Does nail polish go bad

When To Toss It

What’s the shelf life of your mascara? Your toothbrush? It can be tricky to figure out how long certain products without an expiration date will last. We asked the experts when to toss the following 18 common household products.

In the Medicine Cabinet:

When to toss: Every three to four months-sooner if the bristles look frayed or flare out, says Howard S. Glazer, D.D.S., past president of the Academy of General Dentistry. Always get a new brush after you’ve been sick, since the old one can harbor bacteria and reinfect you.

Rubbing Alcohol
When to toss: After two years, if the bottle has been opened. Sealed, it’s good for three years. It won’t look or smell different, but the alcohol evaporates quickly, leaving a solution that’s too weak to kill bacteria, explains Steve Clement, a pharmacist and spokesperson for the American Pharmaceutical Association.

Hydrogen Peroxide
When to toss: After six months if it’s been opened; three years otherwise. To test whether it’s still effective: “Pour some into the sink-if it fizzes and bubbles, it’s good,” says Marc A. Sweeney, Pharm.D., an associate professor of clinical pharmacy at Ohio Northern University. Expired hydrogen peroxide is ineffective but not harmful.

Insect Repellent
When to toss: After two years, unless there’s an earlier expiration date on the bottle. Old insect repellent isn’t dangerous, just useless, says Jim Baral, M.D., an assistant clinical professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

In the Gym:

Running Shoes
When to toss: After every 200 to 300 miles if you’re a runner. “Running shoes lose half their cushioning after about 250 miles,” says Robyn Stuhr, an exercise physiologist at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “This puts more stress on your joints, making you more prone to injuries.” If you don’t run but work out regularly, buy new sneakers every six months.

Sports Bra
When to toss: Usually every six months to a year. To preserve the bra’s elasticity, wash it in cold water on the gentle cycle and hang to dry. Two ways to tell whether it’s too stretched out: if the bra used to stay in place but now rides up in the back, or if your breasts bounce around a lot when you jog or jump. A supportive bra protects your breast tissue from stretching and sagging and can also help prevent soreness.

In the Bathroom:

Nail Polish When to toss: Opened bottles, after about two years. Unopened, they can last indefinitely, says Annette Soboleski, a nail technician for polish maker OPI Products Inc. Once a bottle is opened, however, some ingredients will evaporate, causing the polish to thicken and separate. To thin the polish and make it last longer, add a few drops of nail-lacquer thinner.

Hair Dye
When to toss: After 24 months. The consistency and chemicals change over time, and the dye loses its ability to color your hair and may leave splotchy patches, says Marcy Cona, director of education and shows for Clairol Professional.

Disposable Razor
When to toss: Every three shaves. After this, the blade becomes nicked and can cut your skin. Bacteria can also develop, causing a rash or other skin irritation, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a clinical instructor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Change the blade weekly on nondisposable razors.

When to toss: After three or four weeks. Bacteria can build up in the crevices and infect you via an open cut or acne, says Birgit Toome, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in New Jersey. Plus, a loofah loses its ability to slough off dry skin after a few weeks. Mesh puffs are more resistant to bacteria and can last for eight weeks.

When to toss: Opened, after one year. Unopened, after two. Over time, bacteria can grow and cause a rash or infection, explains Dr. Jaliman. (This is more likely with jars, since your fingers can introduce bacteria into the container.) Moisturizers with added ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids pose an additional risk because they can become more concentrated and irritate skin.

OTC Acne and Skin Creams
When to toss: After two years; sooner if you notice a change in color, consistency or smell. Expired acne and skin creams are ineffective, because the active ingredients can break down and evaporate, says Dr. Baral.

When to toss: One year from the date of purchase, or after the expiration date. “The chemicals in the lotion that block the sun decompose, making it ineffective,” says Dr. Jaliman.

