Got These in Your Bathroom? (Throw Them Out Now!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for living as waste-free a life as possible. And I know how hard it can be to bid farewell to something you’ve barely used, but sometimes you just have to toss items in your bathroom—empty or not.

That brings us to the question of the hour:

How long is too long to keep personal hygiene items stashed in your medicine cabinet?

And, what will happen if you keep them on hand for longer than that?

While each product is different, it’s probably time to clear out several items in your bathroom, stat. Here’s what the experts say about when to say au revoir to medications, skincare products, and more.

Check Out These Items in Your Bathroom

 

Your Loofah

 

 

What if I told you the very thing you thought was giving you clean, silky skin was actually a breeding ground for bacteria?

Here’s the unfortunate truth:

Loofahs aren’t the shower saviors they appear to be. That’s because dead skin cells get tangled in the nooks and crannies of the loofah after you use it to scrub your skin.

“Then, you put them in this environment in the shower that’s warm and moist and gross, and it’s a set up for bacteria, yeast, and mold to grow in the loofah,” says J. Matthew Knight, M.D., an Orlando-based dermatologist with Knight Dermatology Institute.

 

An infamous study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found loofahs host a wide range of bacterial species, and bacteria overgrowth literally happens overnight.

 

But wait, it gets worse:

If you use the germ-filled loofah over your just-shaved skin, bacteria has a chance to slide into any nicks, which can lead to irritation and infection. That’s why Knight estimates 9.8 out of 10 dermatologists would recommend against using a loofah.

Not the news pouf lovers want to hear. If you can’t imagine a shower without your loofah, you can stay loyal to it—just take extra precautions to ensure it’s super-duper clean.

Start by replacing it frequently—every three to four weeks for the natural kind and every two months for a plastic pouf, says Sejal Shah, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist and RealSelf contributor.

Push that timeline up the second you notice spots of mold growing on it or if the loofah starts to develop a musty, mildewy smell, says Shah.

To make your loofah last longer, don’t leave the loofah in the shower, where the moist environment encourages bacteria to grow. Instead, let it dry somewhere where it’s less humid, such as by an open window.

If it’s a real luffa plant (and not plastic), you can also disinfect it with bleach, suggest the researchers behind the Journal of Clinical Microbiology study. Shah recommends soaking it in a diluted bleach solution for five minutes once a week.

 

Restocking Ideas:

 

This 4-pack of large natural loofahs from LuxeHome have excellent reviews, and (if you replace them every 4 weeks) are good for 4 months.

 

 

For a gentler wash, this set of 4 extra large mesh poufs from Shower Bouquet are popular (and so pretty!)

 

 

My personal bath and shower choice is a set of exfoliating gloves. They’re easy to use, last a long time, and you can throw them in the wash. Try this 4-pair pack from Smitco.

 

 

Prescription Antibiotics

 

 

First of all, get these out of your bathroom, says Shilpi Agarwal, MD, family medicine physician and author of The 10-Day Total Body Transformation. “Condensation can affect potency and make medication go bad quickly,” she explains.

In or out of your bathroom, though, leftover prescription medications should always be thrown out by the expiration date.

 

“Not only do you run the risk of not having a complete course, but also the medication may become ineffective,” says Dr. Agarwal.

 

And taking expired medication can also cause you to develop antibiotic resistance, which will make it useless when you really need it.

Think of it this way – while your antibiotics will probably be okay for a while after expiration, there is no way to confirm the medication is still as powerful and so it’s probably not worth the risk (especially if you have a serious infection).

And taking expired medication can also cause you to develop antibiotic resistance, which will make it useless when you really need it.

Of course, should always consult a physician before taking prescription medication, anyways, so if you are sick enough to need more than an over the counter product, make an appointment with the doc!

 

 

Toothpaste

 

 

“When in doubt, toss it out,” says Stacy Atnip, RDH, and global educator for Curaprox USA.

As a general rule of thumb, if an item that you put in your mouth looks, smells, or tastes strange, you should replace it, says Atnip.

That said, you typically have 12 to 18 months for toothpaste. After that, the fluoride will begin to lose its power, ingredients will separate or crystalize, and flavor can start to fade.

To make sure it stays fresh until the last squeeze, be sure to put the cap back on after each use and store it in a place that is neither too hot or too cold.

 

Restocking Ideas:

Colgate Optic White Platinum is my personal favorite; the Glistening Mint flavor is clean and refreshing, and my teeth are noticeably whiter each month.

