The Truth About Skincare Fridges: What Works and What Doesn’t | Ask Doctor Anne

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Just like they did every summer for the last couple of years, skincare fridges are making a comeback on my social media feed, prompting the question: Is keeping your skincare in a fridge actually necessary? Will it increase performance or can it actually make your products worse? Are there certain skin conditions that might benefit more than others and if you decide to use a skincare fridge, what are the main things you need to be aware of?

 

Skincare fridge, yay or nay?

 

Join me as I discuss all things skincare fridges and share what I personally do and why! As I am curious: Do you keep skincare in the fridge? Tell me in the comments.

 

 

Is using a skincare fridge really necessary?

To answer the most important question right at the start: No, using a skincare fridge is absolutely not necessary.

Skincare products are formulated to perform their best at room temperature and will be tested for stability and shelf life in a range from usually 5 to 40 °C to make sure they are equipped for temperature changes during transportation and storage. Unless your room undergoes temperature changes bigger than that, you don‘t need to worry.

And if your room does, you should probably invest in improving your living situation rather than spending money on a skincare fridge – these things are quite expensive.

 

Variety of skincare products on a bathroom shelf
Not all products are okay to be kept in the fridge
Image by olga volkovitskaia from Pixabay

 

What happens when you refrigerate your skincare products

Even though the testing for shelf life is done in room temperature, there are a few products that might degrade slower when kept at lower temperatures, antioxidants for example.

The cool temperature can also enhance the soothing properties of certain products, providing a refreshing sensation upon application. This is particularly beneficial for calming irritated or inflamed skin.

Not all types of product are made for cooler storage though, with certain types keeping them below room temperature could mess with the consistency, making them unpleasant to use or even cause the formulas to separate.

 

Geek & Gorgeous C-Glow - the perfect Vitamin C Serum
Geek & Gorgeous C-Glow – the company recommends you keep it in the fridge

 

Which products could benefit from being refrigerated?

  • Antioxidants and Retinoids: These ingredients are prone to oxidation and can last longer when stored in a cool, dark place. Especially Vitamin C products using L-Ascorbic Acid, which is known for being unstable, are often recommended to be stored in the fridge. (More info: The benefits of Vitamin C in your skincare explained)
  • Eye Creams and gel moisturizers: Very often eye products aim to reduce puffiness among other things, and having a cooler product might help with that and might be perceived as more refreshing or soothing. (More info: Are eye creams just a waste of money?)
  • Face Masks: Same goes for face masks, especially sheet masks and even more so during summer. It doesn’t actually change their effect on the skin, but they feel better.
  • Preservative-Free Products: Another category that is often recommended to be kept in the fridge as they are more susceptible to bacterial growth and benefit from refrigeration to extend their usability. If you ask me, you best not buy them at all and stick to skincare with a well formulated preservative system, but if you buy them, keep them refrigerated.

Keep in mind that is never a hard rule. Each product is differently, so the lists here are only meant to be used as rule of thumb.

 

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm
The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm – this one does not work very well when refrigerated

 

Which products should not be refrigerated?

  • Oil-Based Products: Think face oils and oil cleansers. Oils can thicken and separate in cold temperatures, affecting their texture and efficacy. Some, like The Inkey List Oat Cleanser for example, won‘t even come out of the tube properly anymore when cooled down as the texture thickens so much.
  • Clay Masks: Same goes for all clay based products. Their consistency might be disrupted, making them difficult to apply and just a lot more unpleasant to use.

Creams and lotions sit right in between, some will feel better during a period of heat while others will separate as their emulsion system is not made for being kept at cooler temperatures – you will have to see for yourself.

 

Man with a completely red back
Burned your skin? Cool products can feel good now.

 

Are there skin conditions that could benefit from refrigerated products?

Yes, certain skin conditions can benefit from using refrigerated skincare products. Although benefit is a big word here, it isn‘t that there are studies done showing that certain skin conditions have a clinical benefit from using cool products. It is more that it feels good and might move the needle a little bit towards a more favorable outcome.

Skin conditions with inflammation like rosacea, acne or even, as temporary condition, a sunburn often enjoy cool products, and itchy skin conditions like eczema sometimes report a reduction in itch when the products applied are cooler than room temperature. (More info: Treating rosacea the right way and Sunburned? Here is what you need to do now!)

