spring cleaning beauty products expiration dates

A Guide to Understanding Beauty Product Expiration Dates + What to Swap Out for Spring

Out with the old and in with the new. It’s finally time to trade up and toss out some of your vanity’s most guarded treasures. Start regarding your makeup bag and bathroom counter as face food that inevitably spoils, meaning all your products should be armed with an expiration date. So in the spirit of spring cleaning, we’re zeroing in on our complexion cures and makeup must-haves that have passed their prime and need to be replaced or sent out to pasture, with the help of Dr. Elena Brei, a research scientist and NuVsio Skin Care Founder.

Powdered makeup products

Generally speaking, the average shelf life of your cosmetics is much more forgiving than your skincare products. Those powder-based products, such as shadows and blushes, can stay stocked in your makeup bag for quite some time. Dr. Brei points out that “since powders have no water added, they have a long shelf life measured in years. Dispose of them as they stop performing due to lumping and agglomeration.”

Foundations and concealers

On the other hand, your favourite liquid foundation and concealer have an expiration date of approximately one year. If they’ve separated into layers, or the colour has mysteriously lightened, you’re way overdue for a new tube.

Lipsticks and lip glosses
That lip gloss you’ve been using since high school needed to be tossed a year after purchase (sorry!), while your go-to lipstick can stay put in your makeup kit for up to two years. We know the fear of a coveted shade becoming discontinued is real, but it’s just a risk you’ll have to take for the sake of sanity.

Mascara and liquid liners

In the case of products that “come in contact with your mucous membranes (eyes especially), they have a short shelf life. Be very cautious with your eye makeup, especially mascara. I hesitate holding onto any liquid makeup product for longer than three months and gravitate toward products that have sanitary containers (i.e. squeezable tubes and pumps vs. jars),” adds Dr. Brei. But if you’re looking to hoard a little bit longer, refrain from pumping the mascara wand, as that motion allows air to get trapped inside, ultimately causing an unfortunate buildup of bacteria.

Telltale signs of your makeup products reaching the point of expiration can be an unfamiliar smell, look or feel. Keep in mind that you should be paying extra attention to your makeup brushes, as these tools are breeding grounds for acne-causing bacteria. Ensure that you’re cleaning them on a routine basis and storing them in a clean, dry place. And no need to trade them in every few years, because if you’re taking care of them correctly they can last you a lifetime. So while we know that you’re going to have a hard time ditching some of your beloved beauty buys, it’s only for the best.

A photo posted by Sephora (@sephora) on

The simplest step is to get rid of what you’re not using. “Because we typically use makeup every day, our bags and vanities can become cluttered, unsanitary and we lose track of products’ shelf life. Keep your product portfolio simple so you can track all your products easily and focus on sanitary packaging. The real challenge to the average consumer is the current level of change in the cosmetics and skincare industry. Many new chemistries and blends are [being developed], and each can have its own individual challenges with shelf life. As such, monitor your products for changes,” adds Dr. Brei. The first rule of spring cleaning when it comes to beauty products? You better not have a moisturizer kicking around from your college days flying under the radar.

Keep only what you would consider part of your permanent rotation and find good, loving homes for the rest. Not only will this free up some valuable vanity real estate, but you’ll feel better about streamlining your top shelf. Next, you’ll want to navigate your way through those skincare expiration dates.

Cleansers and moisturizers

Generally speaking, six months is a good rule of thumb for your skincare products. These expiration dates are crucial to adhere to because the active ingredients in these facial fixers can cause a negative reaction once past their prime.

“If water is an ingredient listed in your skincare product, it will tend to have the shortest shelf life after opening. Most skincare products are oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsion liquids and should be examined monthly for any changes such as lumping, separation, or changes in scent after the third month. All of these can be indications of a pH shift, which is indicative of either bacterial contamination or of instability due to a hydrolysis reaction. Hydrolysis occurs when the water in the product acts as a catalyst to break down the product itself, and water is a powerful catalyst when combined with bacterial growth. Products with no water added (oil-based) have the longest shelf life (about one or two years) because bacteria cannot easily grow in this type of system,” adds Dr. Brei.

And now that winter has come and gone, we’re substituting our super hydrators and facial exfoliators for gels, foams and lighter formulas that can hold up to the heat and still keep our complexions blemish-free. Gone are the days of extra doses of hydration followed by mattifying formulas; your complexion is craving a cure in the form of a glow. If you can’t bear catapulting them to the can, store them in the fridge for safe keeping until winter rolls around again. Adapt to the atmosphere, and invest in seasonally apropos beauty buys. Here’s to heralding in a slew of spring-worthy bathroom additions.

