Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet
Cleaning out your medicine cabinet on a regular basis may seem like a no-brainer, but many people hang on to outdated prescriptions, over-the-counter remedies and makeup for way too long. Here are some guidelines to help you stay on top of those bathroom staples.
"Examine all prescription drug labels for expiration dates," says Peter Wolfe, M.D., a Los Angeles infectious disease specialist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA. "Throw out expired pills, cough medicines, eyedrops and so forth, and ask your doctor for new prescriptions, if necessary." Check the packaging of all vitamins, aspirin, stomach antacid, eyedrops and other over-the-counter remedies for use-by dates, and replace as needed. If you've got bottles of suntan lotion hanging around from last summer, "these will probably still be effective because there are preservatives in them," says Gordon Reynolds, M.D., medical director of Green Valley Spa in St. George, Utah. "I'd use them up, though, and wouldn't keep them too much longer." Although makeup usually doesn't come with use-by dates, you should be careful about how long you use certain products, says Rona Berg, former beauty editor of The New York Times and author of Beauty: The New Basics (Workman Publishing, 2001). Because bacteria can build up in pencil eyeliners and mascara, it's a good idea to replace these every three months, she says. Check labels on hair dyes, nail polish removers and depilatories for use-by dates, says hair and makeup stylist Renata Elden of the Arete salon in Pasadena, Calif. "These products contain harsh chemicals whose composition can change over time," she says. Change your toothbrush every three months, advises Los Angeles dentist Scott Wong, D.D.S. "Toothbrush bristles sometimes get worn down in less time, so replace them as needed." Also check mouthwash and breath sprays for use-by dates. Any cologne or perfume that's gone darker or lighter than its original shade is probably signaling that it's gone off, says Santa Monica, Calif., perfume, hair and body care designer and marketer Renee Garrocochea, Knotty Girl.