t calculate the value of a sachet from a magazine.

I am surprised that the number is still so high if I compare to 2018 and wondered if that meant the average cost per product was increasing over time. Which when I thought about it more I suspected could be true as I have a) more disposable income b) increasingly expensive taste. And the average cost is increasing over time.

Total Products w/Value Total
Average Cost Per Product
2020 125 £ 1,214.51 £9.72
2019 226 £ 2,118.26 £9.37
2018 234 £ 2,145.56 £9.17

Products by Type

Haircare – I am quite surprised at how much I did use up this year, although looking over it really was mainly shampoo and conditioner, and I found my favourite large salon size bottles quite difficult to get my hands on this year. I was washing my hair quite a lot through lockdown 1.0 just to have something to do.
2018 was so high as I had a “metric shit tonne” of shampoo samples collected from hotels, etc which I cleared through.

Bodycare – I was surprised body care seemed to be so high this year as I felt like I wasn’t getting through body butter and lotions quickly, but actually hand soap usage went up drastically from being at home so much (and the obvious!) and was a great contributor to the increase.

Makeup – Proof that I didn’t wear much makeup through 2020, but I was surprised it was just 16! In 2020 finished 1 foundation, 3 mascaras, 4 primers, 2 highlighters, 2 eyeliners, 1 powder, 1 brow pencil, 1 eye primer, 1 liquid shadow. If I compare that to 2019 at a quick glance, I finished 5 mascaras and 8 foundations! I’m back into the routine of wearing makeup more regularly at the moment and have already finished a few products in 2021, so hopefully, I’m back on a good track again.

Fragrance – My number was down a lot, but I stopped tracking my Secret Scent Box samples within my spreadsheet, I did wear perfume most days in 2020, just for me more than anything. I have a few perfumes close to being finished and one in my project pan, so hopefully, this number will get higher this year.

Tools & Nails – Both of these were pretty on track with the years previous.

General Consumables – 2020 was the year I tried to ditch cotton wool as much as possible and move to reusable options. The only thing I keep cotton wool, for now, is nails/acetone as I don’t want that getting mixed up with my eyes/going in with my washing and ruining clothes. I also stopped tracking toothpaste this year apart from the odd mention for the CF alternatives I found.

Skincare – Considering I thought I was really lazy with my skincare through lockdown 1, I was surprised at that this was almost on par with 2019 previous. I think I will be back into a good routine now and I’m back on a great regime and back as a skincare junkie again. I suspect this number will be the highest figure ever in 2021’s roundup!

Repurchase or Not to Repurchase?

It seems like I got slightly fussier this year with more no to repurchasing by any of the others, whereas I said yes/maybe to more in 2019. I added a new category in 2020 which was No, Not Cruelty-Free which is an item I did like but I would not repurchase because of the CF status. I am in a bit of a mixed position with my CF status at the moment, I am trying to be as Cruelty-Free as possible but where I work does now sell in China and I do see the importance in knowing what I am responsible for selling and understanding the product. Other than that I plan to continue being as CF and as conscientious as possible.

Gifted vs Purchased Empties

Purchased = Products purchased by me, GWP, arrived in beauty boxes/advent calendars etc. Or products were directly given to me by friends and family.
Gifted = Items given directly by the brand or their PR Agency
Compensation = Items received as compensation but not directly by the brand. E.g attending an event or talking about a gifted beauty box where the product brand has had no involvement. These are marked as “Gifted by Company Name” in my empties posts and reviews.

I am not surprised my Compensation is down so much this year, I haven’t been to any local events with shopping centres etc where products are often given from. I didn’t do as much blogging last year, as a result, I didn’t accept as much PR as I knew I had a backlog to get through and also switching to being CF has meant that I’ve also said no to some opportunities. I do have a fair amount of PR products now photographed and ready for testing – I am currently working on a 5 product range review etc, so I expect gifted may be back more proportionately next year, but I purposefully held off this year whilst I was not in a great place and had stopped blogging.

