Letting go can be hard – whether it’s an ex or a favourite eyeshadow that’s been discontinued (the latter’s harder, if you ask me). What’s worse is having to put to rest beloved makeup that’s gone past its expiry date and needs to go – you don’t want to be using a breeding ground for microbes and bacteria on your skin, do you?
The thing though is, most beauty products don’t come with a fixed expiry date on the label like say, your cereal might have. They do however, carry a symbol called a Period After Opening (or, PAO) which is an icon of a little jar or tube with a number in it (which we spoke about while decoding the symbols on your beauty products) – the number refers to the number of months the product’s considered safe after it has been opened. The problem? Not all products come with this marker and to be honest, do we really remember when we first started using that lipstick?
But good news is, you can always take preventative measures (while also dealing with your hoarding problem): simple things like using a cotton swab instead of your fingers, losing the diluting-with-water habit, and most importantly, storing your products in a cool and dry place – you’d be surprised to know your humid shower shelf is also bacteria paradise. And if you thought all-natural products weren’t risky, FYI, those organic and natural preservatives when degraded by air, heat, or sunlight, are an infection waiting to happen.
As general rules of thumb (or common sense, really): if you find the product’s weirdly discolored, runny or lumpy, smells funky, or feels different on the skin than before, toss it out!
To get slightly more in-depth, here’s a list of makeup products with their shelf life and how to spot those that are past their prime.
1/4 Face Makeup
Liquid and cream foundations have a life span of about 6 months, and this is extended if they come packaged air tight (as a spray or pump). As they start to age, they oxidize, change color and the oil rises to the top, making application uneven and streaky – so keep crossing the months on your calendar.
Also to remember: Every time you dip your fingers or brushes into your liquid foundation, you increase the odds of bacterial growth and therefore, the chances of ending up with breakouts and rashes.
Powder formulas (compact powders, loose powders, blushes) are less prone to going bad soon because bacteria can’t grow in super dry conditions – so these last about a year. These also contain zinc and titanium that actually prevent bacteria from growing. Your cue to toss it out? When you see cracks or oil marks streaking the top, the color changing or a foul smell.
2/4 Lipstick, Lip Gloss & Lip Liner
The thing with lipstick is that it lasts quite a while – over a year – but easily attracts bacteria (even more than lip gloss) because it’s made of hard wax. Lipstick also dries out over time – so when it starts to lose its creamy texture, you know it’s time to bid farewell. Long-wearing formulas have an even shorter life span, owing to ingredients that evaporate more quickly.
With lip glosses, the trick is to clean the wand (preferably a silicone one) at least once a day if you want to extend its shelf life, which is about a year. But as soon as it starts to smell funky and look cloudy, throw it out – you don’t want to end up with a rash or worse, a staph infection.
Lip liners (like eye pencils), on the other hand, can max out for up to 2 years because you’re sharpening the the bacteria away.
If you’ve ever got conjunctivitis, chances are, it could’ve been your mascara coupled with your naiveté. A dark, wet tube of mascara is the perfect place for bacteria to thrive, but you can ward that off by following two rules – never dilute it with water in a bid to extend its life (it won’t) and don’t pump the wand in and out, lest you dry it out ahead of its time. Mascara is one of those things you can only use for upto 3-4 months; post that, it will dry out and become powdery which is when you just relent and toss it in the trash.
4/4 Eyeliner and Eyeshadow
As we said previously, pencils will last you till they’re sharpened out (with a sanitized sharpener, of course), but cream and liquid eyeliners, because they come in bacteria-conducive dark tubes, play by different rules – these need to be given the boot after 3-4 months to avoid chances of infection.
Powder pigments and pressed powders manage to stave off contamination for about 6 months because they lack moisture, so if you happen to wet it, you know it’ll soon be time for it to go.