Go to your bathroom. Look in your beauty cabinet. Grab that jar of cream gel or leave-in or deep treatment that's in the darkest corner.
Are you holding it, yet?
Great! Now, examine the jar and its contents. Chances are, the contents have expired, but how can you tell? It is still the same color as the day you purchased it. So what if it has a vinegary tinge to its aroma? It is usable, right? Wrong.
It is expired. So, you need to dispose of it properly. Don't believe me?
Take heed of the following expiration considerations that will get you to toss those old products in the trash bin.
Expired Hair Products: The Top 5 Expiration Considerations for Product Junkies
1. Storage, environment - Listen. I know that you are not going to store your coconut oil in the oven, okay? However, it is helpful to note that storing your beauty and curly hair products in appropriate places in your home is important. Basically, don't act a fool like me and store your products in your kitchen cabinets. And remember that all of your expired hair products need to be properly disposed of, and not stored in weird, random places... like your kitchen cabinets (if I keep repeating it, I won't do it - #SelfCareInAction).
2. Ingredients, including preservatives and chemical stabilizers, can separate and breakdown so make a note of any changes for the duration of use. These breakdowns can create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold (YUCK!). If your once very thick curling cream feels thin and watery, for instance, it may be time for a replacement.
3. Health concerns - Do you want to contend with rashes, breakouts, or severe allergic reactions? Didn't think so. Although these cases are relatively rare, you don't want to put yourself in an uncomfortable, or potentially dangerous, situation that could have been avoided by tossing out old products.
4. Exercise your intuition - If it looks wrong, smells weird, or just gives you that "Yeah... somethin' ain't right" feeling, it is time to toss the product.
5. Period-after-opening, or PAO, symbol: Also known as the look for the open jar symbol on the back of, the bottom of, somewhere near the ingredients label of your beauty and hair care product bottles, jars, tubes, and other conventional containers is the BEST way to decide whether it's time to toss the mascara out or not.
The 4-1-1 on the P-A-O
During a very personal, on-camera purge of all the expired products in my bathroom and kitchen cabinets (yes, you read that correctly), NaturallyCurly Editor Cristina showed me the PAO symbol on a few of them. This cute stamp of a jar with an open lid and a number and the letter "M" (which stands for "months") on it set off a flurry of bells in my head: DING! DING! DING! Of course, I should have known it was that simple, but still, I thank Cristina for the good lookin' out.
Edited image of Alikay Naturals Aloe Berry Styling Gel container with PAO symbol by Gerilyn Hayes
Apparently, I have been living in the Dark Ages of Beauty because, according to Chloe Pantazi, Lifestyle Editor at INSIDER, "The PAO was introduced on cosmetics labels in 2005 by the European Commission, which requires all cosmetic products with a shelf life of 30 months or more to feature the symbol. Products that have a shorter shelf life than 30 months must include the minimum shelf life or best before [the] date on the label."
BOOP. I guess, you really do learn something new every day.
In addition to this discovery, I also learned from Pantazi's article that the FDA has laws in place to protect us consumers... kind of...
"While the US currently doesn't require cosmetics to have an expiration date by law, the US Food & Drug Administration holds manufacturers responsible for ensuring their products are safe to use — and determining the shelf life of a product is considered part of their duty to consumers." -Chloe Pantazi
2 Apps That Make Expiration Dates Visible to the Naked Eye
Ahhh, the cellular phone! Where, oh where, would we be without you? Well, we would most likely be in a fitful state of slathering fistfuls of expired night cream onto our faces, no doubt. The outcome would be dreadful without you, dearest Galaxy and Siri.
Thanks to app-makers of the world, learning what the expiration dates for all products are is as easy as tap to open-and-swipe left. Download either of these apps to assist you when the PAO symbol is absent:
1. Beauty Keeper for Apple
2. BEEP - Expiry Date Barcode Scanner for Android
Are you feeling the urge to purge?
Do you need a little motivation to begin tossing out your expired beauty and hair products?
Sign up for the NaturallyCurly Product Junkie Spring Cleanout Challenge, starting on March 12, and learn the best ways to clear out all those unused, expired products. And watch me embarrass myself on camera... you'll get a chance to see my hot mess-kitchen cabinets :)
Join Our Pound for Pound Challenge
Put your product junkie-ism to the test in our Pound for Pound Challenge! Simply snap a photo of your product stash, @ us on Instagram and use the hashtag #NCpound4pound. Whoever has the biggest stash wins a $100 gift card to the Container Store.