Monday, November 18, 2013


I don't claim to be an expert, but apparently some beauty bloggers do - even renowned magazine editors make such claims. I read entirely incorrect, speculative, and ridiculous things on a regular basis. None of them are based on facts. Facts would require data showing that the quality, smell, or effectiveness of a product have suffered with time. Bacteria counts would be convincing.

I saw the latest nonsense a few days ago on Twitter: a claim that 18 months is the absolute bitter end for all beauty products. Throw them out; buy more. What rubbish! Is it intended to generate more revenue for cosmetics companies?

Let's get a few things straight. I'll start with my own observations. I used my first Chantecaille Tiger in the Wild palette for three years. It was only when I had worn through the last trace of the top-level shades that I turned to palette #2, which has been waiting in storage for me for more than two years.  Did I ever have a negative reaction from using it? Of course not. It is stored in good conditions; I use "relatively" clean brushes"; I always close the palette after using it; and it's powder.

I have found that powder products are virtually indestructible. Mine last forever. The same cannot be said for lipstick/lip gloss and face creams. Depending on how you have used or stored them - and how long - they can go bad. Do they always? No.

An unused lipstick or lip gloss will last for many years unless you mistreat it. Once you start to use a lip product, it will be exposed to bacteria. The shortest time I have ever had one "go bad" was 12 months. It was a gloss. More typically, they last a few years before they start to get "funky." How can you tell they are past their prime? A coating on the surface or a change in fragrance are telltale signs. More often than not, they dry out.

Skin care is a whole "nother" thing. However, it still lasts much longer than many "experts" will acknowledge. I am using a jar of Crème de la Mer that I have had for two years. It's fine. I do make sure my fingers are clean when I "dip in." After 5-7 years, I did have a La Mer Eye Concentrate turn to fluid. It started life as a cream. When I opened it to look recently, I found a liquid with particles floating in it. Gross and gone!

Perricone MD makes some products that turn rancid pretty quickly. I've mentioned that recently. My Nutritive Cleanser turned rancid in eight months. I've purchased Cold Plasma products that turned on the shelf before my purchase. They went right back to the store. It's really stupid to store skin care under the hot, bright lights of display cases.

I do try to use my skin care as rapidly as possible, but I'm not giving up my La Mer Crème any time soon. It may live another year - or more.

Mascara should be recycled frequently. It doesn't go bad, exactly, but it gets gloppy. You will know when it's time to toss it and open another tube. I do that about every month, but will admit to staying with a tube for up to two months - as long as it doesn't get gloppy. When it starts to dry out, it has to go.

My whole point is that there is no universal rule. If you read one, write that blogger or editor off unless s/he provide scientific evidence to back up those opinions. I'll disclose that my opinions - the ones stated here - are based on my own personal experience and common sense. I can't afford to sponsor research studies - or throw out perfectly good products because some "expert" said I should.

Photo at top courtesy of Chantecaille


Veronica said...

Great post!!! I completely agree with everything you wrote.....Use good judgment! If something looks funny or has an unusual odor- throw it out. No need to follow the "rules." Use common sense. We spend a lot of money on our beauty products to throw them out after a year or year and a half. I too still use my Chantecaille Tiger palette and it is in perfect condition.

Anonymous said...

Great post, I agree with what your saying!
I'm still using my NARS Hanamichi palette I've had for two years. If you clean your brushes regularly and dispose of the extra powder your palette will last quite a while.
Apparently with eye-liners and mascara you're suppose to discard after 6-9months cause of bacteria growth. But then again mascara tends to go gloppy real quick.
Mostly it's down to judgement and common sense not facts from some so-called expert, if a cream lost it all it's texture and went watery would you still put it on your face? Same goes for if a lipgloss has a rancid smell would you still put it on your lips? The answer is no, toss it away and buy a fresh one. I mean unless you need a million of the same product then don't buy back up supplies chances are it will just sit in your cupboard collecting dust.
Sorry to rant on and on :)
Have a nice day CG


BooBooNinja said...

*fist pump*
I stand with you.