Total Values of each are;
Purchased – £912.31
Gifted – £295.51
Compensation – £6.69

Top 5 Brands This Year

  1. Pixi – (11 Products Finished)
  2. Aussie – (9 Products Finished)
  3. Beauty Pie – (5 Products Finished)
  4. The Body Shop – (5 Products Finished)
  5. Marks and Spencer (4 Products)

Unique Brands 2020: 90 (out of 146 products finished) | Unique Brands 2019: 148 (out of 274 products finished) | Unique Brands 2018: 178 (out of 347 products finished)

I was unsurprised to see Pixi and Aussie at the top of the 2020 list – 3 of these brands featured in last year’s top list too; Pixi, Beauty Pie and The Body Shop. Overall, when I do compare though year on year, I notice less brand loyalty in 2020 compared to 2019, maybe it’s because I finished less overall, but there were far more brands with only one product total for the year. With 90 unique brands in total, significantly down on the two previous years.

What I’ve Learnt This Year

As mentioned at the beginning of the year I attempted to restrict my buying by setting a budget for the whole year, once a few life crises happened, I threw that out the window and let myself buy things if I needed a way to cheer myself up. However, still, the increase in my collection wasn’t as insane as it had been in years previous (2017-2018 was probably the peak) and I really did mull over purchases before making them.

I have however decided to bring that back for 2021 and have set myself a small budget for the entire year of £500 for anything non-essential (however, if I gain extra money by selling things, gifts and loyalty points, I am not counting those in my budget if I choose to spend my money in that way). I have also decided to count things which I consider out of my normal spending range as a non-essential, e.g my average cost of shampoo would be £3.99-8.99 depending on bottle size, if I am simply spending £20 on a shampoo then I will count that as non-essential. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as I have already spent a nice chunk of that £500 already on a Pat McGrath sale order and Drunk Elephant Babyfacial finally launched in the UK, so I grabbed that too. However, all the new-ness that came into my collection from September onwards is going to keep me interested certainly at the beginning of this year.

I feel like I didn’t learn as much this year about my spending or usage habits as the year previously. Whilst I was going through my 2020 life drama March-September I was far less engaged with beauty as I am normally. Empties were piling up for months and it meant I wasn’t really paying all that much attention to *geez, you’ve used a lot of XYZ* this month.

However starting my job in the beauty industry in late August has really reignited my love for makeup, fascination with skincare and passion for innovation in beauty. Taking time over Christmas to play with my camera, photograph beautiful products and touch new textures made me feel giddy inside and whilst many are finding blog content is moving to Instagram, it’s given me some fire to keep my slice of the internet going.

So here’s to 2021. May it be better than last year’s shit show.

I normally link my spreadsheet for those who want to grab a copy for tracking their empties, but I’m hoping to work on something better this year, or at least give it a rejig and refresh. So stay tuned – but if you are desperate you can find a copy of my empties tracker template here.

Let me know in the comments what you learnt about your spending habits in 2019 and if you have any other ideas of things I could track in my “columns” on my spreadsheet this year.


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Helpless Whilst Drying

Email: helplesswhilstdrying@gmail.com



  1. February 5, 2021 / 4:17 am

    Going CF is so hard, I feel like the only reason I am doing it for body, skincare, and home is because I cannot bring myself to ditch ANY nail polish 😛 I think if you’re doing what you can, that’s better than not trying to be CF at all!

    I’m so glad you’re continuing to blog! It may be “obsolete” but blogs are so much easier to search than Instagram; people don’t always use helpful tags on Insta, really wish everyone would just use one of their precious tags to tag the full name of the product. I love blogs as an archive of reviews, any time I am researching a product I always try to find blog posts because finding a bunch of useful reviews on Insta is just too difficult.

    • rachael
      February 9, 2021 / 8:43 pm

      Yeah, I’m very rarely influenced by a caption on Instagram, unless it’s your nail swatches sucking me in!
      I still have a backlog of non-CF brands in my cupobard and drawer and things like MAC lipsticks which I don’t intend to stop using because I already have them – but I’m trying to be mindful of what I buy and glad to hear that China’s rules are finally being relaxed and hopefully we won’t even need the term CF in future!

      • February 16, 2021 / 3:42 am

        Yes, I cannot wait for a future where everything is cruelty-free, so much less research!!!

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