It's a disappointment, but there's no need to panic.

By Jaclyn Smock
April 28, 2021
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grouping of beauty products shot in studio
Credit: Vera Livchak / Getty Images

When it comes to our beauty and skin care routines, every product is meticulously researched, selected, and only integrated into our go-to arsenal if it will really work. Essentially, we're invested in every single thing we put on our complexions. That's why it's so disappointing when we discover that one of creams, spot treatments, or foundations is about to be discontinued. Sometimes panic can even set in—especially if you consider the formula to be a staple. But all is not lost; discontinuation doesn't mean that you no longer have options. Here, industry experts explain why formulas get discontinued in the first place and outline the steps you can take and the services you can tap to help you find the perfect replacement.

Unfortunately, discontinuations happen.

There are a lot of reasons why products are discontinued, from new laws to current trends. This past year, for example, the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act banned 24 ingredients from beauty and personal care products in California, which caused many brands to respond and reevaluate their offerings. Dr. Dennis Gross, a board-certified dermatologist, M.D., F.A.A.D., also notes that in the beauty industry—especially in the context of skin care—"there are always new ingredients and technology breakthroughs that brands can take advantage of to reformulate and improve their products." 

Get in touch with the brand.

The first step you can take after learning about a future discontinuation is to "connect with the brand on social media or through email to let them know how much you loved the product in question and find out what solution they can offer you," notes Michael Ahmad, the senior director of global education at Herbivore. This is the approach Herbivore takes, he explains, which is why "you will see fan favorites that have been previously discontinued in our current product lineup," he shares. It's possible that the company will be able to offer you a few more bottles—or, at the very least, recommend a similar formula.

Pay attention to the label.

When you finish that precious last drop, don't toss the bottle. Instead, use it to do some detective work. "Look at the ingredients in your favorite product and find another that uses the same ones," notes Dr. Gross. While you likely won't find the exact same formula on the market—and it's impossible to know exact concentrations—understanding that your go-to serum was full of hyaluronic acid or vitamin C will help you make an informed decision about a new one.

Conserve what's left.

Do you have some product left? If so, use it sparingly; save it for special occasions or be more mindful when applying. Trying to prolong the life of your favorite face cream? "Instead of warming it in the palm of your hand before application, apply it directly to your face. This ensures that the product goes where it should—and excess amounts aren't absorbed elsewhere," notes Ahmad.

Shop discount sites—with caution.

If you absolutely can't live without the discontinued product in your life, your chances of finding it online are good. This doesn't mean that you should purchase it without careful consideration, though. "Many sources for discontinued products may not be official resellers of the product, which can lead to product quality or expiration issues outside of the brand's control. If you do decide to search for an old favorite, shop with extreme caution," Ahmad explains.

Make your own.

Should the product in question be makeup, like lipsticks or bronzers, and you are willing to part with whatever you have left, you have a unique option: Companies like Three Custom Colors can take "a dime-sized sample and recreate the color for you," says Scott Catto, the co-founder of this service. "Once we match the shade [and find it on our archive], we can pull up the formula anytime the customer needs more of their precious product," he continues. The company can even be a resource for those without any residual product because of their "extensive archives, which have over 10,000 shades and 500 brands dating back to 1929," shares Catto.

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