Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How to Refill a Vintage compact

I actually have a copy of this 1940s advertisement on my fridge. I love it! I also like how we get to see how much makeup cost and how small the lipsticks were! Even though today's cosmetics are much bigger and the quality is great, the packaging is often too boring for my taste. Sure, I am a MAC Cosmetics fanatic, but their slick, black compacts and black plastic bullet tubes are ho-hum in my book.

I realize that not many people care about what their lipstick tube looks like but I do. I prefer the older styles of most things and makeup is of course one of them. I have been searching for vintage makeup tubes on eBay and Etsy. I bought two vintage Revlon tubes yesterday. I plan on refilling the tubes with two different shades of MAC lipstick; Lady Danger and Russian Red. I also found a great, I mean GREAT tutorial on Va-Voom Vintage's blog last week detailing how to properly clean the tube and refill it with modern lipstick. I am excited!

Not only am I interested in vintage tubes, but also vintage compacts as well. I could sit in front of my laptop all day and search Etsy for compacts! There are so many pretty designs. It is a shame no one makes packaging like they used to anymore. I have seen compacts in shapes ranging from fan shapes, squares, rounds, ovals to rectangles. They are often adorned with lace, gilded lines, florals, and birds. But, here is a question: say I get a compact off Etsy and I want to refill it will modern blot/face pressed powder. How do I do it?

Well, sadly, I have come to the realization that most vintage compacts cannot be refilled with modern powder pans. The contemporary ones are too big. Period. Also, if a compact is oval or fan-shaped, then there is NO way I can refill it, or can I?

I have found a couple of sites detailing how to refill a vintage compact with modern powder. At first I was majorly skeptical. But you know what? This method I am about to share with you actually works! I can say that this 'recipe' is amazing and so easy. I did this last night with an older gold-toned Guerlain meteorites compact I had stashed away in a drawer.

So, here is what you are going to need:

Rubbing alcohol

loose powder or pressed powder

vintage compact (preferably with a metal pan still inside)

cheesecloth or linen cut into a hand-held size

small bowl

butter knife

small condiment spoon

Before you even think about refilling your vintage compact, you need to clean it. If there is any old makeup present, it can harbor dust, bacteria, and potential irritants. Soak a cotton ball or cotton round with rubbing alcohol and clean compact out. Set aside to dry.

In a small, clean bowl, spoon in some loose powder or you can use a butter knife to scrape out your pressed powder from a modern compact.

Using a small spoon, slowly mix in a little rubbing alcohol with the powder until you form a creamy paste. Be sure to smooth out any lumps! Gently mix and scoop into vintage compact pan. Smooth out any irregularities and be sure not to overfill!

Take a cheesecloth or piece of linen and gently press over the compact. Remove. The cloth will create a nice surface look and help smooth powder.

Keep the compact open and allow to dry overnight. Before attempting to use your revamped, vintage compact, make sure the surface is dry by wiping a finger across it. When the compact is ready to use it should feel 'powdery' and smooth.

When carrying your compact in your purse, be careful not to let it bang around. The powder can shatter. If this happens, you have to start all over again and will a fresh batch of powder.


  1. Hi Betty! I love your retro looks! I have a quick question which I can't seem to find anywhere on the net or in the book I bought.

    I have begun collecting vintage compacts and I totally agree with you. Each one is a little piece of art and I adore them! But I want to know how to polish them and get them looking awesome. Is there one thing I should buy? Should I buy a brass and silver polish?
    My compacts vary so some are enamel but some have old silver/brass metal work on them.
    Your help is very appreciated.
    My email is Malena_Scordia1@yahoo.com


  2. Va-Voom Vintage link?? Thanks!
    Great blog BTW! ;D

  3. Here: http://vavoomvintage.blogspot.com/2010/04/tutorial-how-to-refill-vintage-lipstick.html

  4. Hi Betty! Stumbled across your blog researching my own post on refilling vintage compacts (I restore them!)! Really enjoyed reading :)

    Malena - I really wouldn't go down the silver/brass polish route to restore vintage powder compacts. The reason why compacts tarnish is that their invisible protective layer of lacquer/enamel has worn over the years. Polishing with metal polish will remove more, and do nothing for the finish of the lacquer. If the lacquer's relatively intact but just scratched, try lightly polishing on a non-critical area with scratch fix for cars (a thick paste in a tube), then polish with a car wax like turtle wax (this will protect the lacquer and underlying metal). Hope this helps!

    My blog about restoring compacts is at www.powdercompacts.wordpress.com x Jane