With winter officially over, now is the perfect time to give your beauty bag (or bags) and cabinet a fresh start.
If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably got some products in your arsenal that are well past their expiration date. (Yes, beauty products expire!) If we’re being completely honest, we’re still holding on to lipsticks and eyeshadow palettes from years ago.
But there’s no time like the present to spring clean your beauty routine. Take stock of what you have and how long you’ve had it. There’s a good chance many of your products are ready to be tossed in the trash. It should be noted that most products, once opened, tend to last anywhere from six months to a year, with some exceptions. If a product is unopened and stored properly (in a cool, dry place away from high temperatures and UV exposure), it could last up to three years.
With the help of beauty chemist Ni’Kita Wilson, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the shelf lives of common beauty products, once they’ve been opened ― from your moisturizer to concealer and even your hairspray.
Go forth and purge your beauty products!
How long it lasts: 18 to 24 months, according to Wilson; some sources have said six months to a year.
When to toss it: If you see a change in color, smell or thickness, it’s probably time to get rid of your toner, according to Cosmopolitan.
How long it lasts: “It really depends on the package. If it’s in a tube or an airless pump, probably up to a year or so, maybe 15 months. If it’s in a tube, much longer, I would say 18 months. If it’s in a jar, up to 12 months,” Wilson said.
When to toss it: “If the texture starts to change, if it becomes thinner or the texture becomes more like cottage cheese, or if it begins to get harder, then I would say it’s time to toss it,” Wilson said.
How long it lasts: Wilson said the same timeline as a moisturizer can apply to a retinol cream, but according to The New York Times, products containing retinol can break down more quickly.
When to toss it: Again, it’s similar to a moisturizer. If you notice any changes in color, texture or odor, throw it out. And be sure to keep glass containers away from the light.
How long it lasts: Three years
When to toss it: Sunscreen shouldn’t be used for more than three years, according to the Mayo Clinic. It suggests getting rid of your sunscreen if you’ve noticed a change in the color or consistency, or if it’s been exposed to high temperatures.
How long it lasts: Wilson said vitamin C serums are typically good for up to a year once they’ve been opened, but “it varies on the type of vitamin C that’s being used.”
“If [your product] uses ascorbic acid, definitely [toss it after] a year. If it’s using something like 3-O-Ethyl ascorbic acid, then you can get a little longer, probably 15 months, because it’s a little more stable,” she said.
When to toss it: Wilson advised keeping a close eye on your vitamin C serum once you’ve hit the year mark. If you start to notice it shifting “toward a brownish color,” you should stop using it and toss it.
How long they last: Between nine and 12 months, Wilson said.
When to toss them: Wilson suggested doing a “smell test.” If the product smells off or different than it normally does, it’s probably ready to go in the garbage.
How long it lasts: One year, makeup artist Kari Bauce told HuffPost previously.
When to toss it: Bauce explained that a matte product might have a slightly longer life, but the general rule is to toss primers after a year, because the product tends to separate.
How long it lasts: Twelve to 18 months for liquid; 15 to 18 months for powder, according to Wilson, who stressed the importance of proper storage (that is, a cool, dry place away from UV exposure).
When to toss it: For liquid, if you notice different bands of color in the product or any oil separation, throw it out. Wilson said she wouldn’t advise shaking a separated product “because, at that point, the pigment has already begun to separate and you can’t shake it back into place. You’ll end up getting streaky coverage.”
For powder foundations, try not to drop them, because “once you drop them, then you begin to break up the structure and it starts to get crumbly,” Wilson said, adding, “Make sure you close the container because sometimes the powders do have binding agents that can absorb moisture, and then it begins to dry out.”
How long it lasts: One year, according Bauce, who spoke to HuffPost in 2016.
When to toss it: Concealer is ready for the trash after that one-year period, or sooner if it’s dried out.
How long it lasts: Bauce told HuffPost in 2016 that mascaras last six to eight weeks. Others have said you can use them for up to three months.
