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Cosmetic Expiration Dates: When to Throw them Out

Posted Nov 16 2009 10:02pm 2 Comments

Just about everything has an expiration date on it if it’s consumable, right? Why then can’t cosmetics and toiletries have a time limit, considering we put those in our hair and on our skin? We know they are somewhat consumable since we absorb them through our largest organ – our skin.

Bacteria Buildup

According to the FDA, cosmetics aren’t required by law to have expiration dates, so you can’t just look at the label to know when a product has retired. However, some companies are labeling dates on their products for consumers who would rather not have more bacteria on their skin than necessary.

Be aware that expiration dates are simply a guide to go by and that a product’s safety may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored. For instance, cosmetics exposed to high temperatures or sunlight, or opened and examined by consumers prior to purchase may substantially deteriorate before the expiration date.

Makeup preservatives should kill common bacteria (personally, I stay away from preservatives unless they are plant based), but studies show, that a little bit of bacteria is in makeup even before we buy it. Once you open your new product, airborne bacteria swarms in. This bacteria adds up as you touch the product with unclean hands, and is even more compounded when you use an unclean applicator. Know that aging cosmetics lose their power to fight this bacteria no matter how gentle and clean you are when using it.

So the question is how long can we keep our little ‘miracles in a bottle’, and can we extend the shelf life of them to protect ourselves from infections, like pink eye and skin breakouts?

See the chart below for general guidelines:

Product TypeProductExpiration Period
Make-upLiquid Foundation3 – 6 months
Cream Foundation4 – 6 months
Foundation in a Pump DispenserLasts a little longer than Cream Foundation, because it is less exposed to air than jar foundation. If it has a higher percentage of pigment, such as mineral makeup, then you have about a year.
Concealer6 – 8 months
Powders, including eye shadows and blush1 year
Mascara3 months
Hint: Never pump your mascara; air just pushes back into the tube. Clean your wand with tissue every couple of days. It helps prevent clumping.
Lip gloss and lipstick1 year
Eye and lip pencilsOver 1 year with continued use of sharpening; you’ll know when it has gone bad if it crumbles.
Body Washes and Skin CareFacial cleansers and moisturizers6 months, unless they contain acids like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and beta hydroxyl acid. If so, then they will have a longer shelf life. Try putting eye cream in the fridge. It feels great on tired eyes. Plus, it keeps it out of the heat.
Facial Toner1 year, but if it has vitamin C in it, the nutrients can lose potency before a year
Natural body washes6 months
BrushesWash regularly, as often as once a week with mild soap and warm water, or use a spray brush cleaner – www.janeiredale.com. You can use alcohol; it’s a little harsh, but it works for emergencies.
Makeup spongesNeed to be cleaned after every use. Toss within a month or when sponges show wear and tear.

When applying make-up, here is one more tip: Use a disposable applicator and use the front of your hand as a palette.

Another risk for infection can be from sharing makeup, which increases the risk for contamination. Testers at department store cosmetic counters are a great example of spreading bacteria. I used to work at a popular cosmetic counter 15 years ago and procedures have not changed much. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the cosmetic counter when people constantly stick their hands in the makeup and try it on without asking for help. Please be careful at the counters and make sure pencils are sharpened and tools are used when makeup is applied.

These guidelines are to help keep you safe and give you confidence when purchasing products and preserving them. Like the old saying goes, when in doubt, throw it out, especially if there’s no date.

________________________________________

REFERENCES
Medical College of Wisconsin
www.healthlink.mcw.edu
Tips for Safe Keeping and Use of Cosmetics
http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/975513403.html
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/

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Comments (2)
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Many people are not aware of the effects of make-up used past its prime, a "Period after Opening" date (mandated in Europe) or  that permanent markers are not resistant to oil and shouldn't be used to mark-up products.  It's exciting to use my many years of risk management experience, coupled with my studies as a PhD candidate in Instructional Technology, to start my own business educating consumers. If you have time, please view my avatar video for the "Once Opened Beauty Expiration Kit"  or purchase kit http://www.onceopened.com/home.htm
For the make-up which you did not opened yet (e.g. just bought) you can calculate production and expiration dates depending on the batch code (usually printed both on the container and package).
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