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Make-up Expiration Dates

One of my most commonly asked questions is, "How long is my makeup 'good'?"  I though I would post this list of Shelf Length for various products, as it has been a HUGE help to ME!

Are your cosmetics past their use-by date?

Should you really still be using that dried out mascara? Maybe it's time to ditch that cracked up blusher you've had for months? Eva Gizowska investigates the optimum shelf life of what's inside your make up bag

Come on, admit it. You're one of those people who hangs on to your favourite cosmetics until the bitter end, when the label on the powder compact is just barely legible, or until you can't dig any further into that lipstick tube with your lip brush. If this sounds familiar, what you may not realise is that keeping certain products for too long can be unhealthy.

'All products have a length of time during which they are most effective,' says Dr. Patrick Bowler, a leading dermatologist who practices in London and the founder of The British Association of Cosmetic Doctors. He adds, 'If you keep cosmetics longer than that, they no longer work well and you increase the risk of contamination.'
Unfortunately, you can't always tell a product's shelf life just by looking at the label, because there's no longer a legal requirement to use expiry or use-by dates on the majority of products. According to The Cosmetics Products Safety Regulations of 1996, only products that won't last longer than 30 months need to show a use-by date, whereas all other products don't need one.

Know when to throw

So how can you tell when a product's fit for the bin? 'It depends on the ingredients and the preservatives in a product', says Dr. Bowler, 'but as a rule of thumb most products without a use-by date should be used within three years of leaving the factory.' It sounds like a long time, but what can you expect if you decide to hang on to a product for longer than that?
'Most products are packed with preservatives - in some cases as many as five or six - to ensure that they don't allow bacteria to breed easily,' says Dr. Bowler. 'So, in most cases, once a product is past its use-by date you'll simply end up with something that looks and smells "off," is unpleasant to use and is no longer effective." The worse case scenario is that you could develop a nasty rash or skin infection if the product has become contaminated with bacteria. However, the chances of this happening are extremely rare, because most cosmetics these days are packed with such large doses of preservatives.

Naturally the best?

You may need to be extra scrupulous about hygiene with so-called 'natural' or 'green' cosmetics. These tend to contain fewer preservatives and have earlier use-by dates that do, in fact, need to be stated by law on the label. If you continue to use this kind of product after the expiry date it's more susceptible to bacteria overgrowth, which can cause skin irritation. 'The ingredients in products with fewer preservatives break down more rapidly than other types of cosmetics, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to breed,' says Dr. Bowler. He adds that if you do have any kind of negative side effect from using a product, 'it might be bacteria that's causing the problem.'
Dr. Jean Munro, Medical Director at the Breakspear Hospital in Hertfordshire, is more specific. 'Chemical ingredients such as fragrance and preservatives can cause allergic reactions in some people. The human body simply can't cope with many of these man-made substances. As a result we're now seeing an increasing number of people who are suffering from "chemical sensitivity" caused by overexposure to everyday amounts of common chemicals in cosmetics, toiletries and body care products.'
'Symptoms vary from person to person and may include skin irritations, rashes, eczema, headaches, lethargy and gastrointestinal abnormalities,' says Dr Munro. But despite these words of caution, it's worth remembering, that most cosmetics don't breed bacteria easily because they are packed with preservatives. It's the chemicals in these that cause the countless allergies, irritations and reactions in some people.
Shelf life checklist:

 Confused about when to chuck out all those old bits of make up? Then follow the recommendations below from Ariane Poole, leading make up artist and the Beauty Presenter on GMTV. These guidelines are based on a product that's just been opened, assuming that it's been kept in optimum conditions such as in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight.

Shelf Life: Three-six months

Mascaras should always be used fairly quickly once they're opened because they're easily contaminated by the pumping action of the brush. This can force bacteria further into the container where the moist, wet environment is ideal for bacteria to thrive.

Stick to one mascara and use it regularly so you finish it within a few months. This is far better than alternating between a number of different mascaras, which means you keep them longer and increase the risk of contamination.
Never add water or other liquid to mascara to keep it from drying out, as this can cause the preservative to become diluted and therefore offer less protection against germs.
Never share mascara, as this is the most common way to pass on eye infections such as conjunctivitis.
Don't use the same mascara if you've just had an eye infection, and buy a new one to minimise your chances of the infection coming back.
Don't use saliva to moisten mascara. The bacteria from your mouth may get into the mascara, which can encourage bacteria to grow and cause infection.
Always wash your hands before applying mascara to cut down the risk of passing on bacteria with your hands.
Keep mascara in a clean place. Don't let it come into contact with dust or dirt that may harbour harmful bacteria.

Shelf Life: Three-12 months

Moisturisers should be used up quickly, especially ones that contain essential oils and botanicals (check ingredients on the label). The best idea is to buy one moisturiser at a time and use it everyday. This is more important with natural ingredients such as plant extracts that can quickly lose their efficacy after a certain time and go off. Check the use-by date if you're not sure when yours should be chucked.