 

 

Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening is the toothpaste my dentist recommends to patients with sensitivity.

 

 

Antibiotic Ointment

 

 

“Medicated healing ointment like Neosporin has active, antibacterial ingredients,” explains Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder of Capital Laser & Skin Care and assistant clinical professor at the George Washington University Medical Center. “So, it can lose its effectiveness much faster than something like Aquaphor.” 

As a general rule, wound-healing ointments and creams should get the boot within three months after their expiration date.

 

Restocking Idea:

 

Don’t buy more than you need! This Triple Antibiotic Ointment from Globe is inexpensive, has excellent reviews, and comes in a small 1 oz. tube.

 

Tampons

 

Yes – tampons can actually ‘go bad’!

 

Even though the box might say otherwise, it’s best to get rid of tampons after a year, or two max, says Mary L. Rosser, MD, PhD, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Health System in New York City.

 

Err on the safe side with these:

If you know a tampon is expired, don’t use it, even if it looks fresh. Mold isn’t always visible and may be hidden by the applicator.

And while it’s commonplace to stash your tampons under the sink, that’s an absolute no-no, according to Dr. Rosser.

“You never know when your sink will leak or create moisture,” she says. “If they are not stored in a clean, dry place, bacteria or mold can grow on them just like anything else—even with the wrapper on.”

 

Restocking Ideas:

 

 

Bar Soap

 

 

Like fine wine, an unopened bar of soap can last for years.

However, the same rule does not apply once it’s been exposed to water.

 

If your soap starts to feel mushy or becomes discolored, it might be contaminated and you should chuck it, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. 

 

“Using it could cause irritations or infection, especially on open or raw skin,” he says. To make it last, keep the bar in a dish that lets it dry off easily. “If it’s sitting in water, it can become a breeding ground for microorganisms,” says Dr. Zeichner.

In other words, dump it.

 

Restocking Ideas:

 

I use Olay Ultra Moisture soap in my shower (and on my face). It smells wonderful, and washes well without drying my skin. To me, this behaves like a high-end beauty soap.

 

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Daily Bar Soap is a terrific all-purpose bar of soap. I am a huge fan of all things Mrs. Meyers, and this is no exception. Good for the whole family.

 

Toothbrush

 

 

It’s time throw it out when the bristles become frayed and worn out, says Brian Kantor, DDS, cosmetic dentist at Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor in New York City.

 

“After three months of normal wear and tear, toothbrushes become much less effective at removing plaque from teeth and gums,” he explains. “Germs can also hide in bristles and lead to infection.”

 

Make your life easier by purchasing them in bulk. This way, you’ll have a new one ready to go when it’s time to swap it out.

 

Restocking Ideas:

 

I highly recommend these Microfine Toothbrushes from Nimbus. These toothbrushes are unique and superior – the best brushes I have ever used! Read the reviews.

 

Safety Razors and Razor Blades

 

 

It should go without saying that a rusted razor blade should be tossed—even if it calls for an outfit change (think: pants instead of shorts).

Otherwise, a razor blade’s life span really depends on use, says Dr. Tanzi.

 

“Change it after every three to five uses, or every two weeks,” she says. “In addition to becoming less effective with each use, irritation from dull razors can increase the risk of nicks and bacterial infection.”

 

While many companies like Gillette state that it can take anywhere from 5 – 10 shaves before you should swap out your razor, others sites like GroomingLounge.com state that it can be as often as 3 – 4 uses.

Honestly, it just all depends on how often you shave. If you shave daily, your blade is obviously going to wear out much more quickly due to use. However, blades that hang out for long periods of time in the shower are more likely to rust and need to be changed. So, if you’re wondering when to change your blade, it’s all about using your best judgement.

If you’re wondering why you should even be changing your blade in the first place, there are actually loads of reasons:

For starters, newer blades are more likely to give cleaner shaves as oppose to duller razors. Also, older cartridges can tend to harbor bacteria and cause bumps or possible infections, according to Oprah.com.

Your best bet for your best shave is to keep track of the quality of your razor cartridge in order to ensure a healthy shave.

 

Restocking Ideas:

 

They’re not full of fancy bells and whistles, but these Bic Silky Touch Razors never let me down, and I’m not planning on switching! Super pricing on a 40 count package!

 

 

This 3-pack of Venus razors from Gilette offer 3 blades for a close shave, a pivoting head, and a moisture rich aloe strip. They’ll look good in your shower, too!

