Spring Cleaning Your Skincare

When spring arrives, the world brims with possibilities. It’s a time of renewal and reinvention. It seems intuitive that this rebirth in nature brings out our most primal urge: the need to haul out everything you own, get rid of half of it, and put it away in new, color-coordinated gear from The Container Store. Here’s how I tackle spring cleaning for my skincare items:


Take stock of what you have.

Clear your skincare products out of your cabinets and take a hard look at what you own. Are you using all of it? Odds are you own at least a few items that you don’t find yourself regularly reaching for in your skincare routine. Set these less-loved products aside. This leaves more room available in your cabinets, making it easier to organize and locate the items you enjoy using.


Expel the expired.

Products aren’t formulated to last forever. At some point, the preservatives peter out and your risk starting a colony of microbes in the bottle. To let you know when your products may not be so fresh anymore, many cosmetic products are labeled with a Period After Opening symbol (abbreviated as PAO). It looks like a small jar with a number and letter inside. This denotes how long a product remains shelf-stable after you first start using it.


For example, my Retinol Treatment Oil has the symbol marked “12 M” on the lower right side of the rear label. This is the most common PAO symbol for skincare and indicates that the product is good for 12 months after opening. Some items (like body and hair products) may say 24 months, and some more volatile ingredients may say 6 months. If you’re unable to find the PAO, take a look at the product itself. Has it changed color, texture, or smell? Those are the major signs that the product has started to degrade. Toss anything that looks or smells weird. You can help ensure your products stay fresh my storing them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. 


Recycle responsibly.

If you need to toss some products, be mindful of creating waste. Check to see what types of plastic and other materials your local recycling program accepts. They generally only take clean items, so remember to rinse out your bottles and jars. Some beauty packaging poses a unique problem for recycling plants—especially airless pumps. The pump itself has a small spring that can’t be recycled with the other plastic components, and airless pumps usually have an inner and outer casing that may be made of more than one type of plastic. Difficult items like these can be handled through specialty recycling programs like TerraCycle. Check out your local retailers, too; stores like Aveda and Kiehl’s will accept empty containers of their own products, and Origins will accept packaging from any brand to their in-store recycling program.


Giving feels good.

There are so many organizations that would love your unwanted beauty and personal care products. If you have unexpired items that don’t work for you, consider your local nonprofits. Check their guidelines—many will only accept unopened products, but there are a few (such as Project Beauty Share) that accept gently used items. Lastly, you can always share products that aren’t eligible for donation with your family or friends!