Have your beauty products gone bad??


This post is a re-run but since it’s fall, I wanted to run it again. A lot of you weren’t here when I wrote it the first time and I think it’s a very good reminder.

I was watching this on a morning show the other day and had never given it any thought before and it floored me.  I went to Goodhousekeeping.com and was just going to link it but decided to copy and paste it here.  It says it much clearer than I can and I’ll bet a lot of you don’t know these things either but we all should.  I cleaned out my “make-up” and “creams” drawer after I read this.  I was WAY guilty of not replacing enough.

Do a quick check of any woman’s bathroom, and chances are you’ll find jars of rarely used face cream, the dregs of a favorite powder blush, and at least one tube of lip gloss squeezed within an inch of its life. Whether unused, or consumed to the last drop, squeeze, or swipe, these cosmetics are taking up shelf (and makeup-bag) space because we want to get every penny out of the precious dollars we spent on them. But this hoarding habit has a catch: Beauty products do go bad. At best, they stop performing as well as they used to; at worst, they can cause irritations or infections.

“Unopened, well-formulated cosmetics can remain stable for a couple of years at room temperature,” says Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist at Cosmetech Laboratories in Fairfield, NJ. “But the clock starts once you bring a product home and open it. When air hits the formula, certain ingredients start to oxidize and degrade.” What’s more, every time you touch your makeup or skin-care lotions and potions, you transfer germs to them — and, subsequently, to your face. Heat and humidity, which promote the growth of mold and yeast, are factors, too. That’s one reason the bathroom, though convenient, isn’t the ideal spot to store cosmetics. (High levels of airborne bacteria can contaminate beauty products, too.) A better place: a cool, dry linen closet.

Beyond the obvious signs — dried mascara or separated foundation — it can be tough to tell when something’s past its prime. (U.S. labeling regulations don’t require an expiration date on most cosmetics.) So read on for easy, expert, beauty-protecting tips on when to throw away what.

Face Makeup

Toss-it time: Six months for liquids; two years for powders 
Insider info: You increase the odds of bacterial growth — and, hence, of breakouts or irritation — when you repeatedly dip your brushes and fingers into liquid foundation. Also, as it ages, foundation can go on unevenly, creating a streaky, inconsistent finish. “Oils rise to the top, and the consistency thickens,” explains New York City makeup artist Mathew Nigara. Powders present less of a problem because bacteria can’t grow where there’s no water. However, over time, powders with botanical ingredients like aloe or jojoba can become harder to blend and are more likely to crumble, as their trace amounts of water evaporate.


Toss-it time: Three months 
Insider info: “A mascara tube is a dark, wet environment — the perfect breeding ground for bacteria,” says New York City optometrist Andrea Thau, O.D. “Preservatives in a mascara only work for so long.” Dr. Thau knows from firsthand experience: She once developed a sty from a makeup artist’s mascara wand. Plus, three-month-old mascara is a nonperformer. “It’s chalky and powdery, and any lengthening or thickening fibers often separate from the fluid, so the mascara stops going on in a smooth, even coat,” says makeup artist Cristina Bartolucci. To avoid hastening the demise of your mascara, never pump the wand — that pushes air into the tube, causing it to dry out faster. Instead, slowly draw out and twist the brush to scrape the tube’s interior and pick up product.

Eyeliner and Eye Shadow

Toss-it time: Liquid eyeliners, three months; cream eye shadows, six months; pencil eyeliners and powder eye shadows, two years 
Insider info: As they do with mascara, bacteria tend to flourish in liquid-eyeliner tubes, and the product dries out. Pencil eyeliners have a longer shelf life because you can create a fresh, clean surface each time you sharpen them. (Just be sure to regularly sanitize your sharpener with rubbing alcohol.) Powder shadows, like pressed powders, are less prone to contamination because they, too, lack water (if you wet them, toss after six months). But aging eye shadows have performance issues: They get packed down, making it harder to pick up pigment with your brush, says Bartolucci.

