NEW YORK (AP) — Don't know where to start on the "clean-the-clutter" New Year's Resolution?

Your cosmetics case or medicine cabinet would be good since gratification can come in minutes instead of the hours it would take to organize your closet or wade through boxes in the garage.

Linda Wells, editor in chief of Allure magazine, is on board. "When I open my medicine cabinet, an avalanche comes out. It's nice to have a clean cabinet and not have to wear a hard hat."

She's going to start with clumpy mascara, foundation that shows signs of separation and any perfume that's cloudy instead of clear. Then out goes the fuchsia lipstick that doesn't look good now nor when she first tried it months ago.

"If something doesn't look good today, yesterday or last year, then it's never going to look good. Give it up," Wells said.

Many people keep their beauty products in the bathroom, one of the worst places for them because heat and humidity decrease shelf life, she noted. And you need to pay attention to when something is opened — even if it's used only once and then tucked back into the drawer for months.

"Oxygen is what starts the clock ticking," Wells said.

So that you don't end up tossing expensive products because you can't finish in time, Wells suggested buying smaller jars and bottles, even if it doesn't seem economical at first blush. But you'll pay for wearing a mascara that irritates your eyes because of bacteria, or wasting your time with skin-care products that no longer have active ingredients.

Most products have a use-by date printed on them, or at least give a time table of use, indicating a product is good for six months or a year, for example, said dermatologist Dr. Neil Sadick, a clinical professor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. It's efficacy that usually goes first, he said.

There could be a risk in bacteria, especially with direct-contact products such as lipstick and eye makeup, but he said he rarely sees an infection from skin-care products.

Wells noted, however, that performance can be adversely affected from some skin products that actually grow stronger over time, such as the acids in glycolic peels. Many of the other ingredients in the peel will evaporate, but the acid won't, she explained, leaving it a higher concentration.

The beauty brand Lush uses botanicals in its products, and the balance — and freshness — of the ingredients is very important, said Helen Ambrosen, the arts and sciences coordinator. "Where we are creating products that are fresh, it gives the ingredients the best possible chance to benefit the skin and hair. Using fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs, and putting them straight into the product, the levels have to be just right."

Spoilage would change the composition.

Because the goal is to limit use of synthetics, Lush recommends some items, including its face mask, be refrigerated. The mask includes almost 15 percent of fresh grapes — a recognized antioxidant. That "recipe" wouldn't be possible in a product with a room-temperature shelf life longer than a few weeks, Ambrosen said.

It's sold in a 4-ounce size. "We do consider what sort of portion size would be best considering a product, a skin type and shelf life," said Ambrosen, also a company co-founder. "We wouldn't advise you keep anything too long. It will get moldy and it will smell straight from the pot."

Allure's Wells agreed that a foul odor is a telltale sign to toss a beauty product. Her other tips:

  • Dried mascara can't be revived. Adding a drop of water will almost surely result in raccoon eyes.

  • Blush tends to last longer than other color cosmetics, especially powder formulas. Liquids are more prone to separation — and a streaky effect.

  • Eyeliner pencils stay fresh because each time they're sharpened, you're peeling back a fresh layer.

  • Makeup sponges are supposed to be disposable so buy cheap ones and change often so you don't introduce bacteria from the face into the makeup.