Open any woman’s bathroom cupboards, and chances are you’ll find cracked bronzers, half-used foundations, old mascara wands and at least one tube of lip gloss that’s been squeezed to within an inch of its life. And though these cosmetics take up valuable space, just like our favourite oversized tee that’s falling to pieces, we can’t seem to let them go.
But our hoarding habit has a catch: beauty products do go bad. At best, they’ll stop performing as well as they used to. At worst, they can cause irritation or infection. And beyond the obvious signs – a bad smell, discolouration or clumps – it can be tough to tell when something’s past its prime.
Here’s when to throw away your beauty and health products:
Shelf life: Six months for citrusy scents, 18 months for floral
Toss when… It doesn’t smell the way it used to, or you notice a change in colour. Keep your fragrance in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight if you don’t want it to spoil.
Shelf life: One to two years
Toss when… The polish is goopy or has separated into layers. You can get a little more life out of your fave polish by pouring in a small amount of nail polish thinner and shaking before use. Nail polish remover also works a treat!
Shelf life: Two to three months after opening
Toss when… It starts looking gluggy or clumpy, or smelling a little funky. Eye make-up is especially vulnerable to bacteria, and double dipping every time you use an old mascara only increases the risk of eye infections.
We love: Models Prefer Bold & Beautiful High Impact Mascara, Benefit Roller Lash, ModelCo Black Lengthening Mascara, Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lash Extending Treatment Mascara, CLINIQUE Chubby Lash Fattening Mascara, Estée Lauder Double Wear Zero Smudge Lengthening Mascara
Shelf life: Around a year
Toss when… Your eye pencil has been floating around in your handbag or beauty bag without a cap on. If you then apply it to your eyelid or waterline, you’re just asking to get an infection. One of the best ways to keep your eyes safe from bacteria is to sharpen your pencil before each use.
We love: Clarins Crayon Kohl Eye Pencil, The Body Shop Carbon Eye Definer, e.l.f. cosmetics Essential Brightening Eyeliner, Maybelline Color Show Crayon Kohl Liner, Phyt’s Eye Pencil, L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Le Kajal
FOUNDATION AND CONCEALER
Shelf life: Six months for liquids, and two years for powders
Toss when… Your foundation begins to give you an inconsistent, streaky finish. When the formula is on its last legs, oils rise to the top and cause the consistency to thicken. Plus, repeatedly dipping your brushes and fingers into liquid foundation increases the chances of bacterial growth and therefore, breakouts. Powder foundations present less of an issue because bacteria can’t grow where there’s no water. However, over time, powders can become harder to blend and are more likely to crumble.
We love: Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup, Lancome Absolue Sublime Rejuvenating Essence Foundation, Estée Lauder DayWear Advanced Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant Sheer Tint Release Moisturiser SPF 15, MAC Matchmaster Foundation SPF 15, Models Prefer Luxurious Youth Boost Anti-Ageing BB with Primer
Shelf life: Two years for lipstick, one for glosses
Toss when… It smells funny, or you notice colour changes. If your lipstick is drier than usual, or your gloss is extra-sticky, it’s time to bin it! Things like cold sores can often be linked to old or contaminated lip products. If you get a cold sore, toss out whatever product you’ve been using, and don’t share your lip products!
We love: Mac Lipstick in Dirty Rose, Yves Saint Laurent Voluptuous Lip Tint Oil in Undress Me, Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Hiney Bare, Napoleon Perdis Luminous Lip Veil in In The Flesh, Bobbi Brown Lip Gloss in Pink Beige
Shelf life: 30 days for manual and electronic
Toss when… Most people hold onto their toothbrushes waaaay longer than they should. Waiting until the bristles start to splay means the brush is far less capable of removing plaque and may damage your gums. The combination of water, wear and tear and poor brush maintenance can cause a build-up of bacteria, which can then lead to contamination of the gums and infection. Ick! Keep your brush in good nick by giving it a thorough rinse with warm water after each use, followed by a quick splash of mouthwash.
LOOFAH OR BODY BRUSH
Shelf life: Three to four weeks
Toss when… You notice any mould or discolouration, obviously. The health risks of products that live in the shower, like loofahs, stem from the fact they’re constantly wet, making them the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. If you use a body brush or loofah, prevent problems by washing them thoroughly after use and then hanging them out to dry.
Shelf life: Six months
Toss when… It loses its support. Thin, lumpy, sub-standard pillows can lead to neck and back pain, and if not cared for, can fill with dirt, oil, dead skin and dust mites. They can also exacerbate allergies, which is never fun.
Shelf life: Eight months
Toss when… It’s no longer comfortable, supportive, and giving your boobs that boost it used to.
In fact, your bras should never see a birthday! That may sound extravagant, but if you’re wearing your favourite bra regularly, it makes sense. Here’s a handy tip: buy bras in darker colours. The dyeing process means darker coloured bras are tighter and stay in shape for longer than their fairer comrades. To preserve the wiring, support, padding and elasticity, handwash your bras with a gentle detergent.
Did you know about these beauty expiration dates? What products do you tend to hold onto for longer than you should?