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What's Up Magazine

Expired Makeup Just Grimy or Actually Dangerous

Apr 01, 2018 07:00AM
By Kelsey Casselbury

That blue eyeshadow that you bought for a night out lingers at the bottom of your makeup bag. It feels wasteful to throw it out when there’s plenty of product left, but it’s pretty old. While it’s always a good idea to be conscious of consumption and wastefulness, makeup does expire—and it’s not a good idea to keep using it once that happens. 

If you think about where you’re using cosmetics, it makes sense that it could be risky to keep using it for years. Bacteria grows easily on products that are used near your mouth, eyes, and face—all places that can be a little mucky when you have a cold or the flu. And, yet, you don’t consider throwing out that face powder, despite using it to cover up the redness under your nose when you were sick. 

Just because makeup looks okay doesn’t mean that it can’t be a health concern. However, the question is whether it’s just a little grimy to keep makeup long past its natural lifespan, or if you’re actually risking an infection or other medical issue by continuing to apply that years-old mascara.

The good news: The expiration date on your makeup is from when you use the product, not when you’ve purchased it. Additionally, well-sealed, unopened cosmetics can last a couple of years before they naturally begin to degrade. Therefore, if you have a bulk stash of your favorite eyeliner, don’t be concerned—it will still be safe when you’re ready to use it. 

Lifespan: Three months (cream/liquid) or indefinitely (pencil)
Risks: Here’s some good news: As long as you’re using a clean sharpener on an eye pencil and you’re sharpening after each use, you can use that eyeliner until it runs out. Cream or liquid liner is a different story, though. Give it the boot after three months, or you risk contaminated liner getting embedded in your eye glands—yikes! 

Lifespan: Three months
Risks: Of all the places to have an infection on your face, the eye is likely the least desirable! The risk of an infection from makeup is the highest with mascara, as those dark, damp bottles are a haven for germs. Once contaminated, the likelihood of contracting conjunctivitis or another eye disease is fairly high. You know never to share mascara, but product that has begun to clump or smells funny needs to be tossed ASAP. Don’t pump that wand into the canister, either—that’s the best way to get even more bacteria into the product.

Lifespan: Six to 12 months
Risks: Extend the life of your foundation by keeping your fingers away from the top of the bottle, instead dripping it onto the back of your hand before you apply it to your face. If you see that the foundation is beginning to separate, that’s a key sign that the product has aged, which puts it at a higher risk of becoming contaminated with harmful bacteria. The biggest risk of using foundation that’s old and contaminated is developing a skin infection, such as cellulitis, though you might also notice that your face starts to break out more frequently, too. Foundation with a spray or pump cap is much safer because the airborne bacteria can’t get into the fresh product. 

Lifespan: Six to 12 months 
Risks: When you brush blush onto your cheeks, you’re transferring oil and bacteria from your face to the container and back (that same situation exists when you swipe face powder across your skin). One of the biggest risks is developing impetigo, a highly contagious skin infection that causes red angry pustules. Cream blush is a bigger offender, as powder varieties get a little help from zinc and titanium in their formulations that reduce bacteria growth. 

Lifespan: One year
Risks: If you’re the only person using your lipstick, the risk of developing an infection is lower. If shared, though, you’re at risk of getting herpes or contact dermatitis. Lipstick is made with hard wax, and after about a year, it starts to dry out. Using alcohol to clean it off is effective, but makes it dry out even faster. Once that happens, get rid of it.

Lifespan: Four to six months
Risks: Again, eye infections can be very problematic here; pinkeye is of particular risk, and it’s very contagious. Luckily, you can clean eyeshadow in between uses by spraying undiluted rubbing alcohol
on the top and wiping it off with a tissue. 

Lifespan: Indefinitely (but there’s a catch)
Risks: Often, it’s not the makeup itself that’s contaminated, it’s the brush that you’re using. You can use the same brushes over and over again, but the catch is that you have to clean them regularly. Brushes are most often made with real hair, so beauty experts recommend using shampoo to clean them once a week and frequently spritzing the tools with brush cleaner to kill anything lurking.