Use or Toss Your Products

Brandi and Milla by David LaChappelle, 1995

Brandi and Milla by David LaChappelle, 1995

When to keep and when to toss?

I’m specifically referring to makeup and beauty products of all types. My skin has been behaving strangely with the cold weather as of late. However, I have what feels like an arsenal of products that I haven’t finished or even used! Where do I even start?!

From my daily days in the beauty industry, I certainly acquired a lot of stuff. Product pandemonium for sure and many of them aren’t right for me at all.

The following information is paraphrased directly from the Paula’s Choice site.

Unfortunately, the FDA has no regulations as to the expiration dates of skin care products and makeup UNLESS those products contain sunscreen or other active ingredients.

There’s a system in the EU known as the PAO, which stands for Period After Opening. It shows a number on the product that indicates how long you should keep the product after opening. (I think that I’m in trouble if I seriously think about how long I’ve had some products under the sink!! So embarrassing.)

Vintage beauty product props from

Vintage beauty product props from

Product exposure to air, light, and bacteria will help break it down, which results in products that are ineffective at best and dangerous at worst.

Though products vary greatly, as do the conditions of consumer usage and storage, the following is a helpful guide for assessing what needs to go or how long it has left:

    Mascara, liquid or gel eyeliners: 4 to 6 months (always toss out dry mascara—never add water to extend its life)

    Moisturizers, Serums, & Foundations: 6 months to 1 year

    Powder-based products: 2-3 years

    Lipsticks, Lip Gloss, & Lip Pencils: 2-3 years

As a rule, products that contain water as one of the first ingredients have the shortest shelf life after opening because water encourages the growth of bacteria and other microbes.

Also susceptible to bacterial contamination are products that are mostly waxes with minimal water, but that also contain plant extracts. Think about how long produce lasts in your refrigerator. Not very long!

Products made up of almost no water (such as powders) last the longest, because almost nothing can grow in these kinds of products. Lastly, if your product is labeled “preservative-free”, you should definitely take extra caution, because without some kind of preservative system bacteria can flourish easily.

I don’t want to have to tell you stories of product testers at major beauty conglomerates that were contaminated and gross. Product testers are an entire category altogether and I implore you to not go there.

If you MUST though, then only use them on your hand and wipe it off very fast. Life’s too short for grossness, trust me. Eye infections and staph is very real and you can do your best to prevent it.

However, don’t let a moment of weakness and vulnerability combined with convenience and laziness cause you to buy sh*t that you don’t need at a department store. Your pocketbook and credit limit will be feeling the after effects of the retail splurge therapy.

Do your due diligence and go to review sites like Beautypedia, Paula’s Choice, Makeup Alley, Total Beauty, Beautylish, Temptalia, and more to research what options might be right for you.

You don’t have to be stuck with products either and although I don’t make it a habit of returning things, I had to do so at Nordstrom last year. Laura Mercier’s beloved tinted moisturizer was a certain dewy breakout hell for my skin, but your mileage may vary.

I think that I’ll be busy for the next few days. Remember, when in doubt, THROW IT OUT. Now if I could just do something about this winter!

Toss it,

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