When to toss: Every three months. Bacteria that can cause pinkeye (conjunctivitis) or styes can fester inside the tube, says Anne Sumers, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

In the Kitchen:

When to toss: Ideally, after just one use, since it’s a breeding ground for bacteria, says Michael P. Doyle, Ph.D., director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia in Griffin. You can extend your sponge’s life by moistening it and heating it in the microwave for one minute to kill germs. Your safest bet, however, is to clean up any kitchen spills with paper towels.

Opened Jar of Tomato Sauce
When to toss: After four or five days if it’s refrigerated. Within a week, mold will form and you could get a gastrointestinal illness from the bacteria, according to Kathleen Zelman, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Opened Bottle of Salad Dressing
When to toss: After three to four months for oil-based dressings; three to four weeks for egg or cheese-based ones. Both develop bacteria over time that may cause gastrointestinal upset or food poisoning.

SHESPEAKS Your Power to Influence

I have always thought that nail polish would last forever and not go bad but I was wrong. The FDA does not designate the shelf life of nail polishes, instead they leave it up to the companies. Typically a nail polish can last from 18 to 24 months if they are kept in a cool dark place. You can however use the nail polish LONGER than 24 months if it has not gone bad.

It is easy to tell if your nail polish has gone bad then to simple toss it after 2 years. Especially if its one of those expensive bottles! There is one pretty easy way to know if you nail polish has gone bad though!

The texture of your nail polish is a dead giveaway if your nail polish has gone bad. If your nail polish has gone thick and gloopy and basically very hard to manage, then more than likely your nail polish has gone bad. When a nail polish has gone bad, it becomes very very hard to make an even coat that does not come out looking clumpy.

Here are some of my tips that you can do to make your nail polish last forever, if you do take particular care of your bottles.

  1. Store them in a cool and dark place
  2. Clean the necks of the bottle with acetone. (Nail polish remover)

It really is that simple to help keep your nail polish lasting for a long time, possibly FOREVER! (If you don’t use it up by then!)

Do you have any beauty tricks to share? How long does your make up usually last?

Kathrin Ziegler/DigitalVision/GettyImages

Look through a modern woman’s nail polish collection, and you may find at least one of the following: half-empty bottles, at least 20 bottles of different shades of nude (because we need the beiges and blushes in our rotation!) and ones with truly scandalous names such as My Silicone Popped or Cougar Attack (both totally real).

While you may want to toss out those bottles from the ’90s that your mother passed down to you, before you think it all has to go—including nail polish from one to two years ago—think again, as we provide the exact shelf life of nail polish and simple tips and tricks for transforming old bottles into something new and totally fabulous.

What is the shelf life of nail polish?

When it comes to our makeup, such as mascara or eyeliner, we tend to go through those more quickly than nail polish, which gets used more infrequently and has a longer lifespan if we treat it right. The typical shelf life of nail polish is two years. =”https:>This is for opened bottles. Unopened bottles, on the other hand, can last indefinitely.
Don’t know where to check for the expiry date on the bottle? Typically, you can find it on the label, with the number of months that it will last listed there. However, it all depends on the brand and packaging.

Here’s what to look for to check if your nail polish has gone bad: The nail polish has separated in the bottle and won’t blend, even with a good shake; there is a crumbly residue under the cap of the polish, making it difficult to twist and open; or the polish is goopy, thick, and hard to spread on the nail. If you encounter any of these issues, toss it. There’s plenty more nail polish where that came from.

Tips to fix old nail polish

We may have that one color of polish that we just can’t for the life of us let go. Or, maybe it was a costly splurge that we can’t justify tossing just yet. The good news? You might not have to—at least, hopefully not with these tips on reviving old bottles of polish.

