How to know your bathroom products have expired

It’s time to clean out your (beauty) closet.

How to know your bathroom products have expired

Just like high school friendships, the beauty products in your bathroom cupboard can expire too. And it’s important to get rid of them before it’s too late to avoid potentially causing skin irritations and breakouts, as well as to ensure you’re using the product while it’s in its best state. Because, ~flawless~.

Not all products have the same shelf life though, so here’s how to tell when to chuck them out.

One way to tell is looking for the open jar icon on the labels of most products which indicate when they’ll expire. M stands for months and Y stands for years. So this product will last six months.

A product can last a few years providing it’s unopened, however once you open it, the formula begins to oxidise and the aging process begins. Essentially, the things to remember are: where is this product being used on my face/body, is the formula wet or dry, and what's the packaging sitch?


When to toss: The three month mark.

Why: Mascara tubes are a dark and moist environment which is perfect for bacteria to live – bacteria that you wouldn’t want anywhere near your eye area. Pumping the wand can allow air into the tube which can dry out the product – meaning your lashes can look chalky and the application isn’t as smooth as it should be. So gently pull the wand out just once for application and twist it around the inside of the bottle to get the product.


When to toss: The two year mark.

Why: Pencil eyeliners last longer than the wet versions because you can sharpen them after each use, meaning they’re “fresher” and less likely to house as much bacteria. To ensure it stays as clean as possible, wash your sharpener with water and an antibacterial soap or rubbing alcohol.


When to toss: The three month mark.

Why: Just like mascara, liquid liner faces the same bacteria problems, along with the potential to dry out.


When to toss: Six months to a year, depending on whether it’s in a jar or pump action bottle.

Why: Again, it’s a bacteria sitch. Facial moisturisers also tend to have more active ingredients than their body counterparts, which can degrade more quickly once opened after exposure to air and sunlight.


When to toss: The one year mark.

Why: Providing you’re tightening your caps or it’s a pump action cleanser, it should go the distance without changing consistency or becoming contaminated. If the colour or smell changes though, toss it.


When to toss: Six months to one year.

Why: Products formulated for acne-prone skin often contain many active ingredients which become ineffective after a while, so it’s best to ditch them so your skin actually benefits from what you’re using.


When to toss: One to two years.

Why: The consistency of masks often changes when they’re on their way out. Keep an eye on the smell and how it feels when you apply it to your skin.


When to toss: The six month mark.

Why: If you’re always dipping your fingers or makeup brushes into a liquid foundation, you risk spreading germs, and therefore bacteria


When to toss: The six month mark.

Why: For the same reason you throw liquid foundation out, you should get rid of your concealer. Generally concealers are a cream, liquid or “stick” formulation where bacteria can build up, and considering you usually use concealer to hide blemishes, you don’t want them creating more.


When to toss: The two year mark.

Why: Powder compacts thankfully aren’t a moist environment, so unless they get wet, you can keep them for AGES. You might find you get rid of them before two years anyway because as the powder gets worn down, it can be harder to get a consistent amount on your brush.


When to toss: The two year mark.

Why: Given that lipsticks can contain a fair amount of water and you’re smooshing them all over your lips near your saliva, lots of bacteria can build up inside the tube – you are winding it back down into a dark environment after all. That said, they're a creamier consistency than mascara and gloss, so it's not as wet/bacteria-ridden in there. They can also dry out by this time, which means they don’t look as smooth on your lips. To keep your lipstick cleaner, use dental floss to slice the top off like a cheese cutter.


When to toss: The one year mark.

Why: It’s best to revamp your lip gloss stash around the one year mark because it’s like a water theme park in there. Ew.


When to toss: The two year mark.

Why: It’s pretty obvious when it’s time to bury your nail polish. It becomes gluggy, stringy and it might even separate. Keep them in a cool, dark place to help extend their little lives. Surprisingly, this is one product where you won’t find bacteria.


When to toss: The six month mark.

Why: According to The Cancer Council, sunscreen has to be labelled with an expiry date and it won’t be as effective if you use it beyond this date, or if it’s stored in direct sunlight (so it’s like your sunscreen is getting burnt and so are you).


When to toss: Start to reassess at the two year mark, but they can last longer.

Why: Depending on how you’ve stored your fragrances (hopefully in a cool, dark place) they’ll last for up to a decade. However, if you notice changes in the smell or colour, it’s probably started to oxidise. You can even store your perfumes in the fridge to maximise their shelf life.


When to toss: Two years.

Why: Products in aerosols are made to last – it’s like armour. That said, generally we go through them much quicker than other products. Other hair products tend to go the distance too if they’re alcohol-based.


When to toss: The three year mark.

Why: Shampoos and conditioners can separate after a while, especially considering once they’re opened (and potentially sitting at the bottom of your shower) they can be diluted with water, so your hair isn’t getting the best possible treatment.


When to toss: The one year mark if it’s in a tub, the two year mark if it’s a pump action bottle.

Why: Body lotions tend to stay pretty fresh, but abandon them if they start to smell off, or if your fingers are scooping product out all the time, bacteria will build up in there, and who wants to lather bacteria onto their skin?


When to toss: Up to two years.

Why: If your body scrub is in a giant tub, generally a whole lot of water gets splashed into them, which can dilute the product. Get rid of it once your notice it’s not as effective as usual. If you can squeeze or pump the product out, it will last longer.


When to toss: When they’re no longer applying your product properly and bristles fall out.

Why: Product and bacteria can build up in your brushes, so it’s important to clean them with a gentle shampoo, antibacterial wash, rubbing alcohol or specific makeup brush cleaners regularly (ideally once a fortnight). When they’re no longer playing nicely, say goodbye.


When to toss: Monthly.

Why: Loofahs can accumulate bacteria and mould living in the shower, so it’s important to purchase a new one before you actually see the mould.


When to toss: Fortnightly.

Why: Dead skin, bacteria and hair build up in razors after every shave. It’s best to chuck them regularly to avoid nasty cuts and skin irritation.


If you spot any changes in the packaging, smell or consistency of the product – get rid of it. Wet products expire faster because they support the growth of bacteria, whilst dry products last the longest. Store your products in cool cupboards or drawers and wash your hands before using them. You should also write the month you bought them with a permanent marker somewhere on the bottle, and watch expiration dates on sunscreens and acne products.

Image credit: Chris Jansen/