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How Old Is That Makeup? Shelf Life Rules

You may be so in love with a certain beauty product that you’re tempted to keep it past its expiration date, or broke enough on your beauty budget that you think it’s worth the gamble. According to doctors, an infection caused by fungus or bacteria buildup can be a costly consequence, in addition to a poor performing product as a result of color, fragrance and texture changes. Recommended shelf life begins from the moment a product is opened and can be influenced by other factors like contamination or drastic temperature changes. If you have a doubt about the integrity of an item, best practice is to trash it and take advantage of the opportunity to re-up with something new. Now there’s even more incentive to stay current with the latest trends and turns of the seasons – it’s more sanitary to replace your makeup regularly.

Handle with Care

In her book “Skin Rules” cosmetic dermatologist Dr.Debra Jaliman of NYC’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center says how you handle a product makes a difference in its life span. If an item does not have a pump dispenser, use a sanitary tool instead of the tips of your fingers to scoop out a single-use portion. A clean spatula, brush or Q-Tip are a few good alternatives.

Check Manufacturer’s Suggestions

Although the Food and Drug Administration does not require expiration dates are listed on cosmetics labels, many cosmetics and skincare companies stamp products with a small graphic that resembles an open jar, called a PAO symbol (period after opening). Inside the symbol you’ll find a number that indicates how many months of use you’ll have after you open the item. For example, the new mascara you opened to toast the New Year should be trashed before April Fool’s Day, lest you want to play the fool yourself with a nasty eye irritation.

Observe Ballpark Estimates

Eyes: Your mascara wand can create a fan of fabulous lashes but using it out-of-date can up your risk for pseudomonas aeruginosa, an infection of the cornea that results in permanent vision loss or damage. Mascaras are bacteria breeding grounds that need replacing four times a year. Eyeshadows and eyeliner pencils last for twice the time, so toss them out after six months of use.

Lips: Lip products typically carry a one- to two-year shelf life. A lip color in a stick formula with a waxy base generally lasts longer than a liquid-y gloss that’s applied with a wand.

Face: Your foundation’s expiration date varies and will depend on its packaging and formula. A liquid will last between three and six months, creams have a shelf life of four to six months, concealers and powders may last up to a year. Mineral makeup may last as much as two, even three times longer than their water-based counterparts.

Tools You Can Use

You can print out your own makeup expiration date stickers on your home PC, or get yourself a set of water-resistant labels from Beauty Alert! created by celebrity makeup artist Stacya Silverman. If you prefer to go “paperless” Silverman also created an iPhone application that’s just $1.99 to help you keep track of times to toss your products electronically.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing