Sack or salvage: How to tell when it’s time to toss a beloved beauty product

beauty product expiration date
Photography by Peter Stigter

beauty product expiration date
Photography by Peter Stigter

Sack or salvage? Find out now »

Knowing when to toss out a beauty product can be tricky. Between expiration dates, PAO labels and your own fickle fondness for a certain shade or finish, there are a lot of factors to consider. Not to mention, the physical act of throwing a product into the garbage before it’s completely empty just feels wrong. (Especially when you consider how much money is being tossed out with it!)

However, when it comes to the health of your skin, lids, lips, lashes and hair, it’s important to clean out your beauty bag on the regular. Just like food and medicine, the symptoms of expired beauty products range from ingredients that no longer work (goodbye, skin-firming promises!) to becoming an attractive place for bacteria to settle. That being said, expiration dates “mean nothing if the product isn’t cared for correctly,” says Pierce Rees, a manager with Shoppers Drug Mart Beauty Boutique. “Bathrooms and cars are a big no-no and never refrigerate a product unless indicated, as it can break down actives.”

While there are a lot of tricks you can employ to extend the shelf life of favourite items (screw lids on tightly to prevent cracked powders, keep brushes away from mildew-prone towels) it’s important to know when something has gotta go. “Always trust your senses, smell, sight and feel,” says Rees. “If it smells off, looks off, or feels off, do not use it.” To help you know what’s what, we’ve come up with a list of products that you should either sack or salvage.


beauty product expiration date
Photography by Peter Stigter

Sack: Mascara. Sack after about 6 months. With all that air being pumped in and out, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria that can infect your eye. “Mascara is the wonder product that everyone wants to extend by adding water, oil, running it under hot water. You should never put a compromised product on your eyes,” says Rees.

Salvage: Nail Polish. Before you toss out your polish because it’s become clumpy, you can salvage it by adding in a few drops of polish thinner (not polish remover) and giving it a few good shakes. The thinner will rescue hardened or separated polishes in no time.


beauty product expiration date
Photography by Peter Stigter

Sack: Sponges. Sack them every month. Even with weekly washes, sponges can cause breakouts the longer they’re kept around, especially if you’re not washing them after every single use.

Salvage: Lipstick. A rancid smell will let you know when it’s time to throw out your lipstick but you can salvage them by storing them in the fridge. This can prolong their shelf life for up to 4 years. Even if the tube is at the bottom of the barrel, dip a lip brush into it to really get the most wear out of your product; as much as 20 per cent more lipstick is below the rim.


beauty product expiration date
Photography by Peter Stigter

Sack: Liquid Liner. Sack after 6 months. Unlike nail polish, liquid eyeliner can’t be salvaged by using any kind of thinner. And as close as you have to get it to your eye…would you want to? “If you ever had an eye infection always dispose of the products before the date of disposal to avoid further contamination,” advises Pierce.

Salvage: Toothbrushes. You’re supposed to dispose of your toothbrush after 3 months but that doesn’t mean you have to stop using them completely. Instead, transform them into cuticle buffers, lip exfoliators or flyaway tamers.


beauty product expiration date
Photography by Peter Stigter

Sack: 3-in-1 Products. Sack after 4-6 months. Since the product can be used on multiple areas of the face (think creams that can be used on lips, cheeks or eyes) it’s transferring oils, germs and bacteria from one place to another. There’s no saving that.

Salvage: Eyeshadow. While cracked and dried out eyeshadow is a heartbreaker, especially if you loved the particular shade, you can still use it as a liquid liner. Soak a thin, angled brush in a setting spray (or even some water) and dip it into the shadow. The spray will break down the powder and turn it into a slick liquid liner. “Eyeshadows are made of pigment and can be crushed up and added to lip-gloss, lipstick and even used as eyeliner. I’ve even used crushed matte eyeshadow to cover roots in photo shoots,” says Pierce.


beauty product expiration date
Photography by Peter Stigter

Sack: Creams, Cleansers or Moisturizers. Sack after 6 months. Additionally, “anything with SPF should not be used after the expiry date,” says Pierce. These types of products contain fatty acids which can turn rancid after expiry. Gross.

Salvage: Brushes. Much like sponges, makeup brushes should be washed regularly but since they’re more expensive, they shouldn’t be thrown out on a whim. If you think they’ve had better days, salvage the thinner, tapered brushes to use the next time you try some DIY nail art. The bristles are perfect for achieving the smallest of details.