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Spring Clean... Your Beauty Cabinet

You Beauty by Gemma Watts is a column dedicated to bringing your skin, your body, your hair ... your vanity, the best of Australian-made beauty

With the change in the season comes an almost intangible urge to purge — our homes. Whether you’re a creature of seasonal habit, are feeling pressured by a super mum on Instagram or just saw one really neat pantry on Pinterest last week (same), the need to spring clean is a yearly phenomenon, not unlike setting a New Year’s Resolution — we all know we could do this at, quite literally, any time of the year, but for whatever reason we’ve left it to this one, rather specific date.

Winter turns to spring and our homes become airy, light-filled and free from clutter. Where wardrobes, linen presses and that one hall cupboard (where we all keep absolutely nothing of note) are usually the first locations hit by our annual desire for cleanliness, the bathroom cupboards so often remain untouched, unaffected, and un-spring-cleaned (technical term). “But Gemma,” you say. “I’m saving that mask for a special occasion!” “What is this word, event?” I ask you.

Get a garbage bag ready. It’s time to spring clean your beauty routine.

Does Your Beauty Bag Have a Use By Date?

You know that funny little tub/jar/container/bottle looking image on the bottom or back of your beauty products— with a number on it followed by the letter M? This is called a Period After Opening symbol, or PAO. As its name suggests, the PAO signals how many months after opening a product you should use it in.

Although this is visible on most skincare, you’ll often only find it on the outer, cardboard packaging of your colour cosmetics. While the dates may differ ever so slightly from product to product, you’ll usually find that both lipsticks and powder products will last 2 years; liquid foundations, concealers and cream complexion products will last 1 year; eyeshadows and pencil liners should also be replaced after a year; and mascaras and liquid liners need to be binned after 3 months to avoid any built up bacteria making its way into sensitive eyes.

Although the PAO date isn’t quite the same as a “use by” and is rather an indicator of how long the ingredients of your products will remain stable, potent and effective for, it’s worth noting that repeated use of products can lead to contamination and overexposure to air and bacteria. This contamination can then lead to skin irritation, breakouts and styes, beyond your products not doing their jobs anymore.

Can’t remember the date on which you opened your product? If you can’t remember when you unsealed and began to use it, it’s probably not worth the risk of irritation. Much like those slippers that have worn thin, that dress you bought a size too small in the hopes of eventually fitting into it or that wheel of artisanal cheese you purchased when you thought you might be able to have the girls over for a platter before 2021, I’ve found a useful rule of thumb for cosmetics is, “If in doubt, bin it.”

And obviously, if you find yourself needing to restock those bare shelves with new products after a clean out, you know the drill here: make them Aussie. Here’s a few to inspire you.


Described by VOGUE Australia as being “at the top of the beauty game,” Gemma Watts has been a part of Australia’s media landscape since early 2012, working as a journalist and MC across the fashion and beauty spheres. 2016 saw Gemma launch Glow Journal, a multi-faceted beauty media platform consisting of, an editorial platform, Glow Journal Creative, a beauty copywriting and consultancy agency, and the Glow Journal podcast, a series of conversations with the biggest names in beauty. Gemma is passionate about sharing the stories behind the local brands we know and love, and is thrilled to be bringing those stories to Buy Aussie Now

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