Giorgia Guazzarotti | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Do You Know When Your Skincare Products Expire?

Do You Know When Your Skincare Products Expire?

The Debrief: Makeup goes bad - just like milk

Do you know when your beauty products expire? I didn’t. Until I reached for a long-forgotten Avon lipstick. The soft shimmering pink had turned into an odd, darker shade of rose. The lovely vanilla scent was gone too. Now, a rancid funk greeted my nose. 

Lesson learned. Make-up goes bad, too. Just like milk. So do all those lotions and potions you buy in the faint hope of erasing wrinkles, fine lines and dark circles, and then leave lying around in a drawer for months because something newer and better has caught your eye. Don’t try to deny it, we all do it. 

Problem is, by the time we rediscover them, it’s too late. Light, heat, and humidity have made them useless. And some nasty bacteria may have slithered their slimy way inside those cute little jars!

Grossed out enough to want to use your beauty products in time? Good. But how much time do we have? I spoke to Dr David E Bank, founder of The Center For Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, NY, to find out.

What happens when I use expired cosmetics?

‘Expired cosmetics can cause skin irritation and eye infections,’ Dr Bank says. Scary stuff! But the consequences aren’t always so dreary. For example, an old moisturiser may just cause break outs or not be able to help you keep premature wrinkles at bay anymore. But, with all the money you splashed on it, why take the risk? 

How can I tell when my beauty products have expired?

Ever noticed that little symbol that looks like an open jar on your cosmetics? It features the letter M and a number (like 12M). That’s the expiration date. It tells you how many months you have to finish them all up. That’s if you remember when you first opened them. If you’re like me, you won’t have a clue. Who keeps track of these things?!

Luckily, there are other tell-tale signs. Any changes in texture, colour, or scent means it’s time to toss them.

When do make-up products expire?

Mascaras and liquid eyeliners have the shortest life span and ‘should be replaced every four to six months,’ Dr Bank tells me. ‘Because the applicator is in and out of the product, bacteria can be directly inoculated into the make-up.’ Yuck! Change yours as frequently as you can.

Concealers and foundations last six to 12 months. ‘If the product starts to separate or gets an “off” smell, it’s time to replace it.’ Dr Bank also recommends to apply them with clean brushes or sponges to avoid bacterial contamination.

Lip glosses and lipsticks can last up to a year. ‘But they do contain oils that will make the lipstick go bad.’ To prolong its life span, Dr Bank recommends cleaning your lipstick with a cleansing wipe. It’ll remove the surface layer of bacteria and germs on top, avoiding the risk of infections. 

Blushes and eye shadows ‘usually last a bit longer, generally up to two years.’ Dr Bank suggests you wipe them regularly too, ‘to help keep them clean and avoid the potential of bacteria growth.’

When do skincare products go bad?

Anti-aging creams and serums, and anti-acne treatments last three to six months only. They contain active ingredients, like antioxidants (vitamin C, retinol, green tea, etc) and powerful acne-fighters salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, that ‘become unstable and break down when exposed to air, light, and heat,’ Dr Bank says.

Using them past their expiration date may not give you an infection, but it won’t do your skin any good either. You may as well just splash water on your face.

Sunscreens last six months. Sunscreen agents are very fragile, and they suffer the same fate as antioxidants, Dr Bank tells me. So, use them up really quickly! Keeping them until next summer may be tempting, but also dangerous. By then, they won’t protect you anymore, and you’ll end up with a bad case of scorched skin! It’s not worth it, is it?

Cleansers also keep for six months. That’s how long they’ll make our skin squeaky clean.

What should I do?

Replace your cosmetics often. But don’t be too hasty and throw them out too soon either! Like milk, cosmetics can still be good for a few days (or in this case, months), after their expiration date. As long as you store them properly.

‘Remember,’ Dr Bank warns me, ‘the more a product is exposed to air and potential bacteria, the shorter the lifespan.’

The solution? Store your favourite products ‘at an optimal temperature and properly seal them after each use.’ So, stop leaving your jars open in the bathroom. I know you’re rushing around in the morning, trying to get ready in time for work, but that’s no excuse to let your beloved creams and lippies (and your hard-earned cash) go to waste.

And no more forgetting your sunscreen in the car during a torrid hot day, either. You’re just asking for trouble!

Like this? Then you might be interested in:

Your Old Make-Up Could Give You Meningitis

How To Do Grown-Up Make-Up, Even If You’re Not A Grown-Up Yet

Everything You Need To Know About Becoming A ‘Bronde

Follow Giorgia on Twitter @beautywithbrain

Illustration: Laura Heckford

Tags: Beauty Chat