Beauty Expiration Dates: When Good Products Go Bad
You wouldn’t drink milk that’s a month past its expiration date, so why apply makeup to sensitive areas like the eyes and mouth if it’s anything less than fresh? The trouble is, there are no regulations under current United States law that require cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on labels. But when good products go bad, their bacteria-busting preservatives start to lose potency and your favorite eye shadow or foundation could transmit fungi, yeast, acne-loving bacteria or an eye infection like conjunctivitis. Yikes.
Unsealed products that you dip your fingers into – i.e. your favorite bright-pink blush pot – need to be checked vigilantly for signs of expiration or bacterial overgrowth, which typically manifests as an unusual or rotten odor, the presence of mold, or an unexpected consistency like crystals in a cream. And don’t bother with simply scraping off the top layer; if unwelcome organisms are present anywhere in the makeup, they’ll taint the entire product. Mascara is probably the biggest threat since it repeatedly touches a mucous membrane.
When stowed in a cool, dry place - not your hot, humid bathroom cabinet - unopened cosmetics can remain stable for a couple of years. But “all-natural” and “organic” products, which typically contain less potent preservatives, are more prone to microbial growth. And for any product, once the seal is broken the time-to-toss countdown begins since exposure to the elements triggers oxidation, contamination and degradation.
Spring is a great time to take stock of your beauty cabinet, and to help take the guesswork out of what’s good and what’s gone bad, we’ve created a foolproof timeline for when to trash opened products:
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