A Guide to Understanding Beauty Product Expiration Dates + What to Swap Out for Spring
Out with the old and in with the new. It’s finally time to trade up and toss out some of your vanity’s most guarded treasures. Start regarding your makeup bag and bathroom counter as face food that inevitably spoils, meaning all your products should be armed with an expiration date. So in the spirit of spring cleaning, we’re zeroing in on our complexion cures and makeup must-haves that have passed their prime and need to be replaced or sent out to pasture, with the help of Dr. Elena Brei, a research scientist and NuVsio Skin Care Founder.
Powdered makeup products
Generally speaking, the average shelf life of your cosmetics is much more forgiving than your skincare products. Those powder-based products, such as shadows and blushes, can stay stocked in your makeup bag for quite some time. Dr. Brei points out that “since powders have no water added, they have a long shelf life measured in years. Dispose of them as they stop performing due to lumping and agglomeration.”
Foundations and concealers
On the other hand, your favourite liquid foundation and concealer have an expiration date of approximately one year. If they’ve separated into layers, or the colour has mysteriously lightened, you’re way overdue for a new tube.
Lipsticks and lip glosses
That lip gloss you’ve been using since high school needed to be tossed a year after purchase (sorry!), while your go-to lipstick can stay put in your makeup kit for up to two years. We know the fear of a coveted shade becoming discontinued is real, but it’s just a risk you’ll have to take for the sake of sanity.
Mascara and liquid liners
In the case of products that “come in contact with your mucous membranes (eyes especially), they have a short shelf life. Be very cautious with your eye makeup, especially mascara. I hesitate holding onto any liquid makeup product for longer than three months and gravitate toward products that have sanitary containers (i.e. squeezable tubes and pumps vs. jars),” adds Dr. Brei. But if you’re looking to hoard a little bit longer, refrain from pumping the mascara wand, as that motion allows air to get trapped inside, ultimately causing an unfortunate buildup of bacteria.
Telltale signs of your makeup products reaching the point of expiration can be an unfamiliar smell, look or feel. Keep in mind that you should be paying extra attention to your makeup brushes, as these tools are breeding grounds for acne-causing bacteria. Ensure that you’re cleaning them on a routine basis and storing them in a clean, dry place. And no need to trade them in every few years, because if you’re taking care of them correctly they can last you a lifetime. So while we know that you’re going to have a hard time ditching some of your beloved beauty buys, it’s only for the best.
The simplest step is to get rid of what you’re not using. “Because we typically use makeup every day, our bags and vanities can become cluttered, unsanitary and we lose track of products’ shelf life. Keep your product portfolio simple so you can track all your products easily and focus on sanitary packaging. The real challenge to the average consumer is the current level of change in the cosmetics and skincare industry. Many new chemistries and blends are [being developed], and each can have its own individual challenges with shelf life. As such, monitor your products for changes,” adds Dr. Brei. The first rule of spring cleaning when it comes to beauty products? You better not have a moisturizer kicking around from your college days flying under the radar.
Keep only what you would consider part of your permanent rotation and find good, loving homes for the rest. Not only will this free up some valuable vanity real estate, but you’ll feel better about streamlining your top shelf. Next, you’ll want to navigate your way through those skincare expiration dates.
Cleansers and moisturizers
Generally speaking, six months is a good rule of thumb for your skincare products. These expiration dates are crucial to adhere to because the active ingredients in these facial fixers can cause a negative reaction once past their prime.
“If water is an ingredient listed in your skincare product, it will tend to have the shortest shelf life after opening. Most skincare products are oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsion liquids and should be examined monthly for any changes such as lumping, separation, or changes in scent after the third month. All of these can be indications of a pH shift, which is indicative of either bacterial contamination or of instability due to a hydrolysis reaction. Hydrolysis occurs when the water in the product acts as a catalyst to break down the product itself, and water is a powerful catalyst when combined with bacterial growth. Products with no water added (oil-based) have the longest shelf life (about one or two years) because bacteria cannot easily grow in this type of system,” adds Dr. Brei.
And now that winter has come and gone, we’re substituting our super hydrators and facial exfoliators for gels, foams and lighter formulas that can hold up to the heat and still keep our complexions blemish-free. Gone are the days of extra doses of hydration followed by mattifying formulas; your complexion is craving a cure in the form of a glow. If you can’t bear catapulting them to the can, store them in the fridge for safe keeping until winter rolls around again. Adapt to the atmosphere, and invest in seasonally apropos beauty buys. Here’s to heralding in a slew of spring-worthy bathroom additions.
Keep reading for a breakdown of which beauty products you should toss this spring.
Forgo facial exfoliators and opt for multi-tasking masks
We’re not saying to ditch your cleansing brushes and exfoliators all together, because these routine cleans are all but necessary, but we are saying to ease up. “For this I recommend staying away from scrubs all together and opt for micro-dermabrasion mineral masks coupled with an exfoliating brush. Micro-exfoliation is not abrasive and virtually undetectable during the process. As a result you will feel polished skin without inflammation,” adds Dr. Brei. So if you’re looking to slough off the surface, but not entirely remove your spray tan, opt for a gentle mask instead.
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