Asides from buying products with natural preservatives and keeping lids tight, research is now suggesting that simple environmental factors such as dedicating a dark space in your room to your makeup could preserve it for longer. Lots of influencers have even been investing in mini-fridges to store their favourite makeup products.
'Mould grows where there is an ideal environment for them,' Roberta Del Campo, a board-certified dermatologist based in Florida, told
'Moisture, warmth, and food are all necessary for mould to grow.'
And if this wasn't enough to gross you out, makeup and the tools we use to apply it containing these kinds of bacteria are enough to break you out or even irritate your skin.
Products such as sunscreen should last between one to two years, while face masks normally expire within three months, although it's more about looking at the product than the expiration date. If it's gone clumpy or it smells? Something probably isn't right.
However, before you risk putting something perfectly good in the bin (sob) or definitely dodgy on your face (ew), listen up and clean your beauty blender while you're at it...
How do I know how long it should last?
You want to make sure you’re not smearing something that’s taken a turn for the funky into your skin, as not only could it cause breakouts, but remember everything going in your skin carries on down into your body. Like, all the way in. Plus, if the active ingredients have gone off, then those two hours you’ve just spent on your ten step regime could have been a big fat waste of time.
Rather than taking a guess and potentially poisoning yourself (dramatic? Us?) or throwing away a perfectly good, eye-wateringly expensive cream, try them on a friend to see if their face falls off.
Actually, try looking for secret symbols.
No really! Alexandra Jansons, founder of British-based skincare brand Oilixia, explains…
‘Period After Opening’ (the little tub-and-lid symbol that has a 6M or 12M, for example, printed inside it): “Most products on the market have a shelf life of over 30 months when left UNopened.” The 6 or 12 indicate it’s safe to use for that number of months AFTER opening.
‘Best Before Date’ (hourglass symbol with a date stamped nearby): “This is when the product should be used before. It’s required for a product that has an UNopened shelf life of under 30 months”.
How can I keep it in good shape?
These symbols are useful, yes, but don’t take them as gospel. “They don’t take into consideration how you store the product once you bring them home,” says Dr Stefanie Williams, founder and Medical Director at top London clinic Eudelo. “The storage conditions very much influence how long a skincare item is good for.” This means taking them out of your bathroom (the humidity and constant changes in temperature play havoc on formulas) and off of your windowsill (direct sunlight does the same thing). Try Muji for the niftiest storage solutions.
With skincare becoming more active, and ‘unstable’ ingredients such as Vitamin C being used more widely, the way it’s delivered to consumers – and the size and shape of the containers - is changing. For example, smaller bottles aren’t a way of companies ripping you off. Quite the opposite, says skin care expert and facialist Teresa Tarmey: “A big product can lose properties very easily, or oxidise. Go for smaller sizes that will be used while they’re in their prime”. Try treatment kits too (Teresa has some of her own coming soon: Helloooo celebrity-skin-at-home level skin).
Unless your go-to cream comes in a jar, try going for pipettes and pumps: “Some amazing products come in a jar, but with fingers going in, bacteria goes in. And – depending on the ingredients - constant with the air can cause oxidising too” says Tarmey.
Tips and tricks:
- “Label your product with the date of opening” suggests Dr Stefanie “as time goes quicker than you think!”. Trying keeping a Sharpie with your products to mark the date you pop their cherry.
- If a product comes in a jar or pot, use a spatula or cotton bud to scoop it out instead of your grubby little fingers.
- If something stings or tingles (but never used to), wipe it straight off and bin it.
- If the colour has changed, bin it “especially with vitamin based serums, which have a tendency to go brownish” says Tarmey.
- If something has changed in smell (“sniff for a rancid, sickly-sweet or foul smell” suggests Dr Stefanie) guess what? BIN IT.
How do I know if my makeup has gone off?
Because the texture of makeup is so important to its effectivity, it’s actually pretty easy to tell, by sight and feel, whether they’re better off in the bin. “It’s fairly obvious,” says Mary Greenwell (supremo makeup artist of the Laura Mercier Celebrity Makeup Artist Collective UK) “mascara will clog and pencils will dry out”. When you see those changes, it’s time to trash. And not just because they’ll apply badly, but because they’ll fill with bacteria over time. “Adhere to any sell-by dates and chuck them if they look a bit dodgy. I would never risk damage to the skin” says’ Greenwell.
Tips and tricks:
- Change mascara and pencils every few months, or when it clogs or dries.
- Liquid foundations should last for around a year.
- Powders can last for years “unless they get a greasy film” says Mary, “that means they’ve been contaminated with another product.
- Regularly cleaning brushes will help stop bacteria transfer and prolong the life of the makeup you’re sweeping them in.
- Wipe your lipstick with a tissue after each use to prevent bacteria building up. If it’s dragging or clumping on your lips it’s possibly dried out.