You always try to avoid eating food after it’s use by date, and you always wash your hands after touching something gross – so why do so many of us apply cosmetics with brushes that haven’t been washed for weeks, or use makeup products that are past their expiry dates?
When we can’t see ‘dirt’ on our makeup, we assume it’s clean and safe to use. But makeup, particularly liquid makeup, is something of a bacteria trap. And we apply cosmetics onto our lips, and around our eyes. Eek!
There’s no use by date on makeup products, but if you’re in the EU, you’ll notice that almost all your cosmetics have a little symbol that looks like a pot of makeup with the lid taken off. Printed on the symbol is a number followed by the letter M. This refers to the ‘period-after-opening’, or the number of months you can use a product after it’s been opened without the risk of harm.
If you’re not in the EU, or would prefer to follow some more general rules about makeup expiry, here are the numbers:
- Mascara, gel and liquid eyeliner: two to three months. You need to be extra careful with products applied near your eyes! Another sign you should ditch your mascara is if it goes clumpy or starts to smell iffy.
- Eyeliner pencils: one year. Assuming you sharpen your eye pencils often, it should be safe to keep using them for up to a year.
- Cream blushes and other creamy products: 12-18 months. Look out for a change of texture.
- Eyeshadow: 1-2 years. Powder eyeshadows are usually safe for a long time, but you may wish to be extra cautious seeing as you’re applying so close to your eyes.
- Liquid foundation, concealer, lip gloss etc: 6-12 months. Keep an eye out for a change in texture or colour, or if the product starts to separate.
- Lipstick: 1-2 years. Again, look for texture changes and signs of moisture.
- Powder: two years.
- Nail polish: 1-2 years. If it separates and a shake won’t sort it out, or it starts to clump or change colour, it’s time to ditch it.
Remember: your makeup will last longer if you store it a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Humidity and sunlight will breed bacteria and break down preservatives more quickly. Try not to store products in the bathroom, as all that steam from the shower will accelerate bacterial growth.
You really should be cleaning makeup brushes every few days – or at least once a week. Here’s a quick run-down of how to do it.
- Remove old makeup by rinsing it out using lukewarm water. Make sure to hold the brushes with the bristles facing down, and avoid getting any water where the bristles meet the metal part that grips the bristles to the brush handle.
- In a sink, mix a few drops some gentle soap or shampoo (or a brush cleanser) with plenty of water. Carefully swirl your brush through the soapy water and give the bristles a thorough clean.
- Alternatively, for really dirty brushes, apply the soap directly the bristles of one brush. Swirl the brush on the palm of your hand, occasionally adding water to lather. Repeat for the other brushes.
- Next, carefully squeeze out any excess product. Pat dry on a clean towel or cloth.
- Reshape the bristles if they’ve gone out of shape, then leave to dry completely by placing the brush on the edge of a surface (like a worktop), so that the bristles are hanging over the edge and not touching it.
If you’ve forgotten to clean your brushes and need a quick fix, an antibacterial wipe will do – just make sure to deep clean your brush when you next have a chance.
Time to change
We might have scared you a little, but keeping brushes clean and makeup bacteria-free can help prevent breakouts, rashes, and other skin problems. Dirty brushes might even be the source of that nagging skincare issue that you just can’t shift!
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