Planning on a bit of cleaning sometime soon? If you haven’t done it in a while, we think it’s a good idea to start cleaning out your bathroom counter. Cleaning out your clutter of skincare, makeup, and hair care not only helps streamline your beauty routine, but it also ensures you don’t put yourself at risk for skin irritation or infection with bacteria-loaded products gone bad. Plus, it frees up more space so you can shop for what you really need.
So how do you know whether your fave mascara or your jar of moisturizer is still safe for use? Keep on reading and find out what to keep and toss using our guidelines below.
1. Streaky foundations and crumbly powders
Constantly dipping your finger, brush, or sponge into face creams and powders increases the possibility of bacterial growth in the products, which can lead to breakouts and rashes. So keep an eye out on your liquid or cream foundations after six months—when the liquid and oil begin to separate—and note any change in consistency or smell. On the other hand, powders can last up to two years, though you know their life span is ending when they begin to crumble and become hard to blend.
2. Flaking mascara
Three to six months is the accepted time frame for tossing that mascara, which is susceptible to becoming laden with germs. Also, avoid pumping the wand into the tube since this pushes air in and causes the formula to oxidize and break down or dry up quicker.
3. Liquid eyeliners and cream eyeshadows
As a general rule, powder formulations last longer than their cream or liquid counterparts because they don’t contain water, so they’re less prone to bacterial growth. So toss your liquid eyeliners after six months or earlier or when they begin to dry up. Pencil eyeliners—especially when sharpened regularly with a clean sharpener—and powder eyeshadows can last up to two years.
4. Dried Lipstick and Lip Gloss
Lipsticks are tricky. They can accrue bacteria because of their water content, but they also dry out as they age. Be safe and toss lipsticks after two years. Lip gloss should go into the bin after a year or less. Lip liners can last up to two years or more if sharpened regularly.
5. Worn-out sponges
Constantly washing sponges wears them down. Plus, they can retain water and makeup residue, making them rife with microbes. Trash them after a month of constant use. Luckily, you don’t have to throw away your makeup brushes—just clean them regularly. I like to spray them with a makeup cleanser after every use—especially eyeshadow and eyeliner brushes—and wipe them on clean tissue so that they’re clean and ready for the next use. You not only lessen the risk of breakouts, but it helps keep your makeup more sanitized.
6. Clumpy nail polish
Nail polish formulas are susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity, resulting in a gooey consistency. Usually, nail polish lasts a year, though it varies. Once they start failing to spread evenly and smoothly on your nails, toss them.
7. Old skincare
Most skincare products carry expiration dates. If they don’t, they should at least state how may months they’re good for once opened—look for a small mark on the bottle, jar, or tube with 6M, 12M, 24M written inside it. If a product doesn’t specify, consider this: Most skincare products are good for three years based on their manufacturing date while still sealed. After that, some of the active ingredients begin to break down. Once opened, they’re susceptible to bacterial growth unless they’re stored in a pump bottle.
8. Expired sunscreen
Sunscreen always carries an expiration date—it’s FDA regulated since it contains physical or chemical blockers to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
9. Altered fragrances
Perfumes, eau de toilettes, and colognes have a long shelf life and can last for years as long as they’re stored properly—in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Humidity and daylight can affect the notes of the fragrance, though, so do watch for changes in scent and color.
10. Unsealed hair care products
Hair care products also expire, especially when left open. Make sure to put back caps on products like shampoos and conditioners, and close styling products after use. Once water and air get in, the formula degrades, causing the elements of the formula to separate.
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Pia Rojas has been writing about fashion, beauty, and health for 17 years. She's happily married with dog, and spends most of her time working and applying weird skin potions to her face.