If you have heat sensitive skin conditions like rosacea or melasma, using a cool face mists during periods when your face heats up – when working out for example – can also be beneficial. (More info: The best skincare routine when working out)

The key is the word „cool“ here though, don‘t freeze your products and apply them, that is most likely going to cause more harm than good.

 

Period after opening symbol on a mascara
Always check the period after opening symbol an stick to it, no matter of you keep the product in the fridge or not.

 

What are the Do’s and Don’ts when using a skincare fridge?

Do’s:

  • Keep the temperature consistent between 14-16°C (57-61°F). This seems to be the sweet spot between keeping them cool and messing up the texture.
  • Store only products that benefit from cooling, like eye creams, gels, and antioxidant serums, not everything. When in doubt, try it and keep an eye on the texture over the first few days.

Don’ts:

  • Avoid freezing products, that will mess up the formulation in the long run.
  • Don’t store oil-based products or emulsions that can separate.
  • Avoid placing products in fluctuating temperatures as this can destabilize them. Repeated temperature changes might actually do the opposite and reduce the shelf life – if you decide to keep some products in the fridge, don‘t take them out and let them get warm only to put them back a few hours later to cool them down again.
  • Don‘t expect your products to last forever only because you kept them in the fridge. Yes, the cooler storage might reduce antioxidant degradation and bacterial overgrowth, but you have no clue by how much. Is it a few hours, a few day, a few months? Who knows? Your best bet is still to stick to the period after opening symbol and use your products up within that time frame.

 

Screengrab from the Urban Outfitters website, displaying a small mini fridge for 65 $
Looks cute, but isn’t really cheap.
Picture Source: https://www.urbanoutfitters.com/shop/stylpro-mini-beauty-fridge

 

Are there other downsides to using a skincare fridge?

We already established that not all products are suitable for being stored in a skincare fridge and that the potential benefits are limited, but on top of that let‘s look at the main downsides using a skincare fridge will have: Space, energy and money.

While these fridges are surely very instagrammable, they are also quite large when you consider you need to add them to your counter top. My bathroom is tiny and I wouldn‘t be able to fit one in there. They also require energy, similar to a regular fridge, adding an additional expense to your cost of living. And, speaking of money, they really aren‘t cheap! The most affordable ones from no name brands on Amazon start at around 50 € – not much, but I doubt they will last very long – and if you turn to the more reputable brands, you will pay 300 € and more. I know I spend more on skincare devices, having a similarly questionable reputation for actual skin benefits, but still – not an investment I would make if money was tight.

 

Skincare in the fridge
Skincare with a side of eggs…

 

Do I personally use a skincare fridge?

It might surprise you, but yes, I keep some of my skincare in a fridge. Not a dedicated skincare fridge, it also houses several bottles of Coke Zero, which indicates that I don‘t follow my own advice in keeping the temperature at 14-16 degree – I like my Coke really cold. The reason why I do it is because the fridge is there anyway and has some extra storage – the main fridge is two floors down in the kitchen, so I don‘t really keep food up here, and that I live in a very old house.

My bed and bathroom are right underneath the roof, with huge glass windows and, typical for Germany, without air conditioning. That means during summer when it is sunny, temperatures will regularly exceed 40 degree during the day, especially as we need to keep the windows closed when we are away for work. It is the extreme living situation I highlighted right at the start.

Would I have purchased a fridge only for that reason if it hadn‘t been there already? Certainly not. I would have moved all my products down one floor to my office for storage, as down there temperatures don‘t get as high, and would have put the one product is recommended to be kept in the fridge by the brand, my Geek and Gorgeous C-Glow, in the kitchen with the food.

 

TL;DR

Refrigerating skincare products can extend their shelf life and provide a soothing, cooling sensation, beneficial for conditions like rosacea and eczema. Products with antioxidants and retinoids, eye creams, and preservative-free items thrive in the fridge. However, avoid refrigerating oil-based products, emulsions, clay masks, and glass containers due to potential texture changes and instability. Keep the fridge at a consistent 14-16°C and avoid freezing to prevent damage. While beneficial, skincare fridges require extra space and energy, which may not be practical for everyone.

 

Is a skincare fridge good or a waste of money
Pin me!28

 

Should you decide you want one anyway, here are some options

 

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