  1. Use nail polish thinner: This is a common and simple tip for adding extra oomph to your polish. Simply add two to three drops of nail lacquer thinner to your polish and rub the bottle between your hands. Avoid shaking the bottle, as this only causes more bubbles of air, which diminish the quality of your polish.
  2. Rinse out the brush: This tip comes from Miss Pop, a New York City-based manicurist. She recommends grabbing a drinking glass that you can part with and filling it with acetone. Swirl the brush around in the acetone, and clumps of dried-up nail polish should fall off. Use a paper towel—not a cotton ball, unless you want wispy bits everywhere—to remove any remaining pieces. That’s it! When you go to use it in your bottle again, the acetone will mix and thin out the polish, making it easier to use.

Above all else, taking proper care of your polish will help keep it in tip-top shape. This includes making sure to tightly close the lids, storing them in a cool and dark space, and storing the bottles upright. Someone’s got to keep that bottle of Cougar Attack alive, so don’t let your nail polish down! After all, they are little strokes of beauty that help us feel a little more polished.

I have a question. How long can we keep our nail polishes for? I’m asking because I just cleaned my nail polish drawer and noticed that I have some nail polishes that are at least 5 years old! OMG! But the funny thing is, they’re still fine and I’m able to wear them. I don’t know if it’s because these are OPI nail polishes and that’s why they last longer since the only thing I do is to keep them in a drawer away from direct sunlight.

Shelf life of two years or longer
I’ve read that nail polishes should be thrown out after two years but I don’t know. I mean, if they still work well, surely we can still continue to use them since the polish won’t come into contact with our skin? And in relation to this, while some nail polishes can last longer but some can turn bad quite quickly. So is there a way to extend the shelf life of that bottle of nail polish?

Warm weather ruins nail polishes
In fact, a reader by the name of Vartika who lives in India with relatively warm weather wanted to know if she should be refrigerating her nail polishes so that they can last longer. I only know that the high temperatures can cause polish to separate and the color to change. But to keep them in the fridge? Some said no, but a lot seem to be in favor.

Refrigerate for longer shelf life
But it seems that the experts are agreeing that nail polishes should be kept in the fridge for them to last longer. According to, Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice president of OPI, claims that storing polish in the fridge will slow down the discoloration that happens as polish gets older. In addition, she suggested keeping the bottles upright, because if a bottle falls on its side it’s harder to shake the pigments back together. Even the cosmetic chemist Mort Westman explains that refrigeration reduces solvent evaporation and pigment caking and settling.

Additional tips to keep nail polishes from drying
Well, I have never kept any of my nail polishes in the fridge. Like I mentioned, they’re just kept in a cool dark place. But I do make an effort to ensure that I wipe the edge of the bottle opening so that it’s easier to tighten the cap after each use. In addition, I never shake my nail polishes to prevent bubbling but instead roll the bottle in between my palms to blend the color with the thinner.

Maybe I should keep my current faves, I’m Not Really A Waitress and Lincoln Park After Dark in the fridge so that they can last me longer?

If you think that well groomed nails are one of the most important aspects of every girl’s appearance, then you probably have a large collection of nail polishes. But, just like all the other beauty products, nail polishes can expire so you need to pay attention to that and toss away every bottle of polish you should use no longer. Do you know when is the right time to throw away a nail polish? Take a look! Take a look at the packaging to check the product’s period after opening (PAO) and you will know for how long you can use that nail polish after you’ve opened the bottle. Note the date you opened it and throw it away once it reaches that PAO.
Just because a #polish separates, it doesn’t mean that you need to toss it away, but you need to know how to check that. Pearlized shades tend to settle, so in order to agitate such a nail polish, shake it or roll it between your hands. If it still separates after that, it might be the time to get rid of that bottle. Another way to check whether your #polish has reached the end of its lifespan is to check its look, smell, and consistency. Unpleasant smell and strange color indicate that your #polish should no longer be used, as well as if it got too thick, thin, or stingy.

Should You Still Use Nail Polish That’s Separated?

