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When makeup gets ugly

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Wait – makeup expires? You may have never considered whether expired makeup is safe to use, but risks associated with using expired makeup include clogged pores and bacterial growth. It’s important to be mindful of how long your makeup has been in storage so you can avoid these potential health hazards.

Your skin may react to product ingredients if they’ve gone bad or are out of date. This could lead to redness or irritation. If bacteria get into an open container or onto a brush, they can multiply rapidly and cause breakouts or other infections.

Mold is another common issue with old cosmetics because moisture builds up inside containers over time, leading to mold growth. This mold growth can trigger breakouts or other irritations.

Another risk of using expired makeup is a change in the color over time. This is particularly relevant for foundation products. As foundation ages, it can oxidize, causing the color to change. You may notice your favorite beige color foundation taking on a slightly more orange hue — probably not the look you are going for.

Smell is also a way to tell if your makeup is expired. This method works well with foundation and mascara. If the product has an odd smell, or a different smell than when you first bought it, throw it out.

If your foundation starts to separate into layers, or your mascara wand gets dry, consider tossing these products. Don’t add water to your mascara to increase the moisture, since this can escalate bacteria production.

In general, makeup typically lasts one year from the manufactured date, but some products, such as liquid eyeliner and mascara, should be thrown away sooner.

Since it’s difficult to know just by looking at a product when it expires, here are some helpful guidelines:

  • Mascara and liquid eyeliner typically are considered safe to use for three months. Liquid products used near the eye have an increased risk of spreading bacteria.
  • Pencil-style eyeliners, gel eyeliners and lip pencils can be used for up to a year.
  • Water-based foundation typically is good for a year, while oil-based foundation is good for about 18 months.
  • Consider replacing cream-based foundation or blushes every six months to a year.
  • Powder products, if stored properly and free from moisture, are good for up to two years.
  • Lipstick is good for one to two years, and lip gloss can be used for six months to 1 year.

Also, be sure to minimize the spread of bacteria in makeup by using clean applicator brushes. Makeup brushes should be washed every 7 to 10 days.

Following these makeup guidelines is the first step in protecting yourself against potential health risk from your cosmetics.

Amanda Logan, APRN, C.N.P., M.S.N.

Amanda Logan is a nurse practitioner in Family Medicine at Mayo Clinic Health System in Janesville, Minnesota.

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