Last Updated on 18/10/2021 by Jenna
Everyone knows that you need to take stock of your pantry and fridge from time to time, weed out expired items, and use up foods close to their expiration dates. But when should you declutter beauty products and the rest of your bathroom inventory?
Sure, a yogurt might stay fresh for a week or so, but how about mascara, soap, tampons, and cleaning supplies? You might think they don’t have an expiry date, but they do in fact do. Even if you might not have even opened them yet.
Here’s what you need to know, what to keep, and what to toss the next time you take your bathroom inventory and declutter beauty products. Let’s dive in!
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Table of Contents
- Acne Products
- Cleaning Supplies
- Condoms & Lubricant
- Creams, Lotions & Sunscreen
- Eye Drops, Contact Lenses & Solution
- Face Masks
- Hair Dryers & Other Hair Appliances
- Nail Files & Varnish
- Perfume & Cologne
- Razors & Shaving Cream
- Shampoo, Conditioner, Hair Products
- Tampons & Pads
- Toilet Paper, Cotton Pads, Q-Tips & Wipes
- Toothbrushes, Mouthwash & Toothpaste
Acne treatments tend to contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which can both deteriorate rather quickly. Check the dates on your products and toss them if they’re old. They’ll typically only have a shelf life of around four to six months.
To keep your scalp and hair healthy, a good rule of thumb is to replace your hairbrush once a year. Even when you regularly clean your brush, it builds up a ton of sebum and bacteria you can’t entirely get out of it. Plus, bristles wear down and can be hard on your mane.
If your brush is starting to split, crack, or lose bristles before the one-year mark, toss it out sooner. In between replacements, you can keep hair brushes clean with one of these little guys:
Makeup brushes usually come in natural, synthetic, and duo fibre varieties. I believe the jury is still out on which variant lasts the longest, but in my personal experience, the pricier natural animal hair varieties tend to be better. That said, no matter what type of brush hair you opt for, you need to keep these babies clean to avoid damage to both your skin and your bristles. Beyond that, makeup brushes have no fixed expiry date. Generally speaking, it’s time to replace them when they’re losing their shape and not blending your products well anymore.
I use one of these silicone brush cleaning mats with some brush cleanser to clean my brushes:
Yup, cleaning supplies often also have an expiration date. Who knew?! They contain preservatives which break down over time. While you probably won’t harm your surfaces using an expired product, it just might not be as effective as it’s supposed to be. And in the case of products containing disinfectants, they might not be able to kill the germs they were meant to if they’re past their shelf life. Bleach in particular has a short expiry date and will start going bad after six months. So next time you’re in the bathroom to declutter beauty products, also check your cleaning supplies and toss out anything you rely on if it’s past its date.
Condoms & Lubricant
Condoms expire! Their material starts deteriorating over time, and even sunlight can negatively affect them. Avoid using expired condoms after their expiration date. Depending on the material, their expiry date will usually be between one and five years. Natural animal skin condoms have the shortest shelf life. Non-latex will keep for three years, and regular latex condoms for five years. Toss yours out if they’re beyond their dates, and only open an individually packed condom when you’re ready to use it 🍆
Lubricants also have shelf lives which range from one to three years. You should mind their expiration dates in particular if you are using them vaginally. If they change in consistency or start smelling funky before then, it’s time to toss them out and get a new bottle.
Creams, Lotions & Sunscreen
These products all have expiration dates and in the case of sun protection, they really need to be strictly adhered to. A lot of sunscreen will have a shelf life of just one year, after which you need to toss it. The SPF simply will not work after that date and you could get a sunburn by unknowingly exposing yourself to UV radiation.
Creams and lotions for the face and body also typically have an expiration date, so check your tubes and bottles for one. You’ll often see a small symbol with a number indicating the number of months the product will hold for upon opening. However, if your creams and lotions start smelling weird before that date, or if they change in colour or consistency, you’re better off tossing them out.
Face creams in jars are another popular breeding ground for bacteria simply because we tend to dunk our fingers into the jar to scoop out the amount we need. Even if you use a little makeup spatula instead of your finger, the ingredients have been exposed to air once you open the jar so the product should be used up in due time, usually within six months.
Eye Drops, Contact Lenses & Solution
This is one part of the body you don’t want to be playing games with, so stick to your expiry dates when it comes to anything going into or around your eyes. Once you open a bottle of eye drops, for example, you really only have four weeks to use it up. Then you should toss it out. If you’re not sure anymore what the expiration date was, bin it to be on the safe side.
Also mind your contact lenses. While they don’t expire themselves, the saline solution they’re sitting in does. Lenses will usually have an expiry date between one and four years after manufacturing.
Don’t use expired contact lens solution for your lenses. It very well might be no longer safe for your eyes because the ingredients used to keep it sterile deteriorate over time. Toss out any bottles of solution you opened 90 days or more ago. If you’re using single doses, they should be used on the same day.
Did you stock up on a truckload of FFP2, N95 or surgical masks during the pandemic? Whelp, you better check their expiration dates because they have a shelf life! A lot of masks expire five years after their manufacturing date due to the materials they’re made of, and you need to keep them in their original packaging when storing.