Lipstick and Lipliner

Toss-it time: Lipstick and gloss, two years; lipliner, two years or more 
Insider info: Lipsticks’ water content makes them potential mini reservoirs of bacteria. No surprise, they also dry out with age, says New York City makeup artist Tina Turnbow: “They no longer look creamy on the lips.” Long-wearing formulas may have an even shorter life span since they often contain ingredients that evaporate more quickly than creamier formulas. Pencil lipliners, like eyeliners, may last a little longer since putting them through a sharpener removes the old surface.

Nail Polish

Toss-It Time: One to two years 
Insider info: When polish expires, the consistency turns gooey or stringy, says Ji Baek, owner of Rescue Beauty Lounge in New York City. Formulas are especially sensitive to temperature extremes and humidity, so avoid storing in the bathroom.

Skin Care

Toss-it time: Acne creams and other over-the-counter products that contain drugs are FDA regulated and usually carry expiration dates. But cosmeceuticals (products claiming to have anti-aging and skin-changing benefits) are not regulated, and once they’ve been used, they shouldn’t be kept for more than six months — or, if they’re in pump bottles, a year — says Wilson. 
Insider info: “Some ingredients [such as vitamin C, retinol, and hydroquinone] degrade even more rapidly if they’re left in direct sunlight or exposed to air,” says Tina Alster, M.D., a Washington, D.C., dermatologist. Less frequently — but more alarmingly — certain products can actually become more potent over time, says Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, M.D. The reason: Active ingredients like retinol and glycolic acid become more concentrated as their bases degrade, separate, or evaporate. And when proportions change, your skin may get irritated. To prevent problems, store cosmetics properly, discontinue use after six months, and look for products that come in a pump, which helps keep air out. Another option that’s starting to hit shelves: special jars that dispense creams through a tiny hole or slit when you press the top (an internal “floor” rises with each push).


Toss-it time: Six months 
Insider info: Sunscreens are FDA regulated, and though they usually have expiration dates of at least one year, that date indicates the purchasing time frame, says Wilson: “When you open a tube, water may start evaporating, causing the formula to eventually become unstable. Once that happens, the ingredients are no longer evenly distributed, so you may get a lot in one dose, but nearly none in another.” Protect your tube by storing it out of the sun.

Hair Products

Toss-it time: One year 
Insider info: Always close the caps of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products tightly. Otherwise, water and air can get in, breaking down the formulas or causing them to separate. (Good news for hairspray users: Aerosol cans are the best product protectors going, so sprays should stay good even longer.)


Toss-it time: Two years — or potentially many more 
Insider info: “Eau de toilettes and perfumes can last for several years, as long as they’re kept out of humidity and sunlight,” says Robert Gerstener, co-owner of Aedes de Venustas, a New York City fragrance emporium. “Both of these elements can alter notes in a fragrance, which will then change the overall scent.”

Simple Stay-Fresh Secrets

  1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before putting your fingers into a product.
  2. Avoid reinfection. Stop using all eye makeup if you have an eye infection and lip products if you have a cold sore. The exceptions: lipsticks, lipliners, and eye pencils, which can be shaved clean with a knife or sharpener. (Just cleaning with a tissue won’t suffice.)
  3. Smell your mascara when you first purchase it. If you recognize that scent, you’ll know when it goes bad: Expired mascara often takes on a funny, chemical odor.
  4. Choose a cotton-tipped swab or disposable sponge to apply makeup to a pimple — and avoid double-dipping. Going back and forth from the product to the affected area with your finger or a sponge can lead to contamination.
  5. Try Timestrips ($14.50 for 50, timestriponline.com), stickers that “remember” when a product was first opened and alert you when it’s no longer wise to use it.

What About Natural Products?

