So, We've Been Storing Our Beauty Products All Wrong

Most of us don't give much thought to where we store our beauty products. I typically put my prettier compacts on my vanity for aesthetic reasons alone, lock up my face cleansers in my bathroom (ditto for hair products), and usually leave my nail polishes and lipsticks wherever I last used them (which is probably why I end up losing them roughly 43% of the time). But, it turns out, not storing beauty items properly could cause them to expire faster or, depending on the formula, affect the way they work.

But don't panic just yet. While there are some ingredients that need special attention, cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson advises, as a general rule, placing products in cool, dark places — and most importantly, out of the sun.

"Products aren't really meant to go into direct sunlight, because the same thing that happens to our skin can happen to products — UV penetration," Wilson says. "Free radicals can cause your product to turn colors, separate, [and become] unstable."

Ahead, we break down exactly where you should be storing your beauty products. Spring reorganizing is just as important as spring cleaning, y'all.
1 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
For plain ol' lotions that don't contain active ingredients, Wilson says that where you store them is less of a concern. I personally keep mine on my dresser, Wilson notes that she keeps hers in the shower, and both places are a-okay.

"If your body lotion gets warm and starts to separate, that's not as pivotal, because you're not dealing with actives or with something that needs to be uniform on the skin." (You should, however, be careful about mold or bacteria if you're leaving them in a damp area for a prolonged period.)

What does give Wilson cause for concern, though, are moisturizers formulated with SPF. Definitely store those in a dark place. "Most sunscreens are in opaque bottles and the thing about that is, UVA absorbers work whether they’re on your skin or they’re in a jar. They're absorbing energy," she explains. "So you want them to start working, really, when you put [them] on the skin.”

Another reason to keep them in a cool place? Sunscreens separate when exposed to heat (like when they're sitting out on your beach towel). "Your sunscreen needs to be really uniform in order for it to be effective, because you want it to coat the skin evenly," Wilson says. "If they're not uniform, then they're holey. Those holes are free access for the UV rays to get directly to the skin."

When deciding where to store facial moisturizers, reading the label is especially important. "Sometimes, ingredients can turn brown once they're exposed to oxygen; things like green tea, retinol, [and] acids," Wilson says. "If a product includes a bunch of natural oils and it's not properly preserved with antioxidants, then you might be concerned about rancidity or the oils going bad. I would take more precautions than not."
2 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Hair Products
Shampoos, conditioners, styling treatments — these are all good to keep in your shower, says Wilson (which is where you were probably storing them anyway), especially if you're using them often enough. "If that’s your go-to, it doesn’t really matter, because you’re going to go through it and you don’t have to worry about the shelf life," she says.

But if it's something that you only use occasionally (like a treatment mask), she notes that it's good to keep it somewhere in a closet or a drawer — away from moisture and direct heat — because it could affect the product's emulsion and formula.
3 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Powdered products
With pigmented powdered products, like blushes, foundations, and eyeshadows, the main preventative aim should be protecting the color.

"If it's in the sun [and a clear container], that can impact the formula. Then, you risk the chance of the colors fading over time, because the UV is basically damaging the pigment," says Wilson.

We understand that it's not really practical to keep everything out of the bathroom because, let's be honest, that's where most of the beauty magic goes down. But even throwing them in a drawer, under the sink, or in a makeup bag that sits on your counter (rather than by a window), will help you out in the long run.
4 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Liquid Foundation
Wilson notes that when she's testing the stability of products, she typically tests a room-temperature sample versus a refrigerated one. What she's found: refrigerated ones are slower to react — they "go bad" slower.

If fridge preservation really isn't your thing (or you just don't have the space), Wilson advises keeping them in a makeup bag in a drawer. This preventative measure helps save the product from breaking down prematurely. Another thing to keep in mind is the packaging: "The more tightly sealed and airtight the container, the better it is overall," says Wilson.
5 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Perfumes are another product that can benefit from being stored in the fridge, Wilson says. Though the breakdown process will happen eventually, the colder temps help slow the process.

"[Fragrances] are fickle — they are made of up to 100 different tiny components — and those components can be very sensitive," she says. "So, if you like the fragrance and you don't want it to shift, I would recommend you not keep it in the bathroom...and because [most bottles] are clear, don't keep it in direct sunlight."
6 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Makeup Brushes
You've got free range to store brushes anywhere...except out in the open in your bathroom. "They can absorb moisture, and since moisture often breeds bacteria, you have to be careful," Wilson says. "If you do keep them in a bathroom, keep them in an airtight bag."
7 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
The main concern for lip products — specifically lipsticks — is the prospect of the product melting. As long as you're not keeping them in a place that reaches sauna-level, rainforest-like temps, you should be good, says Wilson.
8 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
As long as you're keeping mascara and most eye products tightly sealed, only one thing poses a threat to their well-being. "The containers are pretty good [about] light not getting in," explains Wilson. "Because its pigments are suspended, you do want to keep it away from the heater."
9 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Nail Polish
Wilson says that nail polish is one of the most unstable products ever invented (don't shoot the messenger, people). The colors are going to separate eventually, regardless of where you choose to store it.

This is one of those items where refrigerator storage could help, but the problem with that, Wilson says, is the texture becomes really thick — to the point where you can no longer use it. She recommends tossing them in a dark drawer, instead.
10 of 10
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Beauty