The Ultimate Skincare Cleanout: Never Use Expired Products Again
Jan 04, 2018
You’ve got one face, so why risk burning, stinging, or irritation with bad, expired products? Follow these easy skincare cleanout steps and see how purging your stash can not only keep your routine fresh but bring you joy every time you do it.
I've written about applying the Marie Kondo method to cleaning out your makeup stash, and today I'm here to talk about applying the same method to your skincare hoard for the ultimate skincare cleanout.
The 12-month rule
In my previous story, I started by breaking down each product and its general expiration date so you'd know when to toss them. What makes de-stashing your skincare a lot easier is this: You've got 12 months upon opening a product to use it or lose it. No ifs, ands, or buts. Twelve months. As with expired food, expired skincare is no longer safe for "consumption," as it were. Bacteria can grow, it's no longer stable, and it has gone bad.
Some people even toss after six months, but I'm not that big of a stickler. But that being said, 12 months is your safety zone, so that's the timeline you've got to work with. We do not play around with expired product on our precious faces!
The "duh" rule
Another thing — which is probably a great big “duh” — if a product burns, irritates, or causes any kind of unwanted reaction, that's an immediate discontinue. We'll get into whether you should straight-up toss it or not later, but for now pull any product that causes your skin stress and set it aside.
Sheet masks are a whole other thing because obviously once you open it you use it. Sheet masks should have an expiration date stamped onto them. Some have date of manufacture as well as expiration dates. Some have dates of manufacture and let you know how long they're good for. I keep my masks filed in a box by date of expiration, so I can rotate through them with that in mind. If I see some are coming up on expiration, it's time to use those babies up and go on a masking binge, which is never a bad thing.
Next, let's have a visit with our routines. Let's sit down and really talk.
Look at your lineup. Go to each product and ask yourself out loud "does this product work?" Answer yourself out loud and quickly. Go with the first answer that pops out of your mouth. Do not go with whatever you try to rationalize. You will be amazed at what you'll come up with to try to justify a purchase. An example might be “No, but I mean it looks really nice and I like the bottle.” The bottle is pretty, yes, but what's the first thing you said? No. You said no. So that's a no my friend; it's not working as it should. If you really love that bottle, would you go through the hassle of decanting a product that does work and putting it into that one? Probably not. But either way, whatever is in that bottle is not working for you so it needs to go.
Now that we've covered the rational, let's get into the emotional side of things.
If you've opened a product, it's worked, but you were just so bored or annoyed by it that you find yourself reaching for something else, let's take that guy out of rotation. My skincare is a source of joy for me, and that's what makes sticking to it so easy. If something lights up the pleasure centers in your brain, you're not going to want to skip it. The goal of our skincare routines is great skin, but the ultimate, next-level, nirvana enlightenment metamorphosis is to have a routine that gives you great skin that you absolutely love using.
I had an experience with a toner that came in exquisite packaging with flower petals floating in the bottle. The product worked great, but oh my god I could not abide by the smell. I used that thing for way longer than I should have not just because I liked the bottle but because it technically did work. I'd use it, the gross smell lingering in my nostrils, and I'd go to bed slightly grumpy. Not worth it. If you've got a situation like that, don't guilt yourself into keeping it around if you have the money to replace it. Being let into your skincare routine should be as hard as getting into an exclusive club or Ivy League school. Interview them, evaluate them under harsh criteria. If you're spending 10 to 30 minutes on this thing, spend it with product you really want to be around.
Now track it
In the makeup stash story, I wrote about keeping a ledger for your makeup. It would be an excellent idea to do so for your skincare as well. This way you can keep track of when a product was purchased, when it was opened, and also to have a quick place to jot down how it worked for you. Have you ever been guilty of accidentally buying two of something, not realizing you had a backup in your stash already? A ledger can prevent that from happening. If you're anything like me and have tried so many products over the years that you've forgotten some of the ones you have tried, this is also something you can go back and reference before you purchase anything. Keep it by category, cleansers, toners, essence, emulsion, cream etc.
I find it especially handy for sheet masks. It's very easy to forget how we felt about a sheet mask since they're such a fleeting experience. If you're not keeping track of how it did for you, it's easy to re-purchase a dud on a whim. Reference your ledger the next time you shop. You can even have a separate page for ones you'd really like to re-purchase.
In the previous story I also mentioned putting a sticker on your products denoting when you opened them and when they expire. This is also something you should absolutely do with your skincare, as the stakes are even higher here when it comes to expired product.
What to do with unwanted products
Now, let's circle back to those unwanted products. What to do with them? It seems like a waste to just toss them if they're perfectly good.
Consider decanting and selling or giving samples to interested parties. Fellow skincare addicts are always happy to try decants before taking the plunge, especially if it's an expensive product.
Another option is giving it to friends or setting up a swap with another product you might want to try. There are always several swap threads going online — float your product out there and see if you get any nibbles.
What I like to do with products that don't work for me is give them to a local shelter. I specifically donate to a women and children's shelter in my city. A lot of the women especially love these donations, as skincare is seen as a luxury instead of a part of one's overall health, so it's something that other donors don't usually think about. Before I had a small baby at home, I used to volunteer my time there as well, giving the women facials and teaching them how to use the products. It was wonderful and we always had such a great time. If you have a lot of fellow skincare addicts in your city, consider getting together and pooling your unwanted (but not expired!) products and doing a big donation to the women's shelter of your choice.
The final step to skincare joy
Now that you've got your lineup all lined up and purged your stash of all the clutter, take the time to actually clean your bottles and jars, which is not something we often think about. Even the most used containers tend to get dusty. Wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove any dust. Wipe up any dribbles of product along the sides of the bottles. Clean the surfaces under your stash, which tends to get gross from spills and mishaps. Once you're done arrange everything to maximize its accessibility and put your products in order of use, it'll streamline your process. And hopefully, this entire process has streamlined your routine.
Good luck, and may happy, healthy skin be your reward!
Have you ever done a skincare cleanout? What do you do to purge your skincare stash? Let us know your tips below!
Coco Park is an author, beauty journalist, blogger, podcast host, and all around oddball living in Montreal Quebec with her family. Originally from the southern USA, she worked for several years in the makeup industry as a professional makeup artist and holds a certificate in esthetics. She is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Want to know more? Check her out on the Beauty Beyond Basics podcast, on her blog TheBeautyWolf.com, on Instagram @thebeautywolf, and in her book "Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup."