Refresh your bathroom vanity by purging these beauty products.

By Claudia Fisher
Updated September 12, 2019
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When you're feeling the itch to get organized, don't overlook one area that's definitely in need of some clearing out: your bathroom cabinets full of beauty products you've been stockpiling since the 90s. Aside from some of the obvious indications it's time to throw a beauty product out (please don't tell me you keep lotions that used to be beige but are now yellow and smell bad), it can be a little hard to tell what needs to go and what we can hold on to.

I'm pretty protective over my products, reluctant to through even the tiniest drop of remaining BB cream away, but if any of the products sitting in your makeup bags or lining your bathroom shelves fall into one of these four categories, it's time to chuck it ASAP. You'll be clearing up space in your cluttered bathroom and probably even clearing up your skin.

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If you've never known to look for an expiration date on your cosmetics, you're not alone. A lot of labels on products use symbols we're not used to seeing on other items we expect to expire, like food. To make it a tad more unexpected, some products don't expire and aren't labeled at all.

But if you see a small picture that looks like an open jar, there will be a number there that tells you how long the formula is good for once you open it (assuming you've stored it correctly). Once you open a product, the air starts to oxidize, deteriorating its effectiveness over time.

I guess it's time to say "good bye" to all those eyeshadows my neighbor gave me in high school...

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If a beauty product is irritating your skin or causing any uncomfortable reaction, you shouldn't keep using it in the hopes that your face just needs time to get used to a new lotion or formula. Some products might give you a slight tingling, but burning is not something your skin will–or should–get used to.

Before using a product for the first time, dermatologists recommend patch testing a little bit on a part of your body that's more hidden, like behind your knees or on your stomach, in case a reaction occurs. If something ends up giving you a negative reaction, you should check the ingredients for some common offenders like fragrance and propylene glycol to see if you can identify what allergen you need to avoid with future beauty buys.

As always, consult a dermatologist if your skin is experiences problematic symptoms or side effects.

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You may already know that things like supplements need to be stored in the refrigerator to ensure a certain temperature, but many of your other beauty essentials require particular storing conditions as well. To make your retinol and Vitamin C products last longer, you should be keeping those in the fridge, while products including chemical exfoliants and oils should never be placed in direct sunlight because that will heat them up and break down the ingredients, causing them to lose effectiveness faster.

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As hard as it is to throw out a mascara that's only been used a handful of times, if you've tried out a beauty product and don't like it, your options are: try to return it or, unfortunately, throw it away. You shouldn't give used beauty products to friends or family members because you could be unknowingly transferring an infection over to them–especially with makeup like lipstick, mascara, and eyeliner pencils.

For unopened beauty products you've decided you don't want for whatever reason, there are charities that distribute unused cosmetics to women in need, like Cosmetics for a Cause, and partner with other organizations to help the recipients prepare for job interviews and improve their quality of life.