Aaron Dyer

Whether you’re hesitant to toss your go-shade of summer ’15 or debating if last year’s glittery gold top coat is still usable for this year’s holiday parties, knowing when old polish is just too old can sometimes be tricky. For instance, is it still okay to use if the color has separated? What about if it’s just sticky? And if it has gone bad, is there an eco-friendly way to dispose of it? We turn to the polish experts at Essie to find out, plus the best storage tips to keep your tiny bottles in the best shape.


In most cases, yes. Stephanie Bruno of Essie’s product-development team explains that polish separates because the colorants-pigmented particles suspended in the formula-vary in weight. Heavier ones tend to settle at the bottom over time, but rolling the bottle between your hands will remix them sufficiently for use.


If you’re spotting stringy globs of polish while pulling your brush out of the bottle, fear not – your polish isn’t a total goner. This may just mean it’s inching up to the end of its life span, which Bruno says is a standard two years from when the bottle is first opened. To revive, simply add a few drops of pure, undiluted acetone to the bottle which can help the lacquer hold out for a few more applications. However, Rita Remark, Essie’s global lead educator, warns not to add too much: “Overdoing it can make your polish runny or cause the pigments to separate.” In this case, less is more.


To keep your favorite shades in tip top shape, Remark recommends storing bottles in a dark, dry place like a cupboard or a drawer. “Too much light or heat can alter the composition of the lacquer and lighten the pigments.” Another maintenance rule-of-thumb: Keep the mouth of the bottle clean by wiping it with a bit of nail polish remover after each use. Otherwise, polish can quickly build up and prevent the lid from sealing fully. “This then allows air in, which can thicken the polish.”


If you aren’t able to successfully re-blend an old polish or find it’s too crumbly to use-or it’s past the standard two-year shelf life-just consider this the perfect excuse to splurge on that adorable shade you’ve been eyeing.


It may not seem like much to toss a half-empty bottle of polish in the trash but Bruno reminds us: “We recommend to never throw nail polish in the garbage can or pour it down the sink.” According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, because of their chemical compositions, nail polishes are considered to be household hazardous waste and should be disposed of responsibly. Therefore, Bruno suggests taking any old polish and polish remover to a local waste facility or collection site near you (find yours here).

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Springtime is nearly upon us, which means it’s time to exchange those winter boots for those open-toed sandals. While you embrace the wardrobe exchange, this may also strike a hint of fear into your heart, because those chipped-remains-of-a-pedicure on your toes are about to be exposed to the world.

Sensibly, you’ll dive into your nail polish drawer for a quick DIY job, but before debuting your piggies to the world, consider what you’ll do with that polish bottle when it’s empty (or more realistically, when you’re tired of the color).

The U.S. EPA considers nail polish to be household hazardous waste (HHW) due to the toxic chemicals swarming within that bottle of shimmer and shine. This means that tossing the bottle into the trash or recycling bin isn’t an option, and a smart, stylish gal like yourself wouldn’t dream of pouring it down the drain to contaminate water resources.

Have no fear though, because your friendly Household Hazardous Waste facility is here to save the day! Simply say your goodbyes, take your old bottles to your nearest facility and these pros will lay them to rest safely.

Keep in mind that these facilities often only accept waste from residents of the county or city that owns them, so give them a call to confirm that you’re headed to the right place. While you’re at it, gather those cans of old paint, motor oil and used cooking oil to be dropped off, too.

Enter your zip code within our recycling search directory to find your nearby HHW facility.

From Visually.

Don’t Toss That Dried-Up Nail Polish! Here’s How to Safely Dispose of Nail Products

There comes a day in the life of a nail polish when it’s time to head to the big beauty salon in the sky. But think twice before you toss it in the garbage or pour it down the drain—nail polish and remover are classified as Household Hazardous Waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which means they can cause a slew of problems if they’re not disposed of properly. (Nail polish or remover waste can contaminate drinking water, pollute rivers and other bodies of water, harm children or pets, and even injure sanitation workers.) So before you chuck out last season’s colors, read on to learn the eco-friendly way to get rid of your old or dried-up hues.