I've looked but I can't find definitive makeup expiration dates. I take the common sense approach with makeup. Anything wet and goes near mucous membranes is tossed far earlier than something dry and anaerobic product. I toss my mascara within three months or when the texture/fragrance changes, whichever comes first. Lip gloss grosses me out because of the germ transfer. If I ever start wearing gloss, I'd likely keep it no longer than 4-6 months. Finally, I keep my one bottle of liquid foundation in the fridge to slow down degradation.

My health is important but it doesn't mean I'll let companies and "experts" manipulate me.

grlnxdor said...

I totally agree with you CG on all points. Powder eyeshadow, especially, lasts forever. I have an original blue green Maybelline eyeshadow circa 1972 that I bought at an estate sale several years ago. It was all the rage back then, but sadly I was not allowed to wear it because of my age. Who knows, I might just wear it someday.

Unknown said...

I agree with you. Honestly, I feel that these "shelf life dates" are nothing but a means to get people to throw away good stuff and buy more and thus fill the coffers of the cosmetic companies. I have some Lancome and Arden shadows that are over 2 years old and still going strong. Thanks for writing this post....its really needed to clear misconceptions :)

makeupremastered said...

There you go again - level headed good advise!

Claire said...

Well said, CG! My sister used to work cosmetics/consumer product company and now for fragrance/flavor industry. She is a chemist. She often said that many many times, expiration date of a product is way sooner than when a product has physically gone bad, mostly due to LIABILITY if nothing else. Yes, of course, they do testings for shelf life but ultimately, expiration date often does not have any scientific bearing whatsoever. I trust her and it's not rocket science that anyone who use any cosmetics/consumer products daily can tell when a product really has gone bad.

buthekitchensink said...

Yes finally common sense! I hate reading about those "rules" I've never had a powder product gone bad, I'm not even sure this could even happen. One of my Guerlain Meteorites is almost 10 years old! and it still looks (and smells) exactly like the time I first bought it. The rest well you usually can see it or smell it as you say!

Eileen said...

Common sense and good hygiene can go a long way towards maintaining the safety of cosmetics. The vast majority of products contain preservatives which keep the products stable for a substantial period of time, but those preservatives will eventually degrade. Exposure to air and light will also degrade many "actives" in skincare products, so even though they're still safe, they're no longer effective. In general, how quickly a product deteriorates will depend on how we care for our products and our own level of personal hygiene. Do we start with clean hands and face? Do we use clean tools for application? Do we keep product containers clean, tightly closed, and stored in a clean, cool, dry environment? Yes, to all that? Then we can probably safely go well beyond the suggested expiration dates. Sometimes; however, despite our best efforts, a product will spoil quickly. If the color changes, the product separates, an off odor develops, the texture changes---toss it! As we've all said, it is common sense. Unfortunately, it's amazing how many people lack just that and so we have expiration dates to guide them.

I think many of the guidelines for tossing products assume the worst case scenario. Repeatedly dipping a dirty brush or sponge into a product introduces bacteria, virus, mites (ugh!), dead skin, sweat, etc. into a product at an alarming rate. In the case of lip products, you can add saliva and perhaps herpes simplex to that list. No wonder some of us get the jitters when we approach a Sephora tester! LOL. I actually saw a young lady moisten her finger with her saliva and stroke it across a cake eyeliner. Would you want to apply someone's spit to your eyes? Of course not. And yes, I did speak kindly to the young lady about what she had done.

In general, I toss mascara after 2-3 months, lipgloss after a year, lipstick and other cream/liquid products after 1-2 years, powders when the scent, texture, etc. change. And, I'll toss anything if it no longer suits me or if it no longer interests me. Personally, I don't understand why someone would want to hang on to a product for years and years unless they're a collector or blogger. Formulations, colors, finishes, textures, etc. keep changing and there's always something fresh and modern to try. For me, that's the fun of makeup.

By the way, several of you have mentioned gloppy mascara. Often the problem is the wand and not the actual mascara. Some of the product dries a bit on the wand every time you use it and eventually builds up to a thick and gloppy state. I periodically spray the wand with a disinfecting daily cleaner and wipe the brush clean. It's like opening a new tube of mascara.

Nemo said...

