They might have cost a pretty penny, but keeping expired beauty products may have a harmful effect on your skin. Most people wrongly presume that you can keep using makeup and skincare products until they run out, but this isn’t the case. They have expiry dates and you should ignore them at your peril otherwise you could end up with a nasty infection.
What causes skincare products to expire?
Every time you apply your makeup, whether it’s using a mascara wand or makeup brushes, you’re putting bacteria from your face into the makeup container. This can lead to blocked tear ducts, eye infections and acne breakouts. Usually, the older the makeup, the more bacteria there will be festering inside.
What happens to products when they expire?
As skincare products age, their consistency changes and they become less effective. In some cases, out-of-date products can also host harmful bacteria. Expired products often begin to clump up, become thinner or separate. Keeping skincare products for too long means they’re less likely to work like they should.
Anti-acne and anti-aging creams tend to only last around three months because the active ingredients they contain begin to break down when they’re exposed to light, air and heat.
The SPF in old sunscreens or moisturisers will wear off as time goes by, offering less sun protection.
Lipsticks generally last longer because they contain lots of oil which bacteria doesn’t like. If your lipstick starts to smell then get rid of it, otherwise it should last at least a year.
Liquid foundations can become a breeding ground for bacteria because they’re water based, so you’ll need to take care.
How does expired makeup affect your skin?
As your skincare product expires, it can cause skin reactions. These include breakouts and acne-like bumps under the skin. Lotions and creams can also cause skin infections or rashes as bacteria grows within the product over time. To protect your skin, you should:
- Wipe your lipstick with a cleansing wipe after you’ve used it
- Replace mascara and other eye makeup every three months
- Wash your makeup brushes once a week if possible
When should I throw away my skincare products?
Expiration dates vary depending on the product but there are some general guidelines to follow. Face creams or moisturisers in pots or jars are more exposed to the elements so usually need to be binned after six months.
Working out the expiration date
Trying to work out exactly what the expiry dates of skincare products are can be tricky as you have to do the maths yourself. The PAO (‘Period After Opening’) symbol on beauty packaging makes it easier to spot if your favourite make up is past its sell by date.
The PAO on the label will be a number with the letter ‘M’ written next to it. This is how many months after you’ve first opened it that you can use it. For instance, 24M would give you a good two years, but you’ll need to remember when you first used it. If you’re not sure, give it a quick whiff, if it doesn’t smell right (or the texture has changed) it’s time for it to go.
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