Here’s an experiment you can try. Wash out your mouth with some water. Then take a clove of garlic, slice it in half, and rub the garlic oil between two of your toes. Within a few minutes (15 at the most), you will taste garlic in your mouth.
The reason for this is that anything you put on your skin is absorbed directly into your bloodstream. You only need to do this test once to become much more aware and vigilant about what you put on your body or your hair. My personal approach is that I do not put anything on my skin that contains ingredients I would not put in my mouth and eat.
There’s also the issue of use-by dates to consider.
Most people don’t think of all their bottles, jars, pots, tubes, sprays and other assorted containers of skincare, haircare, grooming and beauty products as having a use-by date. But just about all of them do, even if the packaging doesn’t show it.
Some products are so stuffed full of preservatives that they could survive a nuclear holocaust and still be in good shape (don’t try this – I’m joking!). If you care about your health enough to buy natural products, they will have shorter lifespans. In both cases, how you store items, how long you store them, and how long you use them after you first open them are important factors to consider.
How to store products
It’s best to store items in a cool, dry place, away from heat and humidity. So unless your bathroom is well ventilated, it’s usually not the best place to keep things you won’t be using for a while. Exposure to sunlight or air can also accelerate deterioration, so think twice about what you leave on your window sill and keep lids on when not in use.
How long to store products
We’re all used to looking for sell-by or use-by dates on the food we buy but not so much when it comes to things that we put on our body or hair. European manufacturers are required to show expiry dates on cosmetics that have a shelf life of less than 30 months but, as far as I know, there is no requirement for this in the US, although some manufacturers do choose to do it.
How long you use products after first opening them
Look at the ingredient list. If water is listed first, it will usually have a shorter lifespan after opening. The more water a product contains, the greater the opportunity for bacteria to multiply. Liquids, creams and gels dispensed by a pump last longer than if they are packaged in jars because there is less likelihood of contamination from your hands.
Check to see if it has a Period After Opening (POA) symbol, which shows how long it can safely be used after opening (for example, 6M means you can use it for six months).
If you notice any discolouration, change in smell, or change in texture, that’s a good indication that the product has passed its prime.
There’s a lot of variation between all the different brands, but here’s a very general guide to how long some items can be expected to last:
Mascara & liquid eyeliners: 3 months (eyes are very susceptible to infections)
Moisturizers, face creams & eye creams: 6 months to 1 year
Anti-aging and anti-acne products: Up to 1 year
Sunscreen: 1 year
Nail polish: 1-2 years
Shampoo, conditioner & other hair styling products: 1-2 years opened, or 3 years unopened
Shaving cream, toothpaste, perfume & cologne: 2 years
Lipstick & lip gloss: 2-3 years
Deodorant, mouthwash, soap, powder-based make-up: 3 years
Eye & lip pencils: 3-5 years
So now all that remains is to walk into your bathroom, examine each item, and toss out anything that says it contains any of the long list of toxic chemicals that are known carcinogens or hazardous to health, or that has passed its use-by or POA date. Unless you’ve already done your homework on this, you’re likely to find you will want to clutter clear most of your bathroom products in one go!
Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2016