Cosmetics clutter – use it or lose it?


Spring is now upon us and as we all know springtime is synonymous with spring cleaning, right!? I know, I know, I despise that word ‘cleaning’ as much as anyone, and although overwhelming at times, clearing out the clutter in our lives can actually end up being quite invigorating.   

So I have been on a clutter-busting mission for some time now, clearing out a corner here and there, a nook and cranny every other day in preparation for some renovations coming up...and then I reached the bathrooms!  Now I’m as guilty as the next girl when it comes to cosmetics clutter so I was not surprised at how surprised I was to find so much, well, crap!

This photo is of the discarded products from just one draw in my ensuite...yes one draw!  And I haven’t even got to the main bathroom yet!!  I’d say at least 80% of the beauty products in this room were worthy only of the bin, most being well past their prime.


Products past their prime? Why you need to clear the clutter...

Products which are past their prime can expose your skin to ingredients which have began to oxidise or degrade and can cause eye or skin irritations by way of itchiness, redness or rash, or even infections.  Products over time not only decrease in their intended efficacy, but can also become a breeding ground for bacteria, which again can cause various skin or eye issues.   Yet many of us are guilty of hoarding and worse of all using products way beyond their intended lifespan. 

Unfortunately not all of our beloved beauty products come with a clear ‘use by’ or ‘expiration date’ and all will have life spans which will vary depending various factors such as nature and level of preservatives, active and/or natural ingredients used, type of product (i.e. powder vs liquid), and type of packaging (i.e. pump vs jar).

Many products, including most skincare have either an expiration date and/or POA (period after opening) indicator.  POA is shown by a an ‘open jar’ symbol with a number and letter ‘M’, representing the number of months the product can be used once opened.   Depending on the manufacturer, those with no expiry date or POA would often indicate that the product has a shelf life of more than 30 months. 



“Our Silk Oil of Morocco PURE ARGAN OIL actually contains 98% cold pressed certified organic Argan Oil of the highest quality, plus 2% natural Vitamin E.   So why not just 100% Argan Oil like many other ‘pure’ Argan Oil products on the market?  Silk adds this small amount of Vitamin E to their Pure Argan Oil because it acts as a natural preservative and actually helps prolong the shelf life of the bottled product.  The resulting POA of this product is therefore 12 months, whereby other 100% Argan Oil products on the market will only be 6 months.”


And remember, expiry date or not, products which are not stored or looked after correctly can expire well before they are due.  So keep them clean, sealed and at an appropriate temperature.  As soon as they are opened and exposed to air and potential bacteria, the quicker the POA timer starts ticking .

If you’re visual like me, here’s a diagram which demonstrates the difference between the shelf life and POA.



(Image from


Other signs they are past their prime...

So other than relying on the expiry dates or POA which are really only a guide, there are other obvious signs that products have begun to deteriorate and it’s time for the bin... Are your lip glosses gloopy? Your compact crusty? Or your mascara dry and clumpy? Time to toss it!  Perhaps you notice a product has a funky smell, or the texture and/or colour has changed dramatically.  That’s right...time to toss it! 


 “As a rule of thumb, if your beauty products suddenly have a strange odour or change colour or consistency, toss it!”


Good to know...

  • Storage – although most of us carry out the majority of our beauty regimes in the bathroom, this is actually not the best place to store our beauty products, despite its obvious convenience. The constant exposure to heat and moisture will only reduce the longevity of our products shelf life due to such an environment being more favourable for bacteria growth and deterioration of ingredients, especially the more natural products.  Storage is best in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.
  • The more natural a product is (i.e. plant based and with less preservatives), the more susceptible it is to bacteria and will have a shorter shelf life or POA, normally around 6 months.
  • Products which have been left for a period of time unsealed or with damaged packaging, i.e. cracked container or split seal should be discarded immediately as exposure to air can cause them to deteriorate.
  • As a rule of thumb, powders last longer than liquids, and products in pump dispensers stay fresher longer than liquids and creams in jars.
  • Make up tools, brushes and sponges etc should be cleaned regularly (at least once a week if used daily) to avoid bacteria build up which could lead to skin irritations and breakouts.
  • Labelling products with the date you opened them can help you keep track of the POA so you know when it’s about time to replace them.
  • To make your mascara last as long as possible, avoid pumping the wand as this can actually make it dry out faster by drawing air in and out of the tube. Instead try twisting the wand gently on the way out.


Spring cleaning...let's do this!

Although the idea of spring cleaning your bathroom and beauty bag is not an exciting one, it could save your skin or eyes from some nasty irritations... plus it’s a great excuse afterwards to go shopping for replacement items!  And if you haven’t used an item in over a month or so (or at least that last special occasion)... bin it!  Holding on to purchases or gifts that didn't work for you?  Why not consider gifting them to friends and family or donating to a local women’s refuge or similar charity.  Ensure they are unused and unopened first.

Try to perform a clear out twice a year and toss out anything that is questionable in terms of expiry dates, POA or condition.  Also check that you are cleaning and storing products correctly, this will ensure you get maximum life out of them.

And remember...when in doubt, throw it out!

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  • Leanne Gillard
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