Spring clean your beauty cabinet

By Sarah Scott. 

I’ve just seen the first spring blossoms on the trees so this month is a good time to talk about a beauty spring clean. It’s this time of year we start thinking about spring cleaning our houses, but what about our beauty cabinets?

I’m sure we are all guilty of holding onto our beauty products for too long. A 2013 study of womens’ makeup habits revealed 70% were using expired products. Yep, gulity. I kept a lipstick for years because I loved the colour (Warm Wood!) and it had been discontinued.

Knowing when to let go of that favourite mascara is important. Firstly, beauty products past their use-by date can harbour bacteria and microbes, which mean your hero cleanser might actually be doing your skin more harm than good. Secondly, it gives us a good excuse to go beauty product shopping again. Hurrah!

All beauty products expire. Simple. If your beauty products contain preservatives, they will last a little longer after opening but if you are using more natural-based products, especially those containing essential oils, they will have a shorter shelf life.

So how do you know? The PAO symbol is found on the back or base of your product. It stands for Period After Opening and is a number followed by the letter M and an open jar symbol. This tells you when to throw away your product after opening, e.g 6M means discard six months after opening. If you can’t remember when you opened it, it’s time to let go!

Usually, products containing water as one of the main ingredients have the shortest shelf life after opening because water is susceptible to bacterial contamination. Preservative- free products are safer for your skin but again, they have a shorter shelf life. At Natural Supply Co, we look to source beauty products that use nature’s preservatives like grapefruit extract or tea tree oil, but there are limits to what these natural anti-bacterial ingredients can protect against.

Here are some use by guidelines from The Cosmetic Cop, Paula Begoun, to help you, but always check the PAO date for each product and throw out anything that smells odd or has changed in consistency. Good luck with your spring cleaning!


Eyeliners (liquid or pencil) and masacaras: 4-6 months

Liquid or cream-based foundations and concealers: 6-12 months

Powder-based products (eg eyeshadow, mineral makeup): 2-3 years

Lipsticks, lip pencils and glosses: 2-3 years


Cleansers: 12 months

Toners: 6-12 months

BHA or AHA exfoliants: 12 months

Moisturisers and serums (facial and body): 6-12 months

Lip balms: 12 months

Sample sachets: 1 day – Paula says ‘no,really, one day’


Sarah Scott is the Director of Natural Supply Co