You are so right, Cg. I still have--and use--my mom's and grandmother's CHANEL blushes, the original ones from so long ago. They work just great, thank you. Ditto lipsticks, eye shadows, and what have you. I treasure them. Even when its romance with me is over, I don't get shed of it (Hi, Charlie!); rather, I keep it and cherish it more.

Melanie said...

Great post! I agree with you wholeheartedy! I am shocked sometimes at how short a must-use-by-once-opened date some products now have. My dear mother has committed every cosmetic crime possible, and she has never once had an issue. Despite her example, I tend to be more cautious. I treat my products well -- store them in good conditions, use them hygienically -- and I find that they last. Mascara is the only thing that I replace in a set schedule.

Mamavalveeta03 said...

Thank you, CG, for being a voice of reason on this subject. I've often thought, (without clear scientific evidence, however)that my cosmetics clearly outlasted the so-called experts advised limits on longevity. It seemed a ridiculous waste of money to throw out a perfectly good palette, lipstick, or otherwise, without it being obviously "off." Thank goodness my thriftiness prevailed!! Great post!

Unknown said...

Can I get an Amen Sister! I so agree with you. I am so tired of being dictated to by the industry and self appointed know-it-alls. lol. I clean my brushes every single use with Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner. I admit that I might be a tad obsessive. I use a spatula for creams and not my fingers. I sanitize my makeup about every 6-8 weeks with Beauty So Clean Sanitizing Spray. My favorite red lipstick is a limited edition Chanel. Chanel Premier Rouge First Red. I think it came out in 2001. I savor it for the true beauty that it is. Had I known that it was LE and never to be seen again, I would have purchased backups. Plural! There is no change in smell, texture, or performance.

Unknown said...

Well stated, CG! As with anything, expiration dates/advice is a good reference point but common sense and individual use/storage accounts for when to toss and when to save.
I am more concerned with mascara, lipsticks/gloss and balms, and most all skin care items for contamination and ingredient break-down or rancidity. Some of these bloggers and beauty editors simply give bad advice without disclosing facts.
Your input and personal observation is better advice than most. I agree and applaud your setting the record straight with common sense consumer observation!

Lynn said...

You are sooo right !!! I totally your blogs!

Anonymous said...

Love it!!!! Someone talking sense at last.

Here in the UK and also Europe the companies were made to put use by dates on products. You get the very weird 6,12,18,24,36 months as a tiny symbol on the box. I keep telling people if they wanted us to use properly they then would have a proper use by date on products. Made 20/11/13 use by 20/11/14. None of the products are air tight most of the time anyway. How long have they sat on the store's shelf?

Mascara I use until its dried out. I have never had a eye infection yet.

I too have pots of unopened cream sit for a few years before I get round to using them, and I have sensitive skin. Guess what, no reaction when I do use them. Yet you get people going on at you as if you will catch the Black Death for keeping and using past the sale by date. Rubbish!!!!

I am so please someone has finally told the truth. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this CG. I often wonder about expiration dates specially with powder products. My 2 and a half year old palette is still as buttery to use as the first time I opened it. I don't think it has expired yet and your post justified my thought.

Bonnie C. said...

Thank you so much for this post! You always have such clear, useful, and unique information to impart to us, and I'm so glad you addressed this topic (you are the first I have ever seen do so). I agree completely, I've continued to use perfectly good powder products for years, it seemed wasteful to throw them away, and so far I haven't had any issues. I also agree that if a product has clearly "turned", dried out, or has an odd smell, than it is likely time to go, but otherwise continue to enjoy! :-) Thanks so much for this great post!

Gllenado said...

Bravo for this common sense article!

Lisa said...

Great post CG. I have a medical background and get annoyed by blanket statements and ridiculous expiration dates that fly in the face of the common sense you have outlined. Well done!!

Elysse said...

Very well put! I do the same. I treat all my make-up and skincare items with care and I've had them for years. I am careful with the quality of what I buy, it goes without saying that I am going to make sure they maintain their good quality. I even have a gel eye liner from Shu Uemura that I've had for close to four years now and is still perfectly fine. I have super sensitive eyes; if anything was wrong with it, I would know.

Have a great day!