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Cleaning Up Your Cosmetics Collection

by Sara Cifani

Spring is the time to reorganize and refresh your cosmetics collection. It is important to sift through your products every few months to avoid harmful effects from use after the expiration date. “Beauty products that are over the hill or contaminated with bacteria may cause skin irritations, dermatitis, breakouts and rashes,” says Rona Berg, EIC of Organic Spa Magazine and best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1,000 Quick Fixes.

TIP Mascara is easily contaminated by bacteria, and becomes clumpy and dry with age. To avoid eye infections, toss your mascara after four to six months, max.

It is also important to note that natural or organic products don't last as long as traditional products. And, “Anything with water--as opposed to a face or body oil--is more vulnerable to bacterial contamination, especially if you don't use the little spatula that comes with your cream and dip your fingers into it instead,” says Berg.

Every product is unique in its ingredients and shelf-life, but, according to Berg, this GENERAL RULE OF THUMB can help you know when to part with those old powdery pals:


  • Nail polish
  • Foundation
  • Moisturizer
  • Cream makeup


  • Powder and powdered blush
  • Eye shadow
  • Bronzer
  • Mineral makeup


To maintain the life and health of your tools, be sure to take care of them:

Wash your brushes every few weeks. Dirty brushes can lead to breakouts.

Rinse with a gentle liquid soap (TRY: Dr. Bronner's)

Air-dry on a paper towel, or stand them on the handle end in an open jar.

Wipe your brushes clean with tissues between cleanings.

Cut bristles back if they stray off in different directions after prolonged use.


New or unused makeup can be donated to a local woman’s shelter or career center. Containers from expired or unwanted cosmetics may be recycled with other plastic, metal and glass after emptying and cleaning them. Some makeup companies offer refills or mail-in programs for cosmetic recycling. Or, reuse those pretty containers in a crafty, clever way that works for you!

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