Spas in Ireland

Good Products Gone Bad – Expired Cosmetics

By , March 1, 2011

Before you undertake the thorough spring clean of your home in the coming weeks, consider easing yourself in with a clear out of your old face and body products. Chances are there is even more dust and dirt lingering on that bathroom shelf than down the back of the couch.

Expiry Dates
Skincare products ‘go off’ just like anything else. We are all guilty of refusing to part with a favourite pot that is still half full rather than half empty, but ignoring expiry dates on your lotions and potions could land you with an uncomfortable skin infection.

PAO SymbolLook for the Period After Opening (POA) symbol on product packaging to determine its shelf life. This looks like a pot with an open lid, and a number followed by the letter M. This will tell you how long the product can be used for after opening, e.g. 12M is 12 months.

What to Look Out For
Preservative-free products are becoming more popular because of the health risks associated with parabens, but unfortunately they are more prone to going off early. The recommended expiry date aside, bin anything that starts to change colour or consistency, smells different, or starts to separate – regardless of how long it’s been open.

There are some steps you can take to prevent products going off sooner than they should: always keep products out of direct sunlight, putting fingers into pots introduces bacteria so use a clean applicator or airtight pump dispenser when you can, and never ever share products.

Product Shelf Lives

Facial Moisturisers
Moisturisers can vary in their shelf life anywhere between 3-12 months. This will depend on ingredients – natural products will last a shorter time so check guidelines on the packaging if unsure.

Make Up
You should get 12-18 months out of many foundations and two years or more from powders (including eye shadow). Again, take care to avoid contamination in your application methods – avoid using fingers, pump dispensers are great, and wash brushes and sponges once a week. Eyeliner (and lip liner) lasts a long time, as pared regularly it reveals a fresh, clean surface.

Eye Products
Products that have direct contact with eyes (mascara in particular) should only be used for around 3-6 months after opening. Eyes are more susceptible to infection than other parts of the body and need to be treated gently.

Take care with lip products if you suffer from cold sores. If you feel one coming on then stop using your usual products immediately to avoid them becoming contaminated. Lipstick can last around two years, but throw it out if it dries or changes colour. Lip gloss has a slightly shorter shelf life because of its more liquid-based formulation.


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