If you’re simply bored with the color

You may have a few polishes on hand that you’re just not into anymore, even if they’re perfectly good. Don’t toss them yet! Here are a few ways you can repurpose your most overlooked polishes.

1: Host a polish swap with friends. Invite a few friends over and ask them to each bring two nail polishes that they’re sick of, too. Go around in a circle and have each attendee select the hue he or she likes most, until everyone has two new colors. (For more tips on hosting a beauty swap, read this.)

2: Put clear polish to work. Clear polish can be used to patch up holes in tights, seal prescription labels to their bottles, or even turn an eye shadow into a custom nail color (see how here).

3: Organize with colors. Color polishes can be a great organizational tool. A couple of things you can do: paint each of your keys a different color to help differentiate them, or make color-coded binder clips,

If it’s dried-up and unusable

Like we mentioned earlier, do not toss out your dried-up nail polish with your usual garbage haul or pour it down the sink—nail polish and remover are considered hazardous waste because they’re flammable and contain toxic chemicals. So what to do?

Your best bet is to bring it to your local Household Hazardous Waste facility (Google it to find the one closest to you). For example, here’s a list of HHW facilities in Illinois, which are open for one-day collections on various Saturdays. You can also call the National Recycling Hotline at 1-800-CLEANUP (253-2687).

Also! Know before you buy

As of now, there are no completely nontoxic nail polishes, so no matter what brand you buy, you need to adhere to EPA’s household hazardous waste disposal policies. However, there are some nail polish brands with fewer chemicals than average. Look for 5-free polishes like those from RGB—which are devoid of toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor—for a more eco-friendly mani or pedi.

Find Out Why You Shouldn’t Throw Out Nail Polish

Don’t you hate when you’re favorite, go-to nail polish gets all clumpy? Yeah, me too. But before you nix it from your collection, find out why you should keep it:

Many people automatically assume their polish has just expired. The term “expire,” in regards to cosmetics, the FDA says that there are no actual requirements in the U.S. The only concern is bacterial growth.

European products, however, have something called “Period of Time After Opening,” which is a symbol found on cosmetics. These kind of symbols can be found on brands like China Glaze and OPI.

Even though the PAO is required for all European Union products, it is not a factor when it comes to nail lacquer. According to OPI, nail polish does not go “bad” with bacteria after opening (or ever), because the solvents are chemically hostile to microbes.

So, rather than tossing out your old, seemingly ruined collection of polishes, the experts suggest using nail polish thinner. The common myth is just to add some polish remover, but this is wrong. Remover is too harsh to add directly, so opt for thinner that is sold specifically for this purpose.

If you don’t believe us, we’d gladly take your “old” nail polish off your hands…

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Nail Lacquer—What’s the Shelf Life?

Unlike mascara’s lightening-fast turnover rate, nail polish is one of those beauty products that takes a lot longer to use up, but tends to stay in cabinets and counters for decades (seriously—we’ve spotted bottles from the last century). Contrary to powders and blushes that come with a suggested makeup expiration date—check the little icon in the back of the compact—lacquers, top and base coats, and special nail treatments don’t exactly have a mandated shelf life. So when do you toss them?

According to Schoon Scientific president Doug Schoon (who formerly served as CND’s VP of Science and Technology), the FDA does not designate the shelf life of nail polish, so it’s up to the manufacturer to determine the appropriate date. “Unopened and properly stored polish will last at least 18 months, possibly 24 months depending on storage conditions,” says Doug. Real talk—two years is a little early to ditch that half-used splurge, so it’s more important to look for signs of a spoiled bottle instead of relying on the date.


Texture is a dead giveaway for varnish gone wrong. Older bottles typically feel thick, clumpy, and are troublesome to apply an even coat compared to newer, runnier textures. “Over time, some ingredients begin to clump together, making it difficult to remix them,” clarifies Doug.