 

 

Acne Spot Treatments

 

 

Treatments you don’t use daily tend to stick around way longer than they should. While some acne products have expiration dates on them (which you should most definitely listen to), most do not.

 

Spot treatments can last between three to six months, says Dr. Zeichner. “After that time, they may not be as effective because the active ingredient can lose its potency.”

 

Restocking Idea:

 

What can I say … this stuff works! Acne-Free Maximum Strength Terminator 10 contains 10% benzoyl peroxide. It’s also priced better than some advertised brands with the same active ingredient.

 

 

Teeth Whitening Strips

 

 

You bought that package of whitening strips to help brighten your teeth before a job interview that ever happened. Disappointed, you kept them in your house and today you’ve decided to use them. Unfortunately, you find out that they’ve reached their expiry date.

It leaves you wondering if you should continue using them after they’ve expired or you should just toss them into the garbage and get a new pack.

The logic behind the expiry of these whitening products is based on their whitening/bleaching agents. The agents are usually unstable, which means that they’ve got a definite shelf life. The moment the active ingredient (hydrogen peroxide) degrades completely, the strip expires.

The typical shelf life for all whitening strips is one year. However, the professionals argue that you extend its lifetime by another one year by storing them in a refrigerator.

Freezing them isn’t advisable, though. If your refrigerator is too cold such that it freezes the strips, you should allow them to cool down to the room temperatures before applying them on your teeth.

If the strips expiration date was not reached long ago, they might still whiten your teeth (albeit poorly).  But if they expired a long time ago, the whitening effectiveness might have been eliminated, so why waste your time on them?

The Crest Whitestrips website states:

 

“Although Crest 3D White Whitestrips that have passed expiration date are still safe, we don’t recommend using them past their expiration date, as the whitening ingredient’s efficacy will be weakened.”

 

Teeth whitening strips will typically last you a year, says Dr. Atnip. However, you can extend the shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator, she says.

Still, don’t expect the same results if they’re expired:

 

“Although using strips passed the expiration date are safe, it’s not recommended as the whitening ingredient efficacy will be weakened.”

 

Restocking Idea:

 

This Crest 3D White No Slip Whitestrips Kit includes 10 Vivid Whitestrip treatments and 2 1-Hour Express treatments.

 

Sunscreen

 

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for up to three years. This means that you can use leftover sunscreen from one year to the next, but you do have to pay attention to their expiry date.

Some sunscreens include an expiration date , and you should discard sunscreen that has passed that date. If you buy sunscreen that doesn’t have an expiration date, write the date of purchase on the bottle and be sure to throw it out within three years.

Also, discard sunscreen that has any obvious changes in color or consistency.

 

There are two main issues with expired sunscreen:

  • It won’t protect you –  ‘Expired’ means that the product should no longer be expected to achieve the SPF rating stated on the container (that goes for both chemical and mineral sunscreens).
  • It could cause breakouts – “Handling of the sunscreen container with dirty hands, or frequent opening and closing can expose the sunscreen to bacteria,” says Erin Gilbert, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. As the bacteria grows in the tube, it can cause breakouts, she says.

 

 

“If the sunscreen is labeled with an expiration date—listen to it,” says Dr Zeichner. “If there isn’t one, discard it two years after purchase.”

If the consistency has changed, that’s also an indicator that the ingredients have become ineffective and it’s time to replace. If not, it will serve no purpose—and you risk getting sunburned.

 

Restocking Ideas:

 

If you haven’t tried Sun Bum Sunscreen, you’ll be impressed! It’s non-comedogenic, oxbenzone & octinoxate free, paraben free, cruelty free, gluten free, PABA free & oil free. It provides excellent broad spectrum SPF 30 protection and smells heavenly!

 

 

If you have sensitive facial skin (or super sensitive eyes like me), you need a pure mineral facial sunscreen that won’t cause any irritation. Rejuvelle Sunscreen/Moisturizer provides broad spectrum SPF 45, and uses only clear zinc oxide as the active ingredient. It’s cosmetically elegant and effective. Read the reviews.

 

 

Don’t take chances with a something in your bathroom that’s already seen its best days. 

At best, it may be ineffective (which could be dangerous in the case of expired antibiotics), and at worst, it could be harmful.  Why not avoid the possibility of washing with something that’s full of bacteria or trying to heal a breakout with an inert treatment? 

This is a good time to toss out your questionable items and start fresh.  Who knows … maybe it will be a catalyst for a fresh start in other areas of your life!

 

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