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When does makeup expire?

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Nurses are trained to take note of expiration dates on medications and supplies. When it comes to their own makeup, however, it can be tough to determine what has “gone bad”—a problem that can have health implications.

Currently, cosmetics are not required to carry expiration dates, and there are no clear-cut guidelines from experts about when to toss a mascara or lipstick. Additionally, your busy lifestyle may have you keeping makeup in various places—in your locker at work, a purse, a bathroom drawer at home—and you may soon forget when you bought what!

It’s important to try to get a handle on when your cosmetics need to be tossed. Using overdue products can cause infections, such as conjunctivitis. Expired, bacteria laden products could also exacerbate conditions such as acne. Take note that the warm summer temperatures can also speed up the breakdown of these products and allow bacteria to form. A good rule of thumb is: If it smells, feels or looks funny, throw it away. No matter when you purchased it.

In order to keep track of your beauty product expiration dates, simply take a permanent marker and write the date directly on the product, or on a piece of tape that can be placed on the container. That way, it will be easy to see when it’s time to pitch it into the nearest garbage can.

Here’s a rundown of various cosmetics and their expected shelf lives:

  • Mascara: Don’t use for longer than three months. Remember not to pump the wand in and out, because that just brings more air into the tube and deteriorates the product faster. To get more mascara on the wand, twirl it in the container. Don’t share mascara with anyone, as that can help spread infections.
  • Eye pencil: Okay to use from one to three years, although you need to make sure it’s regularly sharpened. Never touch your eye pencil (or eyebrow pencil) with saliva, as anything like water or saliva on a makeup product is bacteria heaven.
  • Lipstick: Can last from one to four years, although most women with a favorite tube will say they deplete it in less than a year. Lip gloss lasts about a year. Remember that keeping your lipstick in your purse and then storing that purse in a hot locker or car will break it down more quickly.
  • Foundation: Needs to be thrown away after three to six months. If the product begins to “settle” or smell rancid, get rid of it right away.
  • Concealer: Can last up to a year.
  • Eye shadow: This lasts the longest—up to three years.
  • Powder: Good for about a year.Remember: You also must be vigilant in keeping your makeup tools clean. That means your brushes should be washed with a makeup soap or mild shampoo every three months. Lay them flat to dry. Sponges should be washed after every use and discarded after using for about a month.Finally, one of the best ways to protect your health is to practice what you do at work every day: Wash your hands well with soap and water before applying any product.

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Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is an award-winning journalist. Her book, 45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy...And How to Avoid Them, was named one of the top 10 most notable business books by the New York Post in 2007. For more information, visit her Website at 45things.com.
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