Dylan Mustapich is a NYC-based lead esthetician who has been featured in New Beauty, Teen Vogue, Wired, and The Huffington Post. With a lifelong love of all things skin, he is incredibly knowledgeable about skincare ingredients, routine refinement, and personalized skincare, and follows emerging technology closely.
Performing a major skincare routine edit can leave you with shelves of sidelined products, whether it’s that harsh scrub or a too heavy moisturizer. However, unlike a closet edit, you can’t donate your used skincare products. This results in many people throwing away many of their former “shelfie” favorites. In fact, it’s estimated that the average skincare user throws away over $100,000 of unused skincare products in their lifetime.
Rather than disposing of these lightly used products, it’s better to repurpose them, give them away, or properly recycle if necessary. Here’s how to do that with the most common skincare products on your shelf.
A lot of people have a face scrub sitting in their medicine cabinet that was just too abrasive for their skin. Others have a peel that left them red and irritated just gathering dust on their shelf. While these exfoliants may have been too potent for your face, the skin on your body could be more tolerant. The bottom of your feet in particular do well with extremely gritty scrubs. Try to avoid throwing these away if possible because many exfoliants, especially older ones with microbeads, are not great for marine life.
Like exfoliants, a cleanser that was too strong for the face may work beautifully on the body. Conversely, a cleanser that you felt didn’t quite cut it in washing the day off could be useful when your skin is extra dry or irritated.
If you find an oil to be too heavy for your face, it can be used instead to moisturize particularly dry parts of the body. Some oils, such as Jojoba and Argan, also support the health of our hair and scalp.
A serum that may have caused problems on the face could be repurposed as a hand serum. Your hands are incredibly exposed to the sun, and also take a beating from day-to-day life. A serum with brightening ingredients like Vitamin C or Niacinamide can help treat the appearance of sun damage, while anti-inflammatory ingredients like Panthenol and Aloe are great for healing battered hands.
Moisturizers that are too heavy could be saved for ski trips and used on dry areas of the body such as the elbows and knees. One that’s too light could be used on particularly hot/humid days or when traveling somewhere warm.
Alternative 1: Share with a friend
If a product is lightly used and in good condition, you may want to offer it to a friend. It's important to ensure that the recipient has access to the ingredient list to help prevent allergic reactions or irritation from sensitivities.
Alternative 2: Recycle responsibly
A product that you know is years old or looks/smells off needs to be disposed of. However, you can’t put most cosmetics right into the recycling, nor is it recommended to wash them down the drain.
Here’s how to properly recycle your skincare:
- Empty all of your formulas into a single jar/container, seal it, and put that in the trash.
- Clean out the recyclable skincare containers with soap and water. Often, you also need to remove any external labeling on the container.
- Look at the recycling number on the bottom of each product. Check which numbers your city can accept, then put those in your recycling bin.
- For any that your city doesn’t accept, you can find a TerraCycling location or sometimes mail them directly into the brand (like Kiehl’s or Mac who both have packaging recycling programs).
When you’re not sure about a cosmetics product, put it in a sealed container in the trash. It can often impede recycling efforts and contaminate other recyclables if a product that isn’t recyclable is miscategorized. In the long run, it’s actually better to throw those products away.
These tips will help you simplify your routine and clear up space while throwing away as few products as possible. To prevent yourself from accumulating too many products and having to purge again, buy and incorporate only one new product at a time into your routine. That way your drawers won’t become cluttered with products you forgot to return.