starting fresh… again (or time to clean out that cosmetics drawer!)

I just finished cleaning out my skincare drawer … YAY! It’s not fancy, but I can find everything and I know it’s all fresh and good for me.

It was definitely time as most of the skincare products I use daily have been sitting on my counter instead of in the tangle of products in my drawer. I often procrastinate with these types of jobs as I hate throwing away things that I still could use or re-purpose in some way. (I’m known to use a face cream that isn’t my favorite on my feet.)

What I found in the drawer were products I don’t really like that much or at least haven’t been my first choice for quite some time. Some I have rarely used and can’t quite remember how old they are. Remember the saying, “when in doubt, throw it out.” This goes for bodycare products as much as for food! While we easily throw away food that’s past its use-by date, somehow we hang onto our cosmetics, sometimes for years! Maybe it’s because we can’t see the science experiment growing within those jars- yikes! I know it’s hard thinking you’re throwing away “good money” when you toss an old or suspect product, but one that is rancid, unstable or under preserved through age isn’t good for your skin and can cause very serious health problems.

Remember, bacteria is NOT a friend to your beautiful complexion. Seriously, old skin care products can grow mold, bacteria, fungus and streptococcus–which can lead to infections, acne, pustules and other not-so-desirable conditions. All of which will send you to your health practitioner faster than you can say ‘But I paid $300 for that jar of XXX!’. Believe me, the health of your skin is worth a lot more than that. (As an aside, I am always wary of companies boasting about not using preservatives in their water-based products, like creams and lotions. Water is the beginning of all life and that includes harmful bacteria! If you do purchase them, it’s best to keep those products in the refrigerator and for as long as you’d keep leftover soup.

Safety aside, old products don’t smell or feel as good as they once did and remember, you are deserving of fresh products that smell and feel amazing!

And while you’re at it, go ahead and toss those products that contain parabens, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, petroleum products, such as mineral oil and paraffin, and fragrance (unless it specifically states phthalate-free and you’re okay with that). You are better off without them!

So, into the trash and recycling bin went most of it, leaving plenty of room in the drawer for all the stuff that had been sitting on the counter and you didn’t have room for before. AHHHH! Lovely! When I open my drawer now, I see all the products I LOVE to use. Life is too short to use things you don’t love. It can be as simple or a elaborate as you like. Maybe you just have a jar of extra virgin coconut oil and wildcrafted shea butter in your drawer next to some tooth soap and mud mask or maybe your drawer is like mine, filled with the gamut of scrubs and cleansers, moisturizers and treatments. (Well, that’s one of the perks of making skincare and researching other brands:)

So, I support you in going through that bathroom drawer or cupboard and tossing what doesn’t serve you anymore. And even though it was a gift and you’ve only used a little bit of it or it was really expensive and you still have a little left, toss it if it’s over six months old, really. And if it’s eye makeup, the expiration date is three months after purchase.

I’m often asked if we sell our face creams in a larger size. I explain that the main reason we package our products in small containers is because they should be used in a short period of time. So forgo the industrial-sized face cream — better instead to buy the small size more often. Use them up within three to six months and then treat yourself to a fresh one!

I support you in lavishly using all your yummy products, and yes, even the expensive ones. Be generous with yourself!

Another issue to keep in mind is where you store your cosmetics. If it’s in a warm, humid or hot area — for instance, where you shower — you’re risking problems. The humidity is a fertile ground to allow mold, bacteria, fungus and streptococcus to grow, making you vulnerable to infections. Remember that the older a product, the less viable the preservative system used to keep the nasties out… just another reason to toss expired products!

And don’t forget your loofah, sponges and washcloths as you’re cleaning out your beauty products. Edward J. Bottone, professor emeritus of medicine/infectious diseases at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, published an eye-opening article about infected loofahs in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. “Loofahs are especially vulnerable to bacterial growth,” he says. “These natural sponges have many nooks and crannies that, especially when moist, invite bacteria.” Once I learned this, I could never look at a loofah the same way:/

Bacteria feed off carbohydrates and proteins in the loofah — including dead skin. “I once had a woman come to me who had a horrible rash and infection and couldn’t figure out what it was from,” Bottone says. “I had her bring in her loofah and other wash items. Her loofah was green with mold and bacteria. If you have little cuts in your skin and wash with an infected loofah you can be infected.”

And it doesn’t have to be that bad to cause problems. Any moist loofah, wash cloth or even a synthetic sponge can cause rashes such as folliculitis, an infection of the hair follicles that often looks like clusters of small, red bumps. It is important to clean your loofahs, sponges and washcloths in a hydrogen peroxide solution or launder often. Wring washcloths and sponges out thoroughly and air-dry in a well-ventilated area. (Super thin, inexpensive wash cloths dry more quickly than the thick, absorbent luxury types. I use a fresh one every day. It may sound excessive, but it doesn’t take much to put those through the wash.) And please compost those loofahs every three weeks and sponges every six to eight weeks…. please!!!

So, after you gather your courage and radically cull your skincare drawer and bath areas, here are some useful guidelines to keep your current products as fresh and you as safe as possible:

* Wash your hands with warm soapy water before touching your skincare products or your face

* Use a clean applicator instead of dipping your fingers into a bottle or powder or purchase creams in a tube or pump-top bottle.

* To help jog your memory, put little stickers on your cosmetic and skin-care items and write the date of opening on the sticker.

* Replace mascara every two to three months. Don’t attempt to wash the wand and then return it to the bottle, and don’t push extra air into the tube by pumping the brush up and down inside the container.

* Wash makeup brushes at least once a month to remove dead skin cells and old makeup. Wash with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly with clear water and air dry. Wash your eyelash curler with soap or a spray with hydrogen peroxide after every use to keep it bacteria-free.

* Replace lipsticks and balms every six months or sooner. Avoid the temptation to share lip products. Throw it out if you get a cold sore.

* Sharpen eye and lip pencils regularly to remove the outer layer, which may be contaminated with bacteria.

* Move open cosmetics and makeup brushes away from the toilet if you keep your cosmetics in the bathroom. Each time the toilet is flushed, a fine mist is emitted, which can spread bacteria to your products. I know it isn’t pleasant to think about, but it’s definitely worse not to! This goes for your toothbrush, too.

So, try not to worry that you’ll miss that perfect shade of purple eyeliner if you toss your old one, Chances are, you never will. And as the microcosm reflects the macrocosm, in letting go of the old, we come more fully into our present. May our choices reflect our love for ourselves, even in a simple a ritual as caring for our skin.

Until next time,


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