Written by: Kristin Adams, Founder & CEO
You know that moment when you open the refrigerator, reach for the milk and wonder how old it actually is? I’ll admit it, I usually have a flash of internal debate if I should even try the food in question to see if it “tastes bad” before acknowledging that there is no good that can come from me ingesting something past its prime and conceding to throw it away. I suppose it’s my own guilt for being wasteful that bubbles to the surface at times like those and competes with my own need to protect my health.
Most consumer products “go bad” eventually. It’s not just your food you need to look out for. Your cosmetics will also expire. You should throw away your cosmetics once they pass their expiration date, regardless of how much you spent on them. Your health is worth more than hanging onto a product that could actually do more harm to your skin and eyes than anything it was ever intended to do.
There are three main reasons for making sure your products are fresh, usable, and out of your drawer after the expiry date.
1. Product contamination: A number of mineral cosmetic companies circulate the myth that mineral makeup “doesn’t expire” because it only contains inert minerals. This is only half of the story. It’s true that mineral makeup with no other botanical ingredients is simply an inert mixture of ingredients. Therefore, in a sealed, airtight container there is very little chance of contamination. However, once opened and in use, contaminated objects such as your cosmetic brush, dirty fingers, and air particles could eventually contaminate your inert mineral makeup.
Any cosmetic will degrade, become contaminated, and expire eventually regardless of how intensely it is preserved. You often won’t be able to see if your cosmetic has been contaminated. Therefore, it’s best to stick to the company’s suggested expiration or ‘use by’ date.
Applying a product to your face that has expired may be stressful for your skin causing rashes, infections, irritation, or breakouts.
2. Key ingredient efficacy: Many key ingredients are most potent when you first open the cosmetic. The most expensive part of your anti-aging makeup or skin care is generally found in the key ingredients. Once a cosmetic is opened and exposed to air and the elements, those key ingredients will begin to oxidize, degrade faster, and become less effective. If you use this product after its expiry date, you should expect that those key ingredients claiming to do all sorts of goodness to your skin will probably not be delivering the results you want.
3. Product application: Formulating a great cosmetic is a balance of delivering effective results and a consistent user experience. When you throw color into the mix, the formula must also include ingredients that suspend and deliver the pigment in a way that is consistent, smooth, and even. The older your cosmetic is, the more the ingredients will have settled, separated, and simply changed. The product won’t look or work as well on your face as it would have if it were newer. It may also not last as long and the color won’t be as consistent.
Next time you open a new cosmetic, mark the date with a pen on the label so you know when you opened it. Then, follow the guidelines below:
Mascara: discard 3 months after opening
Liquid and gel cosmetics: discard 6-8 months after opening
Creamy cosmetics: discard 1 year after opening
Powders: discard 1 year after opening
If a cosmetic company is claiming you can use their product for 24-36 months after opening, the products are generally intensely preserved with a synthetic preservative like Parabens. There is simply no other way to sustain the stability of an open cosmetic for that long without the assistance of highly toxic cosmetic preservatives commonly used by certain cosmetic companies. Alternatively, the long shelf-life claim may be from a manufacturer that simply doesn’t perform laboratory stability tests to confirm the actual shelf-life of their products. This generally occurs with brands and manufacturers that are very small and simply can’t afford the tests.
The FDA doesn’t require that cosmetic companies disclose all ingredients on the label. However, you can understand what undisclosed preservative system they are using by simply looking at their stability and expiry claims.
Right now, you are probably mentally digging through your cosmetic bag and remembering that you have a dark red lipstick in there from the early 90′s and some insane blue eye shadow from that theme party ten years ago. A wave of makeup guilt may wash over you. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for that purchase. Now show that expired product the trash!