With the spring season typically comes the urge to get rid of the clutter and scour away the dirt. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the American Cleaning Institute, nearly three-quarters of Americans engage in spring cleaning every year, paying particular attention to windows, closets and drawers, floors, and curtains.
You’re probably already planning your cleaning efforts in the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom, but what about your cosmetic drawer or cabinet? When was the last time you sorted through that?
Time to Toss Out Old, Potentially Toxic Products
Spring is a great time to start the season with clean and fresh formulas. Why? Because old cosmetics are hazardous to your health. A 2009 report in the Daily Mail noted that old mascaras and eye pencils can increase risk of infections, while old lipsticks, glosses, and balms can store months worth of bacteria. Old creams that become contaminated over time can increase your risk of skin problems, including rashes, allergic reactions, redness, and inflammation.
Meanwhile, we know a lot more today about the potential dangerous ingredients lurking in some cosmetics than we did even ten years ago. Many release carcinogens like formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxin, while others contain hormone-altering preservatives, drying sulfates and alcohols, sensitizing fragrances, and pore-clogging petrolatum products.
This is one chore I’ll enjoy doing—if you want to join me, use the following tips to give your cosmetic drawer a complete makeover!
- Toss out the old stuff. If your products have expiration dates, respect them—if the date has passed, toss out the product. Throw out any damaged items (broken containers, cracked seals); mascara over 3 months old; liquid foundations and concealers over 3 months old; lipstick, lip pencils and eye pencils over 6 months old; organic or chemical-free cosmetics over 6 months old (unless the expiration date says differently); powders, eye shadows, and blushes over 1 year old; and any product that changes color or texture, or begins to smell funny.
- Wash your brushes. When was the last time you did this? It should happen at least once a week, but we get busy, and we forget. Meanwhile, these brushes are touching our skin every day, picking up oils and bacteria and re-depositing them on our clean faces later on. Struggling with acne? This could be one reason why. Run the brush under tap water, drop some shampoo in your palm, swirl the brush around, rinse until the water runs clear, reshape the bristles, and air dry over the table or sink edge. For lip and eyeliner brushes with more stubborn product cling, try a little olive oil on the bristles, then wipe on a paper towel until the color is gone before washing.
- Wash your eyelash curler. Find mascara caked to the rubber strip, even the metal? Use some hot water and gentle soap (without harsh chemicals) and wash it well, and use wet wipes to get off any stubborn material left behind.
- Wash your makeup bag. Powders, pencil tips, and liquids can get onto the inside lining, where they then sit for months or years, usually in the dark—the perfect setup for the growth of bacteria. Take a wet wipe to that inside lining, or turn it inside out and soap it up good with a mild cleanser and small brush. If yours is cloth instead of vinyl or plastic, dunk it in the sink with some gentle laundry cleaner. And by all means, if you have old makeup or sponges in there, throw them out.
- Replace old lipsticks with lead-free brands: Tests by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that 61% of name-brand lipsticks contain detectable levels of lead. Later, the FDA found hundreds of lipsticks contaminated with the toxic metal—including well-known department store brands. Check your brand on the Safe Cosmetics Database, and restock with safer tubes. Make sure you always protect with a sunscreen underneath.
- Choose mercury-free mascara: Are your current mascaras mercury-free? In mascaras and other personal-care products, mercury comes from an ingredient called “thimerosal,” which is often used to cut down on bacteria and other microorganisms. Look for this word on your ingredient list, or for “mercuric.” If you see it, try another brand.
- Be cautious with micronized mineral makeup: Tiny particles called nanoparticles and micronized particles make makeup look smooth and flawless, but they can also be a health risk, especially for those with allergies and asthma. Reduce the chances of particles floating about in the air by working the powder into the brush, or wetting it down to reduce airborne particles.
- Check your foundations and concealers: Read the ingredient list, and toss brands that contain things like parabens, talc, and mineral oil. Choose formulas that are free of potentially harmful chemicals, and that actually contain good ingredients for your skin.
- Replace your chemical sunscreens: We know that UV rays can contribute to skin cancer, wrinkles, and premature aging. Manufacturers have capitalized on our concerns by producing products full of sunscreens, from moisturizers to foundations to blushes. Unfortunately, many of these are made with potentially harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, PABA, and cinoxate. If you see these ingredients in your formulas, make a commitment to find a safer option next time. Choose zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, then use sunscreen-free or safe-sunscreen makeup products.
- Go for safer nail products: Toss any that have damaged containers, and any that have started to show discoloration. Avoid nail products with toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and formaldehyde—all linked with health effects. Look for new brands that are free of these toxic three–conscientious manufacturers advertise them as “3-Free.”
How do you spring clean your skin care? Please share any tips you may have!