This story originally appeared on ELLE UK

Ever pulled out a serum to find it’s turned a funky shade? Or gone to use a moisturizer only to find its normal smell has been replaced by something a bit more… pungent? We’ve all been there. The season of decluttering is well underway and with it, the reminder that we should be giving our skincare routines the same treatment.

The last year has seen skincare loyalists split off into two paths. For some, skincare cocktailing replaced actual cocktailing with a science-driven focus on ingredients and efficacy, whilst others moved towards the less is more ‘skinimalism’ approach. Either way, it seems we all want to be getting the most out of our skincare routines while minimizing waste (and storage space).

Sound like a challenge? Read on for our expert-driven guide to spring cleaning your skincare routine…

Get Recycle Ready

Before tackling a clear out, make sure you’ve got all the right tools at hand and familiarize yourself with your local recycling guidelines and what materials can and can’t be recycled. Lots of brands have their own recycling schemes so check ahead to make the process easier on you and the planet.

If you come across any unopened products, consider donating to those struggling with hygiene poverty. ‘Beauty Banks is the skincare equivalent to food banks and you can post unwanted products or drop off at one of their collect points,’ says professional organizer Kate Ibbotson.

Cleansing Your Stash

While the term spring cleaning denotes an annual approach to decluttering your skincare, the experts recommend upping the anti. ‘Spring clean your skincare every six months at least, giving shelving and containers a good dust off and also reminding yourself what you have,’ says author and professional organizer Vicky Silverthorn.

One of the first things you want to look for is out of date products. If you’re not sure when you bought something, there are telltale signs to look for; ‘They can start to smell slightly off, change colour or oxidize, grow a film or the oils can separate,’ says skin expert and founder of SKNDOCTOR Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe.

If in doubt it’s best to err on the side of caution, as skincare is especially prone to harbouring unwanted germs and bacteria (that’s a polite reminder to stop putting your pipette on your face).

Then you want to set yourself some ground rules for what stays and what goes. ‘Put aside an hour or so and do a methodical assessment of all your skincare products. Gather them into categories so you can compare like with like and go through each category in turn,’ says Ibbotson.

‘Ask yourself whether it suits your skin and how likely you are to use it again. Be honest with yourself and your lifestyle.’


Deciding what makes the cut is the first step, but keeping products organized post-clear out is important to ensure your next clear out isn’t such an egregious task.

‘Cupboards should ideally be ordered like a shop with new items being placed at the back or in a specifically designated spares basket,’ says Silverthorn.

‘For simplicity, it makes sense to keep all everyday skin products together, laid out on a tray or in a box or bag,’ adds Ibbotson. ‘When organizing think in categories. Store skincare products together by type i.e. moisturizers, serums, SPF, wipes, masksexfoliators etc.’

‘A good option to keep things tidy is transparent, acrylic storage organizers but the main challenge is making sure the storage space is big enough for all your products.’

The same goes for skincare tools; store them upright in a container and clean them after every use to avoid contamination. Cotton pads and buds can also free up a lot of space by being kept in separate storage (repurposed Diptyque candle jars anyone?)

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

If you’re being really good to your future self, the easiest way to minimize your 2022 spring clean is to re-evaluate your buying habits.

‘The first step in decluttering is always to look at what’s being acquired and putting in boundaries, such as no impulse buying, the “one in one out” rule or using up your products,’ says Ibbotson. ‘If you think you’ve built up an excess of skincare products, consider the reasons why.’

Do you tend to buy products as a ‘pick me up’? Are you a serial offender at buying new skincare before you’ve used up your current one? Identifying where you’re buying in excess and therefore not using products will save a lot of time and money.

Starting Over

It might be that you find the products you’re currently using aren’t working for you, or you want to start afresh, in which case Dr. Ewoma suggests keeping it simple but effective. To start off with, she recommends a gentle cleanser, followed by a good treatment serum and moisturizer, and of course an SPF.

‘An ingredient which gets on well with pretty much every skin type is hyaluronic acid, it’s the ultimate hydrating molecule and leaves even the most sensitive of skin plumped and hydrated,’ says Dr. Ewoma.

‘For blemish-prone skin types, niacinamide is about to become your best friend – it supports your skin’s barrier, reduces congestion by balancing oil production and evens skin texture.’

Don’t Overdo It

Too many active products can lead to a compromised skin barrier so giving your skin a chance to adjust to the new routine is important (effects can be seen between 4 and 12 weeks depending on the product). According to expert aesthetic physician and medical consultant Dr. Ifeoma Ejikeme, over-exfoliation is a common mistake.

‘Exfoliating can be a great addition to a routine but over-exfoliating can lead to breakouts, sensitivity and irritation,’ she says. ‘Keep exfoliation to a few times a week rather than twice daily.’ If you’re unsure in what direction to go, consulting a dermatologist is a worthwhile investment.

And finally, don’t be afraid to swap out products when faced with the two extremes of summer and winter. ‘Your skin’s needs will change as the seasons change,’ advises Dr. Ejikeme. ‘In spring you may want to move to a lighter lotion over a cream moisturizer or review your cleanser.’