Throw Out Those Old Beauty Products, They Could Be Home To Bacteria, Fungus, And Yeast

You know the drawer, the one full of barely used products that you just can’t bring yourself to throw out? Beauty products are expensive, but it’s time to Marie Kondo your make-up and skincare; what once sparked joy is now full of bacteria, fungus, and yeast.

By Amber Parker3 min read
Shutterstock/Dean Drobot

I have a secret obsession with skincare. I can spend hours reading articles and scientific journals and watching YouTube videos. However, I honestly only follow the advice of board-certified dermatologists because I take my skin health pretty seriously. Plus, with beauty products costing as much as they do, before I add something to my routine, I want the opinion of experts who have spent years and thousands of dollars on education. Not a blogger who gets paid thousands of dollars to push one brand…no offense. 

If you’re like me and want to find yourself down a YouTube rabbit hole of all things skincare, watch some of Dr. Dray’s videos. She’s certainly quirky, but you’ll find yourself geeking-out over things like transepidermal water loss in no time.

While everyone has different skin concerns and likes to use various products, there are a few skincare rules of thumb that we can all follow.

Dump Your Old and Expired Beauty Products 

Dr. Dray often covers topics like the stubborn acne or skin irritations she frequently sees in her patients. One of the common culprits of acne that isn’t responding to treatment is make-up. In one of her videos, she talks about a study done just last year by the Journal of Applied Microbiology. They asked people via social media to send in their make-up products to be tested for bacteria, and almost all of them were contaminated. They found Staph, Pseudomonas, E. coli, and fungus, none of which Dr. Dray says you want in your make-up.

Over time, the ingredients in skincare and cosmetics break down and lose their efficacy.

There are expiration dates on our cosmetics, sunscreens, and medications for a reason. Over time, the ingredients in them break down and lose their efficacy. Dr. Dray says, “When chemicals degrade, they can become irritants, causing rashes and all kinds of skin problems.” There is a lot of data that goes into determining expiration dates. Drug manufacturers and cosmetic companies are required to do specific tests and experiments so that products are sold safely.

If you don’t see an exact expiration date on your cosmetics, you might find a picture of a little jar with a number on it. This represents the number of months it’s safe to use after opening. Dr. Dray advises that if you’re going to wear make-up, keep track of the dates you purchase and open things. Most products are good for three, six, or 12 months. Try jotting down the date it’s set to expire in your phone calendar, so you’ll know when to throw it out.

Dr. Dray insists that because of the rigorous testing done on skincare products, it’s important to rely on the expiration date, not your judgment. Sometimes, you’ll use an expired product and nothing bad will happen, but, as “a dermatologist,” she says these risks aren’t worth taking. “Expiration dates guarantee stability up until that date, not a day after, not a week after, not a month after.”

Don’t use expired sunscreen, as you’re risking burns, rashes, and skin cancer. 

Both active and inactive ingredients in physical (mineral) sunscreen and chemical sunscreen degrade over time, but chemical sunscreen oxidizes as well. Whatever you do, don’t use expired sunscreen, as you’re risking burns, rashes, and skin cancer. Generally, sunscreen is good for three years, but depending on how long it’s been sitting on a store shelf, she recommends chucking it after two.

Don’t Store Products in Your Shower or Car

Sunscreen is one product Dr. Dray considers to be like a medication; adhere to the expiration date and be cautious of how you store it. Extreme temperatures compromise ingredients, so don’t leave any of your products — skincare, sunscreen, or cosmetics — in your car. She also suggests that when you bring sunscreen with you to the beach or on a hike to bring it in an insulated lunchbox or something similar. You always want to make sure to store your products in a cool, dry place away from light. 

Heat and humidity put products at risk for contamination of mold, especially natural products with few preservatives.

Dr. Dray also advises against keeping products in your shower. Heat and humidity put them at risk for contamination of mold, especially natural products with few preservatives. Go back to your college days of using a shower caddy to protect the investment you’ve made in your products.

Throw Away Your Beauty Blender

Yup, every beauty blogger’s favorite tool is riddled with fungus! Referring back to that study by the Journal of Applied Microbiology, beauty blenders were actually the most highly contaminated product for fungus. 

In the study, beauty blenders were found to be the most highly contaminated product for fungus. 

It’s often recommended that the best way to use the sponge is to get it wet, although, that moisture, Dr. Dray says, is what facilitates the growth of “pathogenic bacteria, mold and fungus.” In the study, consumers admitted to re-using beauty blenders again and again (they’re expensive I know), even re-using them after dropping them on the floor. Incidents like this are just breeding that yeast and bacteria. It’s gross, but now you know — keep yourself safe and throw the nasty thing away!

Closing Thoughts

Make sure you’re monitoring expiration dates and storing your products properly; you don’t want them turning into  “microbial petri dishes.” Before you buy more to address a skin concern, first try eliminating things like old make-up or the beauty blender you’re using. And, just as a rule, don’t collect cosmetics or skincare. As Dr. Dray says, “when in doubt, throw it out.”  Beauty products are expensive so it might be a good idea to start considering the cost per wear before buying. If you continue to watch Dr. Dray, she, like most dermatologists, recommends keeping your beauty routine simple anyway.