When to toss it: “It will dry out on you before you have a chance to toss it out,” Wilson said, adding that every time you open the tube, some of the product’s ingredients evaporate, which reduces the product’s efficacy and can dry it out. If your mascara starts to get crumbly or the product doesn’t really stick to the brush, it’s time to put it in the trash, Wilson said.
How long it lasts: Liquid eyeliner can be kept for up to 12 months, Wilson said, provided it hasn’t dried out. With pencils, you can use them until they’re done, but make sure to clean the tip with alcohol before each use to clear off any bacteria, she added.
When to toss it: If your liquid eyeliner is more than a year old, or if it’s dried out, it’s time to get rid of it, as it can gather bacteria over time. One telltale sign that an eyeliner pencil is past its expiration is a white or gray tip, which could be a sign of mold.
How long it lasts: Like powder foundation, powder blush can last 15 to 18 months, Wilson said, while the shelf life of a cream blush is closer to a year, as Bauce told HuffPost previously.
When to toss it: Powder blushes will stop working after a while, according to Bauce, as they tend to dry out. If you see a film covering your powder, that could be a sign of mold, which means it’s time to toss.
How long it lasts: Lipstick lasts for up to a year, while lip gloss can last up to 18 months
When to toss it: If there are any weird smells or you notice a separation in the formula, your lipstick or gloss is likely past its prime.
How long it lasts: Two to three years
When to toss it: Wilson noted that shadows also fall into a similar shelf life category with powder blushes and powder foundations. Once they start getting crumbly and start drying out, it’s time to throw them away.
How long they last: If you clean them regularly, brushes can essentially be used until they start to fall apart on you, Wilson said.
When to toss them: Using dirty brushes can cause skin irritation, so make sure to wash your brushes regularly, or, if the buildup gets to be too much, replace them every so often. You can use a gentle soap and warm water to clean your brushes or a specialty brush cleaner. If the bristles are falling out regularly, it’s a good time to replace your brushes.
How long they last: Ava Shamban, a Beverly Hills-based dermatologist, told Allure in 2017 that blenders and sponges should be washed regularly and replaced every three months. Wilson suggested they could potentially last for six to 12 months, though she did express concern about their unsanitary nature.
When to toss them: Sponges can be a breeding ground for microbials, Wilson said, noting that she’s “not fully confident we can truly clean the inside.” Celebrity makeup artist Edward Cruz told InStyle in 2015 that, ideally, Beautyblenders should be replaced every other month, but with proper cleansing, you can stretch it to three months.
How long they last: Generally speaking, face masks can last one to two years, according to Bauce. Sheet masks are typically single-use, though if you store unopened ones properly, you could keep them for two to three years, Wilson said.
When to toss them: Much like moisturizers or other liquid products, if you notice any change in texture, color or odor, it’s probably time to get rid of your masks. Clay masks tend to dry out after a long period of time, making them virtually unusable anyway.
How long it lasts: Roughly two years, once it’s been opened, nail technician Annette Soboleski told Fitness magazine.
When to toss it: Every time a nail polish is opened, some of its ingredients will evaporate, Soboleski told Fitness. If your polish gets too thick, starts to clump or starts to separate, you should toss it.
How long it lasts: Until you think it smells bad.
When to toss it: Pamela Dalton, a member of Monell Chemical Senses Center, told HuffPost previously that perfumes and colognes can technically be used until your nose thinks it smells bad.
“There really isn’t any danger in using a perfume that may have changed character, [but] it’s best to just let your nose be the judge of when it’s time to throw it out!” she said.
How long it lasts: One year to 18 months (max), according to JYL Craven Hair Design.
When to toss it: If your shampoo and/or conditioner is very expired, the products might start to smell rancid, in which case you’ll know to throw them out. Over time, both shampoo and conditioner become less effective as certain ingredients break down, and bacteria can collect in the bottle. JYL Craven recommends just getting rid of shampoo and conditioner after 18 months as a rule of thumb.
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