When Should You Ignore Expiry Dates? My Guidelines + How To Extend Shelf Life Of Cosmetics

A while back I noticed that my corundum had reached its expiry date. I was about to toss it when I realised that corundum is a mineral. So I asked a friend (who happens to be a senior chemist in Switzerland) if my corundum can expire. He laughed and said that corundum is ruby powder which was in the earth for millions of years, but the cosmetic industry is required to put an expiry date that is not further away than 2 years. 
For the same reason there are expiry dates on items such as salt, honey and charcoal -- all items that last thousands of years. When I bought some charcoal tablets the salesperson told me to ignore the expiry date, since charcoal lasts for ever.
 The expiry dates on the packaging are regulated by laws and don't always reflect how long an actual product lasts. 
Also often we see a date on the packaging and don't differentiate whether it means that the product should definitely be used before that, or whether that is the date of minimum durability.
I often use my skin care for longer than we're supposed to, and I have makeup that's ancient. I felt half-guilty about that, wondering if some bad infection is just waiting to happen. So I decided to do some research.

I was fascinated by this article about a journalist who sent her old make-up products to a lab, where unexpectedly they were all proclaimed fit to use. Huh, I'm in the clear then!

Here are the guidelines I personally use. To be fair, I'm not at all germaphobic, live in bacteria-loving Europe, and am a pretty healthy person, so your mileage may vary.

  • Products with water (aqua, usually among the first ingredients) go bad fastest, since bacteria grow easily in water.
  • Products without water last much longer, because almost nothing can grow well in such products.
  • Dry products usually last longest.
  • True mineral products usually can be used indefinitely.
  • Things that are heavy on alcohol can usually last many years.
  • Cleansers, shampoos etc usually are good longer. 
  • If something changes smell, colour or consistency, bin it immediately, even if the expiry date says it's all good.
  • Pure oils are a tricky thing. Some go rancid quickly, some are stable for years. Usually it's easy to smell if an oil goes rancid.
  • Self-bronzers with DHA should be tossed after one year, as a lab test revealed that with time most of them underwent chemical reactions where formaldehyde was created.
  • Products with pumps, in metal tubes or other kind of air-tight containers usually are good longer.
  • Pencils usually don't go bad, they dry out.
  • If you wear contact lenses or have an autoimmune sickness, be more careful!

How to extend the life of your cosmetic products:

  • Cosmetics that are stored in a cool, dark and dry place are good longer. 
  • To extend the life of your products, wash your hands before using them.
  • Close all lids immediately. 
  • Don't add saliva. I have a small spray bottle of rose water in my makeup drawer which I use to wet my brushes.
  • Buy "dry" products rather than creamy ones, for eg lipstick over lip gloss, mineral foundation over BBcream, mascara in stone over regular mascara.
  • Decant products in jars into bottles with a pump.
  • Store products with Vit C in the fridge.
  • Wash your makeup brushes regularly.
  • Lipsticks that aren't used often can be stored in the fridge.
  • A quick sharpen will remove the old layer of eyeliner or lip liner pencils.

Photo credit: Diana Kadreva on Unsplash

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