Use one moisturiser for the day and one for the night, and use them one at a time. It's a common mistake to buy three or four similar products, open them all and alternate using them. Chances are you won't use them all within the allotted time and they'll end up going off.
Throw a product away the moment it starts to change colour, smell off or the oils and fats begin to separate, which you'll be able to see.
Keep out of direct sunlight and heat.
Try not to stick your fingers in the pot if you can help it, as this decreases the chance of introducing unwanted bacteria into the product. Use a clean, plastic spatula or a spoon instead.

Foundation Shelf Life: Oil-Free Foundation (12 months); Moisturising, Cream or Compact Foundation (18 months)
Again, it's a good idea to use foundation quickly. Oil-free ones have the shortest shelf life because they tend to dry out quicker than other types.

Throw foundation away if it starts to look or smell different or if ingredients start to separate.
Ideally, always wash the sponges (in compact foundation, for example) at least once a week. Use soapy water and allow to dry naturally. Make sure the sponge is completely dry before placing back into the container or compact, or this could encourage mould to grow.
If you want to prolong shelf life by a few months, keep your foundation in the fridge. Otherwise store it in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.
Be extremely careful when using foundation near broken or infected skin. Scoop a small amount onto a plastic dish with a spatula, then put the container away so you don't accidentally contaminate the pot. Use a medicated formulation or concealer on the affected area.
If available, choose a foundation in a tube or pump dispenser. These are good because the product can't slip back into the container after it has been exposed to air. The risk of contamination with bacteria is therefore greatly reduced.

Shelf Life: Two years

Although powder will actually last longer, two years is the longest you should really keep it. After that, it can start to get a bit dry and, in the case of pressed powder, it may not go on as smoothly. This is unavoidable, as powder mixes with natural skin oils left on the sponge. As a general rule, loose powder can last up to three years in the right conditions.

Wash sponges or brushes at least once a week. Either use soap and warm water or invest in a brush cleaner solution, available at most department stores.

Shelf Life: 12-18 months

Stick concealer lasts the longest of any type. You can tell it's had its day when it starts to get dry and no longer goes on smoothly. Liquid based concealers may start to separate or go lumpy when they're going off.

Always wipe the brush after using if the concealer comes in a wand and brush package, especially if you're trying to cover a spot that may harbour bacteria. These concealers are more easily contaminated than stick ones, because they 'feed' bacteria back into the container.
Ideally, use a stick or pump dispenser concealer on spots and pimples.

Shelf Life: Powder Blush (two years); Cream Blush (12-18 months)

After two years, powder blushers may start to get a bit dry or develop a 'slippery' texture, caused by mixing with natural oils from skin. Also, once the colour changes it's no longer in its prime. Cream blushes have a shorter shelf life because they contain more emulsions, which are less stable and break down over time. However, you'll find you use these more quickly anyway.

Wash blusher brush and sponge once a week or more often if they look dirty.
Wash hands before applying cream blush.

Shelf Life: Powder Eyeshadow (two years); Cream Eyeshadow (12-18 months)

Powder eyeshadows can last for ages because they are mainly pigmented pressed powder. Cream eyeshadows have a shorter shelf life because, like cream blushes, they use emulsions that break down over time.

Wash brushes and applicators at least once or twice a week or more if you are using one applicator to apply different shades.
Wash hands if using fingers to apply.
Do not use eyeshadow if you have an eye infection, as this may aggravate the area and make the problem worse. Also, you may unwittingly pass the bacteria on to the rest of the eyeshadow with the applicator or your finger.

Eyeliner and lipliner
Shelf Life: two years

Eyeliner and lipliners are the workhorses of cosmetics. They last for ages because sharpening them regularly goes a long way in preventing bacterial growth.

Throw away eyeliner if you have an eye infection.
Do not use a lipliner if you have a cold sore.
Do not share eyeliner or lipliners.
Keep out of sunlight and heat.

Shelf Life: two years

Lipsticks are generally quite long lasting because of the way the pigment and fat are formulated together. Don't be put off if tiny bubbles appear on the surface - these are just moisture drops and can be wiped off.

Bin it if the lipstick feels dry, scratchy or changes colour.
Never use lipstick if you have a cold sore. Throw it out if you accidentally use it on a cold sore, otherwise it may spread.
Don't share lipsticks
If you use a lip brush, wash it at least once a week.

Shelf Life: 18 months-two years

Lipgloss isn't as long lasting as lipstick because it is formulated in a different way.

Wash hands if you are using your finger to apply.
Wash the lip brush at least once a week.
Don't use if you have a cold sore.

Shelf Life: 18 months-two years

Fragrances carry little risk of becoming contaminated because they usually contain alcohol, which is a natural preservative.

Prolong the shelf life by keeping the fragrance in the fridge.
Keep it out of direct sunlight, and preferably in its box.
Store it in moderate temperature, as fragrance will go off quicker if kept in warm conditions.
Throw away if it changes colour (especially if it goes darker) or starts to smell differently.
Remember that fragrance is a common cause of allergies and irritations. If you notice any odd reaction, stop using it.
As a general rule of thumb, try to keep all cosmetics in their shop wrapping if you don't need to use them straight away. You will extend the shelf life, as there is no exposure to air.

An article from by Eva Gizowska

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