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Wait. Makeup expires?
It’s true. Expiration dates on makeup and cosmetics might look a little different than the dates we check on our groceries, but it is just as important to keep the cosmetics we put on our skin as fresh as the food we put in our bodies.
Depending on the type of product and its ingredients, expired cosmetics can cause a variety of undesirable effects on the skin ranging from clumpy appearance to serious skin irritation.
When cosmetic products expire, some lose potency strength (such as sunscreens which become less protective) while others become even more potent (like glycolic serum that can increase in acidity after expiration and irritate your skin).
Depending on the ingredients, expired cosmetic products can cause allergic reactions and skin sensitivities as the chemicals, pigments, and ingredients break down over time.
While all your skin is porous, your eyes and lips are most susceptible to inflammation caused by expired particles entering the mucous membrane.
Mascara, lipstick, and pencil makeup are the most common products to flake and dry out. Once this happens, that picture-perfect finish is a thing of the past and you might end up with clumpy, matted makeup instead.
Here are some general rules to check if your cosmetics are expired:
PAO (period-after-opening) Marks are graphic symbols on cosmetic packages that tell you how long the product lasts after it has been opened.
The marks are located in a small open-jar symbol with a number and an “M” that stands for “months.” For example, a “12M” PAO mark tells you that your product will last for 12 months once it’s been opened.
This is the most official expiration marking in the cosmetics industry, but it’s not always available. Or, you may not remember when it was originally opened. That’s when you use the following methods to check for expired cosmetics.
If you’re sensing a change in effectiveness or experiencing a different result (dryness, irritation, separation), it’s probably time to toss it. Old products also tend to take on new odors when they’ve expired. Use the old-fashioned sniff test to try to determine if a cosmetic product is past its prime.
In general, makeup and moisturizers that are packaged with large exposed openings (like balms, pomades, and tub-style packaging) are going to expire more quickly than airtight pumps and tubes. The less exposure a product has to fingers, other substances, or air, the longer it’s likely to last.
Dry powders and compressed cosmetics also tend to last longer than their liquid counterparts, as their fluid nature attracts and traps more contaminants. Because of this, it’s recommended that you replace liquid foundations and liquid makeup about every six months.
Now that you’re up to date on how important it is to only use fresh cosmetic products, here’s how to make the best use of your products:
You’re probably not going to use that mascara sample that you got two years ago. It’s okay to throw it out. It’s also good to go through all your cosmetics and makeup, checking the PAO marks, doing the sniff test, and tossing old items at least once a year to avoid any of the dangers listed above.
If stored in a cool, dry place, your makeup and skincare products can typically last 18 months, unless otherwise noted. Humidity and heat can drastically affect this timeframe, so it’s important to keep your cosmetics out of hot conditions (like in your car during summer).
For those cosmetic investments that you want to protect, you might even consider refrigerating some products to keep them as fresh as possible with all their ingredients active.
Mixing cosmetic ingredients through your fingers or applicators can cause chemical reactions and contaminations that you do not want. Practice clean application by always using clean fingers and applicators, and regularly cleaning your tools and bottles with alcohol to keep your cosmetics separate and fresh.
I know, it’s so tempting to buy your favorite product once it goes on sale…and buy a lot of it. However, it’s not really a value if you can’t use it all before it expires. Be mindful of expirations and how long it takes you to finish a product before buying more than you can use.
Sometimes it takes a while to find the cosmetics that work best for our skin. In the process we might discover many products that don’t work for us. Instead of letting them expire in the bottom of our makeup drawer, consider passing these products to someone else who might be able to use them, along with these tips on how to make your cosmetics last. Glow on, friends!