Keep reading for a breakdown of which beauty products you should toss this spring.

spring cleaning beauty products

1. Trade in your heavy cleanser for a gel formula

Your oil and sweat are about to put in some earnest hours now that we’re in the full swing of the sun, so you’ll want to combat those elements effectively. Replace your creams and milks with lighter and more soothing formulas such as gels that will leave a nourishing film on your skin upon contact. Not only do these cleansers work wonders for battling a breakout, but the formulation is more gentle than the traditional soap cleanser. So if you’re looking to wash the day away and remove any signs of sweat, look no further than this oil-absorbing hero product.

Try: Sephora Collection Total Purify & Cleanse Gel ($15, sephora.com)

2. Swap out your heavy day cream for a lighter formula

A heavy cream will not do much for your skin during the spring and summer months. And while your complexion craves the added dose of hydration when the temperature drops below freezing, heavy formulas create a greasy residue under pressure. Enter a gel moisturizer that will help control the production of your sebum, all the while providing a soothing relief amidst the overbearing heat. Look for formulas that can help strengthen the skin’s barrier against the sun, like anything packed with vitamin C. And just remember, if you’re going to be outside for a great deal of time, put down the retinol and swap it out for a hyaluronic acid instead.

Try: Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel ($32, clinique.ca)

spring cleaning beauty products

3. Replace your astringent toner for a healing formula

To keep your skin balanced, introduce a hydrating and healing toner into your routine. When the sun comes out to play, your winter astringent toner that helped strip those dry and dead skin cells needs to be swapped for a soothing formula. An effective way to help restore your skin’s pH levels is to find a face tonic that contains ingredients like rose hydrosols, chamomile or Vitamin B5 for added hydration. Once you’ve thoroughly cleansed for face, apply this skin-conditioning cure to your skin for a much more refined and radiant finish.

Try: Bobbi Brown Hydrating Face Tonic ($35, sephora.com)

4. Forgo facial exfoliators and opt for multi-tasking masks

We’re not saying to ditch your cleansing brushes and exfoliators all together, because these routine cleans are all but necessary, but we are saying to ease up. “For this I recommend staying away from scrubs all together and opt for micro-dermabrasion mineral masks coupled with an exfoliating brush. Micro-exfoliation is not abrasive and virtually undetectable during the process. As a result you will feel polished skin without inflammation,” adds Dr. Brei. So if you’re looking to slough off the surface, but not entirely remove your spray tan, opt for a gentle mask instead.

Try: NuVsio Purifying Mineral Mask ($71, nuvsio.com)

spring cleaning beauty products

5. Trade in your standard lip balm for an SPF version

“Our lips always get overlooked when it comes to SPF,” notes Dr. Brei. So ensure you’re using formulas with that added component. Combating UVA and UVB rays is just as important for your lips as it is for your face, so slathering on a treatment that can help fight off environmental stressors will ensure your lips are plump and prepped for your lipstick application. Additionally, seek out a product that infuses restorative oils and natural moisturizers for more hydrated lips, as the sun can cause damaging dryness and even fine lines and wrinkles.

Try: Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 in Nude Sugar Tint ($26, sephora.com)

6. Toss out your traditional moisturizer for an SPF formula

Skin loves soaking up facial oils, no matter the season or complexion. But when it comes to combating the sun’s harmful elements, it’s always recommended to invest in a formula with added SPF. “Anything with SPF is the best protection against UV rays and premature aging,” notes Dr. Brei. So scooping up these hydrating heroes that can correct the appearance of an uneven complexion, while protecting the dermis against Mother Nature’s forces will ensure your skin is safe. These cultivated cupboard additions can either replace your gel moisturizer, or can be layered for multiple beautifying benefits.

Try: Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 Protect & Perfect ($45, sephora.com)

spring cleaning beauty products

7. Take a break from heavy serums and buy a brightening formula

Since you dedicated all winter to hydrating your complexion during the blistering winter season, we’re now going to reward you with a radiant revelation. Enter brightening serums that can help reverse environmental assaults that brutalized your complexion for months on end. And in order to kickstart your spring complexion, give it the extra helping hand it needs to regenerate and revitalize your skin cells that have been working overtime. Many of these formulas help to hydrate your complexion and even out your skin tone, ultimately diminishing scars and signs of sun damage from sloppy skincare yesteryears. So if you’re looking for that fresh start, look no further than this addition.

Try: Givenchy Hydra Sparkling Sap Serum ($80, sephora.com)

8. Trade in your foundation for an SPF gel

If you’re looking to cut down your steps and clear some space up on your vanity, a multi-tasking tinted moisturizer is just the thing you need. These beauty buys can replace your foundation and even your concealer, and are also packed with SPF. Additionally, a gel formula will ensure a lighter film on your face, all the while giving your complexion its daily dose of hydration. Furthermore, these versatile formulas often boast a medium coverage forcombating visible spots and scars.

Try: BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream ($36, sephora.com)

More Beauty & Grooming