The Real Lifespan of The Personal Care Products You Use Every Day

September 30, 2015

It happens to the best of us: Shuffling feet in the drugstore aisle contemplating how long to hold off on buying a new pack of razors. Real talk: Personal care items can feel like an annoying expense.

But there are lots of reasons not to compromise when it’s actually time to replace these items. Sanitation is a huge deal, but also, when a product we use daily is no longer doing its job, there’s no need to waste time squeezing more life out of it.

Besides, a toothbrush is a toothbrush—they come and go, and they’re not warm and fuzzy enough to get attached to, so tossing them every now and then should be easy. Here’s a guide to a few everyday personal care items that might need to be restocked ASAP. Look for the silver lining here— it’s time for a shopping spree!


We hate to break it to you, but 60 percent of toothbrushes in communal bathrooms may contain fecal matter. According to the linked study, not even rinsing a tainted toothbrush in hot water or mouthwash could diminish the contamination. So, remembering to replace toothbrushes every three to four months is crucial. The American Dental Association also recommends switching them out after an illness to avoid reinfection.

Contact lenses, case, and solution

Contact lens wearers know that urge to push 14-day-wear contact lenses to the limit. An extra week isn’t that bad, right? Actually, it is. According to Andrea Thau, O.D., an associate clinical professor at the SUNY College of Optometry, as soon as contact lenses come out of the package and touch the eye, the surface starts to break down and they absorb more and more of a person’s protein, mucus, and bacteria with each wear. Stretching the use of lenses and allowing these substances to fester for a long time could ultimately lead to infection.

To keep your peepers safe, it’s also necessary to change out contact lens cases every three months. Going much longer without doing so can exponentially increase the risk of contracting microbial keratitis, a potentially blinding complication.

Pay attention to expiration dates of contact lens solution as well. Ophthalmologist Dr. Sadiqa Stelzner says its pH level can change and become ineffective at disinfecting contacts, especially if the solution has been exposed to heat.


Razors can be expensive, but for lots of people, they’re a necessity. Over time, they do get dull, and not only can they irritate or nick skin, but they pretty much stop doing their job. More economical razor blades may last about one week when shaving daily, while high quality ones can last up to five weeks. A good razor may be worth a splurge, and proper care can prolong their life—rinse blades with hot water after every use and air dry to prevent rust. If rust starts to show up on the blades, replace right away.

Essential oils

The therapeutic properties of essential oils are super sensitive to temperature shifts, which can alter their chemical stability. That’s why it’s important to always store oils in a cool, dark area, away from direct sunlight. Properly storing oils should allow most of them to last for at least two years.

However, steam-distilled oils like tea tree contain certain components that give them a shorter shelf life—only 12 to 18 months. Cold-pressed citrus oils (like lemon, orange, and grapefruit) are even more sensitive due to their high terpene content, making them more prone to oxidation—they’re good for 9 to 12 months. As far as carrier oils, grapeseed only lasts for about six to nine months, but coconut and jojoba stay good for several years.


Even though they typically show an expiration date, vitamins don’t don’t technically go bad—but this date is an indicator of the end of their highest potency. Once vitamins have expired, it’s best to replenish them. However, don’t flush them! They can end up seeping into waterways and harming aquatic life. Instead, pulverize them in a food processor or blender, and put them in the compost bin. Since everything eventually breaks down in the compost, this is totally safe—and some even theorize that composting vitamins can boost soil health.

Photo credit: Dmitry via Flickr

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Dana Poblete

Dana's love for all creatures under the sun (bugs, too) drives her in her advocacy for ethical eating, environmental sustainability, and cruelty-free living. A natural born islander, she surfs when she can, and writes, always.

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