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Spring Cleaning

Tidy up your vanity for the New Year.
Spring Cleaning Tidy up your vanity for the New Year.
Q: “When should I replace my makeup and skincare products? I feel guilty about throwing out those that aren't used up yet.”

A: I'm guessing a small amount of premature-replacement remorse is easier to live with than, say, a week's worth of eye infections and a really bad rash. The truth is, makeup products aren't meant to last forever—an average of 2 years at the most—and this deadline sometimes does fall short of how often we use them up.

The brutal truth: you do have to stick to their expiration dates, regardless of how far into the products you've used, to maximize their efficacy and, more notably, keep infections and irritations at bay.

Products generally come with a tiny little icon below the ingredients listing that looks like a jar of cream with a small number next to it, e.g. 12, 24, etc. This signifies the shelf life of a product in months after opening. For beauty booty without such an indicator, Bobbi Brown's Makeup Manual, (Springboard Press), P1500 at Rustan's, offers a succinct cheat-sheet:

Moisturizer 2 years (24 months)
Eye cream 6 months
Sunscreen 2 years
Blush (cream and powder) 2 years
Foundation (cream and liquid) 2 years
Concealer 2 years
Powder 2 years
Eye shadow 2 years
Lipstick, lip and eye pencils 1.5 years (18 months)
Mascara 6 months

When in doubt, go old school with the sniff test: if it smells pungent, sour or funky in however way, toss it. Eye products usually are the first to go: their high-potency ingredients (eye creams) and exposure to air, dryness, and moisture (mascara) make them more unstable and susceptible to bacteria. When lipstick starts to smell and feel waxy (and sometimes form sweat beads), it's time to get a new tube. You can lengthen the life of pencils by sharpening them every three uses, and nix eye makeup altogether when nursing an infection. A final tip: Scribble the date you opened the product on it with Magic Marker as a gentle reminder.

Keeping your beauty loot current and fresh makes them safer to use. It also ensures the textures and shades you have in your arsenal are up-to-date. A careful inventory of the products you have in rotation is crucial to keeping your vanity neat, well-edited and always on-trend.

Click on to see examples of products and their shelf lives.

—Eunice Lucero, Beauty Editor
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