The medicine cabinet isn’t a catch-all for everything that doesn’t fit somewhere else—turns out, keeping the wrong things inside it can actually mess with your skincare routine.

By Amanda Lauren
August 27, 2019
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Most people’s bathroom medicine cabinets are a treasure trove of everything from Band-aids to beauty products and, yes, medicine—thank goodness a good medicine cabinet organizer can help keep everything in its place. But just because the medicine cabinet is a convenient place to keep odds and ends organized doesn’t mean it’s the ideal environment for toiletry and pharmaceutical storage. Even if you have a fan or window in your bathroom, the heat and humidity generated from the shower can shorten the shelf life of many products.

If you aren’t sure where to store something, just read the label. If it mentions something about a cool, dry place, it doesn’t belong in the bathroom. Realistically speaking, though, we all want to store toiletries, skincare products, and more where we use them. If you choose to ignore these guidelines, at least try to keep bathroom items and basic medicine cabinet supplies where they’ll stay the most sanitary. These medicine cabinet storage rules will make keeping your beauty and toiletry products in tip-top shape easy, should you choose to follow them.

Things you should always store in your medicine cabinet

Your toothbrush

While it’s tempting to keep your toothbrush on the sink, inside the medicine cabinet is a far better place for it to stay germ-free. A 2005 study revealed that particles from flushing the toilet can reach up to 2.7 feet away, and while we all know you flush with the lid down, guests (and potentially kids) may forget. Better safe than sorry: Keep your toothbrush away from those particles.

To keep your toothbrush truly germ-free, it needs to dry in between uses. So, after brushing, rinse, shake it off, and store the toothbrush upright in your medicine cabinet with the door slightly ajar. Another option: Use a toothbrush sanitizer, such as the Pursonic UV Portable Toothbrush Sanitizer ($11; target.com).

A first aid kit and additional supplies

You never know when you’re going to injure yourself with a paper cut or a burn while cooking dinner. The medicine cabinet is an ideal spot for a first aid kit, giving you easy access to all of your triage supplies in one place. A good kit should contain a variety of items, including bandages, antibiotic cream, instant heating and cooling packs, hydrocortisone, anti-itch cream, gauze, hydrogen peroxide, etc. (Use this medicine cabinet checklist as a guide to stocking your kit.) Don’t forget to replenish supplies as you use them.

A digital thermometer

Digital thermometers are made to withstand heat, so they're perfectly safe to store in a hot bathroom. When taking temperatures, though, consider moving to a cooler room.

Sunscreen

The more sunscreen, the better—and if storing it in your medicine cabinet reminds you to apply sun protection every day, so be it. Just make sure the cap, whether it’s a lotion or spray, is closed tightly. Using spoiled sunscreen defeats the purpose.

Tweezers, nails clippers, and other tools

Tools such as tweezers, nail clippers, and scissors tend to get lost under the sink or in vanity drawers. Keeping them in the medicine cabinet makes them much easier to find, especially when you’re in a pinch and need to remove a splinter or hangnail.

Samples and travel packs

No matter what the product is, an individual packet that hasn’t been used should be able to withstand the heat and humidity of your bathroom. Having travel sizes and free samples in one place helps you find what you need when packing for a trip or if you’re suddenly out of a full-size product.

Anything you haven’t opened yet

If a tube, jar, or bottle is sealed, it’s safe to store in your medicine cabinet.

Things you should never store in your medicine cabinet

Medicine

It might be a tough pill to swallow, but a medicine cabinet is actually the one of the worst places to store medication. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, heat and moisture can cause pills and capsules to become less potent. Medicine that has prematurely expired can be dangerous and harmful. Taking expired medication feels less serious when it comes to over the counter drugs, but don’t be fooled: When something even as simple as aspirin breaks down, it becomes vinegar and salicylic acid, which are very harsh on the stomach.

Razors

The medicine cabinet seems like a perfect place to store extra razors, but moisture and humidity can cause the blades to rust before you use them. Storing cartridges in an airtight plastic bag can help prevent rusting, but if you’re concerned, keep them somewhere else.

Perfume

A good fragrance should last quite a while—and probably doesn't come cheap. But light, heat, and moisture can fade your favorite scent fast. It’s best to leave your bottles in a cool, dry place such as the inside of a drawer, or use them to decorate a shelf in your closet. Just keep perfumes out of the bathroom by any means necessary.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, sometimes labeled as ascorbic acid, is a very popular ingredient in skincare products right now. Unfortunately, heat sends its potency packing, so store those serums and moisturizers someplace else.

Benzoyl peroxide

From spot treatments to cleansers, benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient in products formulated to treat acne. Even without the heat and moisture of a medicine cabinet, these products are only potent for approximately three months. If you think your acne treatment regime is no longer working and the products are relatively new, you’re probably storing your products in the wrong place.

Retinol

Whether you have a prescription for tretinoin or you use an over the counter skincare product with retinol, your medicine cabinet is pretty much the worst place top keep it. Heat, air, and light alter the chemical structure of retinol, making it ineffective.

Anything preservative-free

Products labeled natural, organic, or chemical-free tend to be made without preservatives. Preservatives are necessary for withstanding heat and moisture, so these items may be more susceptible to bathroom environments.

Be sure to check the label on your eye drops as well. Many brands are preservative-free, so it’s especially important to be mindful of where you store the drops if you want to avoid an eye infection.

Packaging that no longer closes

No matter how great your skincare products are, sometimes accidents happen, and caps crack or stop screwing on entirely partway through a bottle or tub. If you want to salvage the rest of the product, don’t store it in your medicine cabinet. Heat and moisture can easily seep into products that aren’t 100 percent sealed, causing them to evaporate and expire. If you must keep a product that won’t close properly in the medicine cabinet, store it in an airtight plastic bag.

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