Product hoarding is a thing, people. Just because it looks great on your shelfie doesn’t mean you should keep it around forever. However, products obviously aren’t necessarily food, meaning sometimes there’s no exact sell-by or expiration date. So… when should you toss your maybe old products? Because nothing (at least not shampoo) lasts forever, we tapped Dr. Lamees Hamdan, Founder and CEO of Shiffa for the breakdown on when it’s time to toss.
Hit the Bin
The sweet spot for tossing your haircare products is about a year and a half after opening them. “Haircare products are usually formulated with good preservatives to keep them functional for up to 2 years, but if you do notice any change of smell and/or texture it might be better to throw them away,” says Dr. Hamdan.
Skincare, unfortunately, is on a faster timeline depending on how natural the ingredients are.“If you are using more natural and organic products I recommend 6 months from opening – they usually don’t use as much or any preservatives,” comments Dr. Hamdan, who notes that the products in her line should only be used around that time-mark if they have been open.
However, skincare that relies on more synthetic ingredients can be kept around longer – the more ingredients you can’t pronounce, the longer you can leave it on your shelf (though that’s not necessarily a good thing). “Other skincare products might be ok even one year after opening,” adds Dr. Hamdan.
Product Shelf Life
There’s no such thing as a universal average date for tossing products. Your product’s shelf life depends more on what it’s made from than anything else and no exact number can be applied across the board. “More natural products have shorter shelf lives and usually come with an expiration date, while more ‘chemical’ products can really last years on a shelf,” she explains. Another key way to tell how long a product should stay in your life is by taking in how it’s packaged. “Darker, airless or opaque bottles usually do a better job at conserving the product by protecting it from light and heat,” she says, calling out these aging culprits.
The Risk of Using an Expired Product
While using a too-old product seems relatively innocuous, it’s definitely not ideal. The biggest risk of returning to your same product way past the date you probably should is an increased likelihood of bacterial growth. “You do not want potentially harmful bacteria on your skin or hair,” emphasizes Dr. Hamdan.
Aside from bacteria there’s a question of how well the product works, or efficacy. “Your products, when they are too old, simply do not preform – you may THINK you are conserving money by using them, but in reality, if they are not helping you — you haven’t gained much,” she explains.
If your unsure of when you last opened a product and there’s no expiration date, get in the habit of marking your own, so there’s no excuse for not being on top of it. “What I do,” explains Dr. Hamdan, “is mark the day I opened the product with a waterproof pen.” And if it seems like something has tainted your product or it just looks too old, it’s probably time for the trash. “Look and see if there is a change in texture and smell it, to make sure it doesn’t smell ‘off,’” she suggests before hitting the bin. Are your hair products actually clogging your pores?