As we bid farewell to sunshine-inspired drinks on rooftops, lazy afternoons spent lounging on the shore and our beloved summer dresses to welcome the new season, it’s a good time to organize more than just your closet. Just like certain styles and fabrics have a limited time of relevance, your beauty products and tools aren’t meant to last forever either. In fact, as we approach Fall, trade that cold brew for a pumpkin spice latte and take inventory of what you have in your makeup drawer and bathroom shelf.
And not only to make space for those darker lip shades and palettes, but for your health and wellbeing, too.
“After the heat and exposure of summer is a perfect time to clean out beauty products. Heat and humidity promote the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold in products. Once products are opened, exposure to air causes the products to oxidize and degrade,” R. Sonia Batra, medical director at Batra Dermatology and Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the USC Keck School of Medicine says. Cleaning out products that have been open and exposed to heat or direct sunlight can decrease the risk of infection and ensure that you are using products that are more effective.”
So what’s safe to keep until next summer and what should you go ahead and throw out? Here, experts weigh in on fall cleaning best practices:
If you bought that mega jug of SPF 30 to protect your body and face during your beach trips and afternoon outdoor brunches and there’s still some left, don’t hold onto it. Though it might be tempting—sunscreen doesn’t come cheap, for sure!—to pack it up with your strappy sandals, Batra says sunscreen loses its effectiveness once it’s opened. “While these usually have an expiration date, once opened, their water begins to evaporate. This can make the formula less stable and can cause uneven distribution of the active ingredients,” she explains. “In addition, by the end of summer, the tubes are often dirty and have been exposed to bacteria and sand.”
Good news if you’re the type of gal who loves to rock a smoky, sultry eye all year round: those eyeliners and pencils are safe to keep for another season. Why? Batra explains that eye or lip pencils can be protected against dangerous germs because they can be sharpened and wiped off. To make sure your go-to brand is good for your look and for your eye health, make sure to keep it fresh and do a quick wipe off the top before applying to your precious baby blues (or browns or greens).
If you prefer products without all of those chemicals (we don’t blame you), you probably expect to shell out more cash to protect your body from potentially harmful ingredients. But here’s the catch: natural skin care and makeup products have a much shorter shelf life than their lab-based counterparts. This means any natural, summer-specific item you bought this year will probably go bad before next summer begins. As Batra explains, the very thing that makes them good for you are the same things that could harm you. “Some plant-derived ingredients may be more susceptible to bacterial growth, and they lack synthetic preservatives that increase shelf life,” she explains.
If you keep a powder in your bag to freshen up before a big meeting, a new date or just because you’re feeling shiny, you can keep luggin’ it around. (Though if your tan fades, you might need a new shade!) Because eyeshadows and face makeup are based on powder and not liquid, Batra says they run a smaller risk of contamination, making them safe to use for several months or until they run out.
TOSS: Lightweight Moisturizer
Your lightweight moisturizer may have worked well for you during summer, but that’s not going to cut it come fall and winter. Our advice? Adjust your moisturizer as you would your winter wardrobe, which means reaching for products with thicker or heavier formulas like creams and oils rather than lotions, fluids and gels. Thicker products are better not just at replenishing moisture but also at locking it in. Even those with oily or acne-prone skin can benefit from thicker creams in the winter.
If you rock a black-brown during the summer, might we suggest swapping it out for a more dramatic black for the fall season? Not only because it’ll go with those chunky sweaters and deep jewel tones, but for the sake of your eyes, too. Batra explains that most mascaras should be changed after three months because “they are particularly susceptible to bacterial contamination and the consistency of the product decreases as it dries out.”
One last note:
The big key to remember when going through anything you own? Being mindful of how long you’ve had it. Especially since companies aren’t required to put expiration dates on their products, it’s up to you to protect your skin and body. “Cosmetics are not required to have an expiration date. Many products now have a jar symbol with a number that represents the number of months until it should be discarded. However, if any product starts to smell, separate, or the consistency changes, it should be tossed,” Batra advises.