That old tube of lipstick that's been sitting at the bottom of your purse for ages. The expensive day cream you only use once a month when you remember you have it. The all-natural shampoo you bought on a whim staring at you from a shelf in your shower.
You know what I'm talking about here.
But how do you know when it's time to let products go? The reality is all cosmetics expire at some point, even those with chemical preservatives. But when it comes to natural skin care products, the question is even more important to answer.
Because green products typically use gentle, plant-based natural preservatives and don't contain any heavy chemicals to extend shelf life, it's likely some of the stuff in your medicine cabinet/makeup bag/shower caddy is past its prime.
Make sure to read and check labels frequently. Note the difference between the terms, expiration date, shelf-life and use by. Any product classified as a drug — such as sunscreen — MUST have an expiration date. Some brands use the “Period After Opening” labels that show a number written on the image of an open jar to indicate the number of months the product is expected to last after opening.
Frequently check the label as you use the product so the date doesn’t pass without realizing it. Always follow the guidelines stated, and don’t try to squeeze a few more weeks out of your product. Once a natural product passes that date, the active ingredients are inactive, and sometimes even have gone bad.
So how do you tell if a product is past its prime?
Look for changes in texture, consistency, color and aroma. Discontinue use if you ever see mold or yeast growing. Make it a practice to take a whiff of your new products so you know what they’re supposed to smell like. If it turns funky, it’s time to toss.
Consistency should be the same as when you purchased: a product shouldn’t get watery or turn hard. Similarly, if a product you usually love seems to no longer be doing its job, it probably means the active ingredients have gone bad. For example, lipstick that's been hanging around too long will often get tacky and lose its ability to apply smoothly.
Unless otherwise noted on the bottle, natural products should generally be used within six months to one year of opening, and mascara within three months. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer who can generally identify date of production from the batch code.
Here are a few tips to help your products last as long as possible: