It’s that time of year again: SPRING! The weather is warmer, people are happier, heavy coats are shed in favor of lighter garb. It’s the moment. But with Spring comes the inevitable Spring Clean. Those heavy coats are vacuum sealed in bins beneath your bed, sweaters are shelved till next fall. And your skincare? It’s in dire need of an overhaul, too. Those thick creams you bought as soon as the first leaf fell may not be as fresh as you think. That hyaluronic acid serum seems to have a little less oomph than it did in November. The top shelf clean-out can be more overwhelming than your closet! But that’s why we’ve built this handy-dandy guide to knowing when it’s time to say goodbye to your products.
If you’ve ever really inspected your products, you might notice a little jar symbol on your skincare:
This symbol tells you how long it will last from the open date. For instance, this one says 12M so it’s good for twelve months after opening. This is handy to have, but who remembers when they cracked open a new product? You can get creative trying to remember by building out a whole spreadsheet, but take it from us, the easiest way is using a Sharpie to label the open date right on the product. This is a surefire way to prevent using a product that’s gone bad. This is a longshot, but nevertheless, a solution: try buying less products and sticking to the tried and true ones so you’ll be sure to use them before they go off. You can even grab a travel size of a product you want to test and then commit to the full-size.
Skincare is fun, but like everything fun in life, there are some rules, especially when it comes to skin safety. Some skincare (acne medication and sunscreen) lists expiration dates, but this cannot be taken for granted. Most skincare and cosmetics are not FDA regulated and can slap on an arbitrary expiration date, which can result in throwing out a product sooner than necessary. With this in mind, try to make these practices a reality:
Label your skincare’s open date with a Sharpie
If you have a lot of skincare and cosmetic products, do a monthly clean-out
Buy products with a pump or in a tube if possible. These make sure bacteria stays out of the product, keeping them fresh for longer.
Keep it real with yourself
You spent anywhere from $3 to $500 on a skincare product that you’ve had for a year now and want to know what happens now. Well, I’m so happy you asked. The product is easily determined as tossable once it develops a strange scent, separates into lumps or another strange texture, and/or feels different on the skin than when you first opened it. We hope none of this happens to your skincare, but if it does, it’s time to toss it out.
Since lots of skincare is not regulated by the FDA, several experts such as Paula’s Choice and doctors rounded up approximate expiration dates. If you’re using your skincare a week past the expiration date because you have a little bit of product left, go off sis. But if that week turns into a few months, there could be some problems coming for your skin such as ineffectiveness, irritation, burns, and/or bacterial infection. These conditions thankfully aren’t life threatening, but skincare is more enjoyable when it’s comfortable applying it.
Approximate skincare shelf life:
Acne medication containing benzoyl peroxide: Three months
Anti-aging products: Six months
Jarred skincare: Six months
Toners: Six months
Serums: Six months to one year
BHA or AHA exfoliants: One year
Face cleansers: One year
Sunscreen: One year
Makeup shelf life:
Mascara: Three to six months
Foundation: Six months
Concealer: Six months
Cream products: Six months
Powder products: Two years
Lip products: Two years
If you’ve discovered functioning and unexpired skincare and/or makeup during your cleaning frenzy and you don’t feel the need for it anymore, donate it! Happy cleaning, and remember to clean your stove and behind your fridge. Not skincare-related, just useful.