But like all beauty products, a long shelf life begins with a little TLC. “Your nail polish should last forever, as long as you store it properly,” asserts Essie Cosmetics founder Essie Weingarten, whose famous lacquered lineup includes over 250 cult-loved shades we probably own over half of. As long as the polish is stored out of direct sunlight and in a cool, dark setting—”the light and heat can break down the drying time,” she explains—and the bottle of the neck is kept clean with acetone, there’s no reason why you can’t keep the nail renaissance going and going.

Toss Nail Polish: Tuesday Ten Minute Toss Challenge

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  • 7 Signs It’s Time To Throw Away Your Nail Polish

    There’s no greater simple luxury than giving yourself a fresh manicure with your favorite nail polish. But if that bottle has been on your shelf for a while, you might be overlooking all the signs it’s time to throw away your nail polish. Remember, if you’re totally emotionally attached to a particular shade, you can always just buy more!

    The first love affair I had with one particular polish started just over two years ago. It was a bottle of Chanel’s Le Vernis Nail Colour in Orange, and the first polish I had really ever splurged on. I used it more or less nonstop for the next six months, and one day, arrived at the tragic discovery I was running out. I added a polish thinner to try and extend the life of my dear polish and that helped for awhile. But eventually, I was dealing with more thinner than color and knew it was time to let go of my sweet Chanel.

    I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a tear or two, but tossing that polish forced me to eye my other ones. I was shocked to discover how many goopy, slightly separated bottles were cluttering my shelves. If you’ve never taken the time to go through your polish stash, set aside a few minutes today to see if any need to be tossed.

    Here’s what to look out for (and some new nail polish you should treat yourself to instead!):

    1. Polish That Doesn’t Blend Easily

    ‘Silk Watercolor’ Sheer Color, $8, Essie

    According to Seventeen, polish should last for up to two years once opened, but if it’s still separated and “won’t blend after a quick shake,” toss it.

    2. Polish That’s “Crumbly”

    NailsInc NailKale, $15, Amazon

    If you didn’t screw the cap on well enough after your last mani, the solvents in your polish can evaporate and leave you with a bottle of semi-crumbly dried out polish that no amount of thinner can save.

    3. Polish Thinned With Polish Remover

    OPI Nail Lacquer Thinner, $10, Amazon

    Some sites will claim you can thin your old polish with remover, but beauty master Michelle Phan stands in opposition. She warned, “Many removers contain acetone that can break down the formula of your lacquer and actually ruin it.” Use legit polish thinner instead!

    4. Polish That Won’t Open

    NailsInc Wave Magnetic Polish, $30, Amazon

    Seriously, if you left the bottle on its side and hot water and polish remover won’t get the cap to budge, just let it go.

    5. Polish You Keep “Just Because”

    Butter London High Tea Nail Lacquer, $9, Amazon

    Clutter is the enemy. If you’ve got shades lying around that you haven’t used in years, are you ever really going to use them at all?

    6. Glitter Polish That’s “Globby”

    Formula X Transformers Top Coat, $17, Amazon

    Yes, glitter polish tends to be a little goopier than its less sparkly counterparts, but it needs to hit the trash if it’s especially thick and un-spreadable.

    7. Too Many Polishes Of The Same Shade

    Formula X Customizable Collection, $10, Sephora

    Do you really need Black, Blackest Black, Deepest Onyx, Midnight Moon, and Forever Noir all on your shelf? Zero judgement if you’re just absolutely obsessed with one nail color, but consider giving a few away if you’ve accumulated a million bottles of the same shade. If you like having a bunch of colors to choose from, splurge on a new kit, like one from Formula X.

    Want more beauty tips? Check out the video below, and be sure to subscribe to Bustle’s YouTube page for more hacks and tricks!

    Bustle on YouTube

    Images: Foundry; Courtesy of Brands