We Asked An Expert: When is it Time to Toss Your Beauty Products?

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The biggest problem with knowing when to throw out a beauty product is that most of them seem to work and look just fine even though they’re way passed their due date. “When you spend a lot of money on your skin care and beauty products, it’s very difficult to even consider getting rid of them. Trust me, I’ve been there,” says board certified dermatologist and founder of DermWarehouse, Dr. Alan J. Parks. Dr. Parks goes on to explain that just because a product doesn’t have an expiration date, doesn’t mean it will last forever! “Many cosmetics don’t include expiration dates because there aren’t any regulations that require them. According to the FDA, ‘there are no U.S. laws or regulations that require cosmetics to have specific shelf lives or have expiration dates on their labels.’ Anything considered a drug, such as acne medications and many sunscreens, do require an expiration date, but the law doesn’t apply to products that are only considered cosmetics.”

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The reason to toss products isn’t just related to quality (which often declines so progressively that you don’t notice till you open a new one), but as Dr. Parks points out, when you’re continually using makeup or skin care products over a long period of time, they can become a breeding ground for bacteria. “Think about it. You are constantly using the same product to put on your hands, face, eyes, lips, etc. You are repeatedly opening and closing the bottle, tube, or compact. This means that your products are being exposed to dirt, germs, and bacteria from both the air and from the person applying them – you.” That said Dr. Parks cautions that “not all products become dangerous once they’re expired. Some just may become less effective or less easy to use. Other times, however, using an expired product may cause a reaction or infection.”

So, we asked Dr. Parks to break down some of the common beauty and skincare products so you can generally know how long to keep them.

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Mascara and Eyeliner

“Products that you use on your eyes tend to have the shortest shelf life and you should toss these after about 3 months. Eyeliner tends to last a bit longer than mascara. If you’re using a liquid eyeliner, you should still toss it about every 3 months. If you’re using a pencil, you can typically keep these for up to a year.”

Powders (eyeshadow, blush, bronzers)

“Powder products can usually last up to two years (longer than many other products) because they don’t contain oil or water. This enables them to last longer than many other products. The exception is eyeshadow, which you should throw away after a year, just because of the exposure to your eye area. Parks adds, “make sure that even if you keep your blushes or bronzers for two years, you are replacing or washing your brushes/sponges frequently, as those tend to get a large buildup of bacteria, which can cause irritation or acne.”

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Foundation and Concealer

“These products should be tossed every year. If your foundation comes in a bottle that has a pump, it will last a little longer, as less bacteria will be able to get inside. With both, remember to keep your hands away from the products as much as possible and use a brush or sponge that you wash or replace frequently.”

Lipstick, Lip Liner, Lip Gloss

“You can keep lipstick and liner products around for a year – just in time to get the latest new colors for next season! When it comes to lip gloss, if yours comes in a squeeze tube, it should last for about a year. If it comes with a wand applicator, however, toss it after 6 months. When you continually take out the wand and then put it back in, you’re allowing bacteria to build up.”

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Sunscreen

“While many sunscreens will come with expiration dates on them, I tell my patients that it’s always a good idea to get a new sunscreen at the beginning and end of every summer. While you should of course be using sunscreen all-year round, during the summer people tend to let their sunscreen sit out in the heat all day long, so it’s smart to restock on this extremely vital product and be ready to go with a fresh one when the summer begins and then to use for the rest of the year. You don’t want to be using expired or damaged sunscreen that may not protect you as well as it should.”

Skincare products

“Skin care products such as moisturizers, face creams, eye creams, anti-aging products or acne products should all come with an expiration date/shelf life information on the bottle. As a general rule of thumb, however, moisturizers and creams will last about 6 months to a year. The anti-aging products and acne products will last for about a year, but this greatly depends on the ingredients you’re using. Certain ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide, break down more quickly, causing the products to have a shorter shelf-life. As we’ve mentioned before, regardless of the products your using, finding products that have a pump bottle (or any bottle/jar where you don’t have to dip your fingers into it) will last longer, as they allow for less bacteria to build up.”

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