For starters, they may have an extra-short shelf life, according to the FDA, because their botanical ingredients may be susceptible to microbial growth. (Think pure extract, oil, pulp, rind, or bark of plants, fruits, trees, or leaves.) What’s more, though natural preservatives like essential oils of cinnamon, orange, rosemary, and thyme can be potent, when used at low levels they may not be as strong as synthetics, says Wilson. An added problem for consumers: There’s no way to know how “natural” a product is, since the term is undefined and unregulated.

If you’re a natural fan, consider contacting the manufacturer about specific cosmetics. “Most reputable companies put their products — ‘all natural’ or not — through a microbial challenge,” says Wilson. Request the test results. (If the customer-service rep doesn’t supply them, ask to speak to the technical team.)

Your When-to-Toss-It Timeline

Every season: Toss your mascara and liquid liner 
Every six months: Toss your skin-care regimen, sunscreens, and liquid foundation 
Every year: Toss your hair products (except hairspray) 
Every two years: Toss your powder-based cosmetics (such as pressed powder and shadows), lipsticks, and nail polish.

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10 Responses to Have your beauty products gone bad??

  1. Lucy says:

    thanks… I know what I’ll be doing this weekend 🙂

  2. Tony says:

    Oh golly gosh I hope all mine are still ok

  3. javajunkee says:

    LOL ….I grew up in the 70’s…I bet in the 80’s I was still applying make up I purchased in the 70’s. We didn’t know about this spoilage then.
    I need to start keeping tabs on what I bought when cuz I am pretty sure most of my makeup is beyond when I should be using it. YIKES!

  4. Laura says:

    Geez, I’m really screwed here. With the exception of mascara and the occasional lip gloss, I NEVER wear makeup. If I followed these guidelines, I’d be buying all new products EVERY TIME I made myself up!!!

    Now, the creams? I’ve finally found stuff that totally works for me, and I go through that pretty steadily. And when I found those products, I threw everything else away just to clean out my bulging cabinet!

  5. Tosha says:

    I rarely need to get rid of my stuff b/c I don’t use much that needs replacing often. I’m very basic.. Eyeliner and mascara and lipgloss or chapstick. thats it. I havent ever had to throw out creams or anything like that b/c I only really own one at a time and it doesnt last forever.. And The only hair products I use are shampoo & conditioner and I only own one bottle of each at a time.. I think the last time I bought any kind of styling product was for my 8 year old when he was going through his spiky hair stage..

    I was bad at one time about hording nail polish but that was about it.. I threw it all away because I never used it. I’m not a “hoarder” by any means.. My mom was a HORRIBLE packrat/hoarder. She still is. Her cabinets are so bad and my old room you cant even get in the door of b/c she just keeps EVERYTHING.. there are things in her cabinets from 1995. (lotions, creams, sunscreens) its insane!

  6. kweenmama says:

    I’m kind of bad at wanting to use every last bit of a product that I spent money on. This post is very timely for me. Thanks for reprinting it…I needed it!

    Also, I am so glad your health is improving!

  7. Gary says:

    Awwwwww maaaaaaaan! Now I’m going to have to spend the weekend going through all my eyeliners, creams, lipsicks etc etc etc. Since I have so much it will take ALL WEEKEND! Thanks for screwing up my weekend with this post Joy. GEESH!

  8. Sue says:

    I thought this was a great post to help “remind” all of us what we should be doing 🙂 The one I keep the longest is eye shadow b/c I don’t wear it often so it lasts forever!

  9. javajunkee says:

    omg tosha..once again we have a connection. it took a crew of off and on 10 people to clean my moms old house out. Not even shitting you….2 effing years. and probably 4 semi long dumpsters.
    You want to talk about products gone bad???? My mother had make up that I KNOW had to be at least 20 years old. Food?? we cleaned out 1 pantry cupboard that food had literally EXPLODED. It tooks shovels to get it off the walls and shelves. Just gross stuff. She’s now 86 and lives out here in the same park we do. Her twister magnet is slowly filling up just like the old house. the only break we get this time is there is no basement or attic. When it’s time to do it again..it’s one floor and a pushbroom!
    Holy crap!

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