Last month, with a heavy heart, I threw away a full bottle of Olay moisturizer. The product was way past its prime, I thought. So I immediately put it in the trash. Determined to not make the same mistake, I researched about when you should throw away beauty products. I also devised a system of some sort to help me keep track of the products I have and how I can use and hopefully finish them before they go bad.
What’s the deal with expiration dates?
The expiration dates we find on products, according to the Wall Street Journal, don’t refer to when the product goes bad or when they become a risk to your health. It only means that they’re not as fresh anymore, but you can still use them — or in the case of food, eat them. The term “best before” sums it up. The products were at their best before the date put on their packaging.
So when do products go bad?
A lot of makeup products don’t have expiration dates. And even if they do, they’re not entirely reliable because a product can go bad or stay “fresh” depending on how you take care of it.
Reading labels is something everyone should keep a habit of doing. A dermatologist told the Los Angeles Times that people should definitely pay attention to the guidelines printed on products. Say, one of your oils has “Store in a cool, dry place” printed on it, you do what it says. Don’t leave it out under the sun!
Being mindful of storage and usage guidelines helps prolong the life of the products. The environment where a product is stored can contribute to chemical changes to the product’s formula, which may lead to irritation when applied to the skin. Humidity also contributes to your products becoming a fertile ground for bacteria growth.
A product’s packaging also contributes to its longevity. Products that are in jars are usually more prone to become breeding grounds for bacteria, although it can be avoided by using a spatula or a cotton bud.
Handling products properly is also extremely important. Much like food, I’ve come to learn that bacteria is the culprit in spoilage, not how old the product is. Still, beauty products can’t last forever.
How do you know when the product should be thrown away?
Trust your senses!
Is the product separating when it’s not supposed to? Does it smell different from when you first used it? Does it feel different when you touch it? If your answers are yes, yes and yes, say goodbye to the items really quick.
There are also a few things you need to take note of.
1. Natural products tend to go bad faster because most of them do not contain preservatives.
2. Water-based products also go bad faster because, as we all know, water encourages bacteria growth. Products that contain more moisture (or are liquid) tend to get spoiled faster than dry (powder) products.
3. Some ingredients lose efficacy faster than others. There are some ingredients that have a shorter lifespan than others. Take benzoyl peroxide, for example. It only has a shelf life of three months, according to The New York Times. Vitamin C, glycolic acids, retinol and antioxidants also lose efficacy fast when they are exposed to sunlight and heat.
Still, there are guidelines on how long you can keep using a product before it no longer gives you the benefits it promises. Here’s a quick run-through. Note that you start counting from the day you opened the product.
Now, since I don’t want to have to throw away products that I haven’t used much of, I’ve come up with a little system to make sure I don’t waste anything. I do just two things, and they work really well.
1. First In, First Out
I like finishing all my products before I move on to new stuff. That way, I don’t open a lot of products at the same time and risk them getting spoiled. Also, I don’t get overwhelmed. The only time I don’t finish a product is when it reacts badly to my skin. But other than that, I stick to what is open and use it religiously until it runs out.
2. List Things Down
I’m a bit of a notebook hoarder, and naturally, I have one for my blog and beauty products. It’s where I jot down the date I first opened a product and what my thoughts are about it. I figured it’s easier to track my stash using a spreadsheet, though, since I scribble a lot of my mini-reviews on my notebook, too. So, here’s what I came up with.
Since I stick to one product at a time, I don’t really have a problem with forgetting about a product — okay, except for using the Quick FX eye cream, because I always misplace that thing. If you can’t stick to a one-product-at-a-time regimen, I suggest setting alarms periodically. You can also Boomerang yourself an email. So, if I opened up a product today, I’ll also set an alarm for three months from now, six months from now and nine months from now. Three months is rather long and you’ll use up a product if you use it regularly.
If you think it will help you, don’t hesitate to download a copy of the spreadsheet I use HERE.