What Belongs in Your Medicine Cabinet?

If we peeked in your medicine cabinet, what would we find? Expired prescriptions? Damp toothbrushes? Find out what belongs in your bathroom, and what doesn't, with this medicine cabinet cheat sheet.

If we snuck a peek, would we find expired prescriptions? Stuff too delicate for all that dampness? Find out what belongs—and what doesn’t—with this medicine cabinet cheat sheet.

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Fragrances tend to have a long shelf life—literally. "Often perfume oil is dissolved in alcohol, so it lasts for a long time, even in a humid environment like a medicine cabinet," explains Philip Hagen, MD, vice chair of the division of preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic.

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Think about it: You pluck ingrown hairs with the tweezers and cut your toenails with those clippers. Do you really want them resting next to cotton balls and Q-tips?

"It’s best to store each in its own separate plastic receptacle, to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria," advises Dr. Hagen. He recommends washing clippers, tweezers, and scissors with soap and water before and after use, and disinfecting them with alcohol if you puncture the skin or draw blood.

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Surprise—it’s smarter to keep your toothbrush in your medicine cabinet than on your sink top, says Dr. Hagen. Though it’ll take a little longer to dry out, it’ll be less exposed to the germs and other yucky stuff that are circulating in your bathroom air.

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Rx pill bottle

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Oh, the irony: Medicine—both the Rx and OTC kinds—should not be stored in the medicine cabinet.

"It’s the worst place to keep pills because of the heat and humidity, which can speed up deterioration and make drugs less effective," explains Joe Graedon, MS, a pharmacologist and co-author of Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

Stash your drugs in a cool, dry spot out of reach of children.

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Face cream

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There’s no harm in stashing your lotions and potions—even prescription ones—in here. As long as the lids are on tight, "topical products are pretty sturdy," says Neal Shultz, MD, a New York City–based dermatologist. You don’t even have to worry much about expiration dates.

"If there’s any change in color, consistency, or scent, then you know it’s gone bad," Dr. Shultz explains. Otherwise, keep on using it!

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Birth control

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Deterioration is not a big concern with birth control because it usually comes in a blister pack, which keeps it safe from the heat and humidity, according to Graedon. Also, prescriptions you use regularly (like the Pill) don’t have as big of a risk as other meds because you finish them before they start to break down.

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