The Shelf Life of Beauty Products: Purging Products for Health and Space

Most of us end up with more lotions, potions and beauty products in our bathrooms than we need or have space for. We snag the shampoos and conditioners in our hotel rooms, rip out samples from magazines, get free SWAG at events or just accumulate them from basic trial and error. With good intentions, we bring them home and shove them into whatever space is available in our bathrooms and often forget about them.

Because bathrooms tend to be small by nature and often can lack closet space, it’s important to regularly cull items we aren’t using from our collection to create more space, especially since none of these products will last forever and some may become harmful to you over time.

The best way to keep track of how old your products is to mark the date on the bottom of the item as soon as you bring them home. All products will last longest when kept in cool, dark, dry places and should not be kept in direct sunlight. While not all products can harbor potentially harmful bacteria, all products over time lose their effectiveness and can change in color, texture or odor and the item should be thrown out if you notice any of these changes. Keep in mind that natural products have a shorter shelf life than those products made with man-made chemicals. Natural products may only last up to 120 days while man-made products can last up to four years or more.

Here’s a quick list of typical items found in bathrooms and their expiration dates:

  • Shampoo/Conditioner: 1-4 years
  • Hairspray/Gel: Loses effectiveness over time
  • Nail Polish: 2-3 years before it tends to thicken.  Add nail polish thinner to get more shelf life. Try mixing colors together for a new look.
  • Toothpaste: FDA says 2 years but you can use for longer without harm.
  • Concealer: 12-18 months
  • Powder: 2 years
  • Cream/Gel: 1 year
  • Eyeliner/Eye shadow: 3 years
  • Brushes: Wash every 2-3 months
  • Toothbrushes: Replace every 6 months
  • Spongers: Wash weekly and discard monthly
  • Lipliner: 3 years
  • Lipstick: 1-4 years
  • Mascara: 2-4 months 

Another tip that may make deciding what to keep and what to toss is to let go of any items you’re keeping out of guilt (i.e., it was expensive and you never used it and never will, or someone gave it to you as a gift). Those items should be either given away or thrown out. Guilt keeps you stuck and leaves you with a bathroom filled with stuff that makes you feel bad, guilty, or stressed.

Your home should be a reflection of you and a place of serenity so if your bathroom stresses you out because it’s filled with clutter, it may be time to purge. You can also donate products to various charities which means you’re doing something good or you can give them to a friend who will use the items. Recycle what you can and keep only items you like, use and have space for.