Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and finally the sun has decided to show face, which can only mean one thing – spring is in the air. The new season is the perfect time to clean up and de-clutter the house but also acts as a timely reminder that your beauty stash may also need an overhaul.
Beauty can be a dirty business and it almost always slips under the radar when it comes time to clean. However, it turns out that foundation you should’ve biffed ages ago, that favourite mascara you can’t face replacing and those makeup brushes you’re too lazy to clean, may be doing more harm than good. Taking the time to spruce up your beauty essentials will not only lengthen the life of your favourites but also help keep your skin bacteria free.
Here’s the lowdown on the shelf life of our favourite staples and tips for keeping our beauty tools in pristine condition.
Do beauty products expire?
In a relatively unregulated beauty market like Australia where expiry dates are not mandatory, it’s difficult to distinguish when a product should be given the toss. The fact of the matter is that they do expire and continued use could cause a whole host of problems, from bacterial infections and breakouts to redness and rashes.
Fortunately, most brands are great at letting you know exactly when a product expires, thanks to a tiny little symbol with a number on it, that you may not know even existed. This is referred to as the ‘period after opening’ symbol, and it indicates how many months you can safely use a product after opening it.
If all else fails however, we have rounded up the expiration dates you need to know, as revealed by skincare and makeup experts to POPSUGAR Australia.
Face/Body Wash: 6-12 Months
"Most face washes hold up about six to 12 months after their expiration dates suggest. That said, if the face wash has active ingredients in it (such as glycolic acids, peptides, or antioxidants), it will tend to have a shorter shelf life (around six months), as those ingredients are more unstable and may become ineffective. If there is no expiration date on the packaging, I would suggest using the product within one year of purchase to play it safe." - Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi.
Moisturiser: 6-12 Months
"Moisturiser should be good for six to 12 months after the expiration date suggests, as long as the product remains sealed. Like with face wash, this would decrease if the product contains active ingredients like glycolic acids, peptides, or antioxidants – these ingredients could degrade and become ineffective. If the moisturiser or lotion doesn't have an expiration date listed, I'd try to use it within a year." – Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi.
Eye Cream: 6 Months
"Eye creams are typically formulated with fewer preservatives because the eye area is more sensitive, therefore manufacturers typically develop eye creams with the least amount of fragrance and preservatives as possible. This in turn makes them less stable than other moisturisers. If unopened, you can likely get away with using an eye cream for up to six months past the expiration date." – Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi.
Serum: 6 Months
“Serums are often formulated with antioxidant and anti-ageing ingredients such as vitamin C, resveratrol, retinol, and peptides which are notoriously unstable (meaning they don't have a long shelf life). Watch out for yellowing/brown discoloration that tells you the product may be oxidised and is therefore ineffective. If you don't see any of these signs, you should be okay to use the product up to six months after the expiration date listed." – Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi.
Facial wipes: 2 to 3 years
“It is recommended that wipes are used within two to three years of the production date and the pack is used within one month of opening. It’s not usually a problem as most wipes get used up quite quickly, within a few years most of the time.” – Stephanie Koutikas (makeup artist and creative director).
Foundation: 2-3 Years
"When remaining sealed, water-based foundations typically expire within two years. For waterless (anhydrous makeup), the expiration cutoff is typically three years. That said, several factors (such as skin actives, preservation, and storage) can affect this, so be sure to check the label and contact the brand if you have any questions." – Stephanie Koutikas.
Lip Gloss/Lipstick: 3 Years
"When sealed, the expiration periods for lip gloss and lipstick are quite long as they typically contain an anhydrous formula, meaning there is no water and therefore no room for bacterial growth. The infusion of antioxidants (like vitamin E) can also help prevent oil-based glosses from changing colour and going rancid." – Stephanie Koutikas.
Blush/Bronzer: 2 Years
"Powder formulations do not contain water or oil (both of which can shorten lifespan), so they can typically last up to two years if they remain unopened. That said, if you open the product and notice it has crumbled or the shade has darkened, you should toss it! If outdated, they can create irritation on the skin, especially if you suffer from sensitive skin issues or rosacea." – Dr. John Diaz.
Mascara: 1 Year
"Mascara can typically last up to a year if it remains unopened. Once you open it and begin using it, you should replenish every few months as it can quickly become ridden with dirt, debris, and bacteria, all of which can cause serious eye infections if you are not careful." – Dr. John Diaz.
Eyeliner: 10-12 Months
"Eyeliner can last up to about a year when it's sealed, but at that point you may notice it has become dry and not as smooth to apply. I would replenish every 10 months to be safe." – Dr. John Diaz.
BD recommends: Mavala Switzerland Eye Liner and Revlon ColorStay Micro™ Hyper Precision Gel Eyeliner.
Shampoo/Conditioner: 2-3 Years
"Shampoo and conditioner formulas tend to remain very stable in an unopened container, which means they can typically last two to three years. Once opened, they are exposed to contaminants that will start the bacteria growth process. (FDA testing has been done to determine the acceptable amount of bacteria before it is deemed unsafe or contaminated and have placed a mandatory regulation to include a universal open jar symbol on any container sold for retail, so be sure to look for it on your products.)" – Lisa Silliker (director of management at Pai-Shau).
Sunscreen: 1-2 Years
"There are two types of sunscreens: chemical and physical. Physical sunscreens behave more like clothing, blocking the sun's rays without adding controversial ingredients to the skin (this is the largest organ of the body and absorbs anything you put on it). Chemical sunscreens essentially absorb the rays and stop them from going into the skin – the higher the SPF, the higher the chemical level in the product.
"Physical or mineral sunscreens contain natural ingredients that create a barrier for UV rays. Physical sunscreens can actually last longer than chemical ones. It's not the chemical ones that go bad, but rather that the chemicals lose their potency after time, making the product ineffective. Because chemical sunscreens fall under the pharmaceutical umbrella and not the cosmetic one, they tend to have expiration dates instead of the time-after-opening symbol, so look at each individual product to be sure." – Lisa Silliker.
So, what about perfume?
Unlike makeup, the shelf life of fragrance isn’t quite as clear cut. Some scents can go off in under a year, whereas others can pack some pretty decent mileage – it all depends on the alcohol content, base notes and storage. When it comes to longevity, perfumers recommend keeping fragrance out of direct sunlight and storing in a cool, dry place such as a drawer or bedside cabinet. The best way to assess perfume expiry is through a smell test – if it smells different from its original form, it’s most likely off.
Cleaning tips and tricks
The dangers lurking in an unsuspecting beauty bag are alarming; with the average bag containing approximately six different types of bacteria – all which could be significantly reduced through regular cleaning. Experts recommend cleaning brushes at least once a week, depending on your skin type, how regularly you use them and what you use them for.
When it comes to lengthening the life of your beauty staples, storage is key, with experts saying humidity and heat can see cosmetics deteriorate faster, particularly those with active ingredients. It is advised to store products in a cool and dark area and take extra care not to leave liquid formulas in the car for long periods of time.
BD recommends: MOR Train Case.