Hair Dryers & Other Hair Appliances
Electrical devices have no expiration date, of course, and some higher-end models can last you a good ten years. That said, if your hair dryer starts making funny noises or emitting a burnt smell, it’s time to replace it. And when the protective finish on your flat iron or curling rod starts wearing down, that is also a sign it’s time to switch to a new device to avoid damaging your hair.
The biggest problem with makeup you’ve opened is its exposure to air and bacteria. Personally, I use my makeup products as long as they still look nice and smell normal, and I bin them if they start caking or change in odour. I clean my brushes regularly, so if my makeup is still blending, lining, and spreading the way they should, I’m happy.
Technically speaking though, there are actual expiration dates for makeup. Here are the average ranges for the most common beauty products:
- Liquid eyeliner: 3 months
- Mascara: 3 months
- Powder blush: 2 to 3 years
- Cream blusher: 1 year
- Bronzer: 3 years
- Foundation and BB/CC cream: 6-18 months
- Concealer: 2 years
- Face powder: 2 years
- Cream eye shadows: 6 months
- Lippies and gloss: 2 to 3 years
- Pencil eyeliners and lip pencils: 2 years
- Powder eye shadow: 2 years
Nail Files & Varnish
Metal nail files should be replaced every two to four years, and you can toss out emery boards as soon as they start looking worn down.
If your nail polish is starting to separate or smell funny, or gets all thick and gooey or stringy, it’s time to bin it. You won’t harm yourself using it, but it will no longer apply evenly.
Perfume & Cologne
We all know that scents smell differently on different people depending on their personal body chemistry. But scents also change rather rapidly in their glass bottles themselves. Over time their chemical makeup evolves, causing them to become sour from oxidation. Next time you declutter your beauty products, it’s a good idea to have a sniff through your fragrances to see how they’re holding up.
There is no hard rule for cologne and perfume expiration, as it depends on what kind of top notes are predominant in a scent (oud tends to hold longer than, say, citrus). In such, it’s probably a good idea to only have a few select fragrances you really love, and to use them, as opposed to accumulating a larger collection that will eventually go bad. Keeping your scents away from light and heat will also prolong their natural shelf life.
Razors & Shaving Cream
If you’re using your razor daily, you’ll want to replace it (or the blade) every two weeks at the latest. The more often you shave, the more blunt they become. And blunt blades can cause little pimples, ingrown hairs, rashes and, ultimately, infections. Plus, they also get rusty after some use.
You can prolong the bluntness and rust by drying your razor off after each use. Shaving creams and gels themselves will keep for two years or longer.
Shampoo, Conditioner, Hair Products
Hair products, if unopened, can last a few years. So if you see a great sale on your favourite products, it’s fine to stock up within reason. Shampoo, conditioner, and hair treatments will generally be okay for one to two years after opening, and can keep well in storage for three years.
Hair styling products have a shelf life that can range from one to five years, depending on how much alcohol they’re preserved with. Since alcohol dries the hair out though, many hair brands are using less of it in newer product lines. So check for your items’ expiry dates from the manufacturer and stick to the maxim less is more: try to use up what you have opened before you open a new bottle.
I love Beauty Blenders but they’re expensive and get yucky after a short time, even when you’re religious about cleaning them after every use. I’ve switched to much smaller, disposable blenders from Muji. You get 40 in a pack and I’ll use about one a week and then toss it when all sides of it are used.
If you do prefer the larger blenders though, you’ll want to toss it out once a month because they easily store bacteria and mould which could cause acne and other skin problems.
Body and facial sponges like konjak and loofah have a much shorter shelf life, usually from three to six months. I use a konjak sponge on my face, with water only, and bin it every three months. Other types of sponges might start disintegrating earlier and then you know it’s time to toss them out.
Tampons & Pads
Tampons expire after five years because they’re generally made from cotton, which can start collecting mould and bacteria simply through everyday bathroom moisture. Sanitary pads and panty liners will keep for about three years from their manufacturing date, after which their adhesive backing and outer shell can deteriorate.
Toilet Paper, Cotton Pads, Q-Tips & Wipes
Wet wipes have an expiry date, after which they’ll dry up. It therefore does not make a lot of sense to stockpile a ton of them. Toilet paper, cotton balls and pads, and Q-tips, on the other hand, can be stored for many years. The trick is to make sure you store these products in an absolutely dry space, otherwise they will start absorbing moisture and mould.
Toothbrushes, Mouthwash & Toothpaste
Toothpaste also has an expiry date so if you tend to buy a lot on sale, keep your tubes rotated with the oldest ones up front so you use them up first.
Toothpaste that’s gone past its expiry date probably won’t hurt you, but its fluoride and whitening ingredients won’t be effective anymore.
Mouthwash will keep for about three years beyond the manufacturing date.
Toothbrushes should be replaced about every two months. Not only do their bristles cause damage and infection to your gums as they flatten out and wear down, but toothbrushes are a major breeding ground. Studies have shown they’re even covered in fecal bacteria, particularly if you share a bathroom with others. How does poop get on your toothbrush? Through microscopic aerosols that swirl through the bathroom air after you flush the toilet (which is why you should only flush after putting the lid down, by the way…). Yuck, right? Better to bin your toothbrush every eight weeks.
I hope you found this post useful; I tried to include the most common culprits with expiry dates. What else do you store in your bathroom that has an expiration date? How often do you declutter beauty products? Drop a comment below!