You would not drink milk that’s a month past its expiration date, so why use makeup to sensitive locations like the eyes and mouth if it’s anything less than fresh? The trouble is, there are no policies under current United States law that require cosmetic makers to print expiration dates on labels. But when good items go bad, their bacteria-busting preservatives start to lose strength and your favorite eye shadow or foundation could transfer fungi, yeast, acne-loving bacteria or an eye infection like conjunctivitis. Yikes.
Unsealed items that you dip your fingers into– i.e. your favorite bright-pink blush pot– have to be checked vigilantly for indications of expiration or microbial overgrowth, which typically materializes as an uncommon or rotten odor, the presence of mold, or an unexpected consistency like crystals in a cream. And don’t trouble with simply removing the top layer; if undesirable organisms are present anywhere in the makeup, they’ll taint the entire product. Mascara is most likely the biggest danger because it consistently touches a mucous membrane.
When stowed in a cool, dry location – not your hot, damp restroom cabinet – unopened cosmetics can remain steady for a couple of years. But “natural” and “organic” items, which normally consist of less potent preservatives, are more prone to microbial growth. And for any item, when the seal is broken the time-to-toss countdown starts considering that exposure to the components sets off oxidation, contamination and deterioration.
Spring is a great time to analyze your appeal cabinet, and to help take the guesswork out of what’s excellent and what’s gone bad, we’ve created a foolproof timeline for when to trash opened products: