This Trendy Storage Hack Might Be Making Your Skincare Products *Less* Effective

published Jul 20, 2021
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

If you’re into skincare, you know how relaxing and restorative it can be to care for yourself with a suite of luxurious, hardworking products day and night. From eye creams to moisturizers to sheet masks, the skincare industry has exploded with innovative new formulas to try — and with that explosion comes trendy gadgets like skincare fridges. Yep, a whole (okay — often mini-sized) fridge purported to keep products fresher longer and protect their often-pricey ingredients, plus give you more space to stash your go-to favorites.

Certain buzzy products like vitamin C, which can be unstable due to the fact that it can break down when exposed to light and air, are often recommended as shoe-ins for a skincare fridge, as are SPFs, toners, and gel-based formulas. But is the fridge actually doing anything to protect the formulas and help them work better? 

The answer is — it depends! “You can’t apply a blanket statement to everything, such as ‘Refrigeration will extend the shelf life of your skincare,’” says Catherine LLeras, the spa general manager and an advanced practice esthetician at Haus Salon in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “The fact is, not all skincare products should be refrigerated or do well in that environment.” 

Credit: Anna Spaller

Before you go putting those expensive serums and potions in the crisper drawer or spending your hard-earned cash on a trendy skincare fridge, LLeras recommends paying attention to the formulas you’re considering storing in a fridge, as some serums and oils could separate or harden in cold temperatures, rendering them ineffective. It’s also worth tapping into how long it takes you to use a product, and LLeras says that if it’s taking you a really long time to finish a product, you’re probably not using it effectively. 

“You’ll often hear people recommend refrigeration for vitamin C products and retinols (vitamin A),” they explain. “While this is true that it can provide a slight extension on the shelf life, my personal opinion is that if it takes you that long to use up a product, then you’re typically not using it effectively anyways and should consider possibly minimizing the number of products you have at one time.” 

LLeras recommends looking closely at your skincare routine and figuring out if you really need everything in your stash and how you can cut down accordingly. “If you have three of almost the same product, you’re not necessarily getting three times the number of benefits. You’re most likely just taking three times as long to use them up, increasing the likelihood that they’ll expire and go to waste before completion,” they share. “You can still be a product enthusiast if you want (it’s fun to try new things!), but just be aware of how much you actually have and if it’s even possible for you to use it up.”

As a general rule, celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau says that skincare products should be stored away from light and heat to retain their potency. In some instances, that could mean keeping them in the fridge! “Many active ingredients can be compromised when exposed to light and/or heat,” she says, adding that storing products in a drawer or cabinet away from direct sunlight is usually best. 

If you’re concerned about extending the shelf life of your favorite serums, masks, and moisturizers, Rouleau recommends making sure that caps and lids are tightly sealed. “It’s a fact that air can break down active ingredients more rapidly, so make sure the caps on your products are closed tightly,” she explains. She also advises washing your hands before you dip your fingers into that jar. “Most skincare products should be formulated with a strong preservative system, so you shouldn’t worry about using your fingers to get a cream or mask out of a jar. That said, it’s always good to make sure your hands are clean first.”

Certain products do feel great when they’re chilled, so don’t hesitate to pop a few sheet masks or your rose quartz roller in the refrigerator for a cold, refreshing treat on a hot day. “Just remember that refrigeration doesn’t make the product last forever,” LLeras says. So if you want to skip the skincare fridge, save your cash for an upgrade of your go-to serum or treat yourself to a spa facial instead.