Four steps to stay both glamorous and healthy
Whether drugstore or designer, cosmetics are a big expense: A 2017 survey by SkinStore found the average woman used about $8 worth of makeup and related products every day, adding up to $250 per month and more than $200,000 in a lifetime.
But no matter how much you spend on cosmetics, they’re not worth more than your health: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds consumers that, like groceries and medications, cosmetics have their own types of shelf lives and safety considerations.
BEAUTY ON THE SHELF
A product’s shelf life generally means the length of time you can expect a product to look and act as expected and stay safe to use. The length of time varies by the type of product, how it’s used, and how it’s stored.
Over time, cosmetics start to degrade for a number of reasons, including:
- Dipping fingers into products, adding microorganisms like bacteria and fungi that need to be controlled by preservatives that themselves break down over time.
- Using applicators—especially mascara wands—that then are exposed to bacteria and fungi each time you use them.
- Using emulsions, whose mixtures of water and oil can separate.
- Exposure to moisture, such as in a bathroom, encouraging bacteria and fungi to grow.
- Drying, causing products to harden and crack.
- Changing temperatures, causing color, consistency, and scent issues.
FOUR FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION TIPS
The Food and Drug Administration notes that, while there are no U.S. laws or regulations that require cosmetics to have specific shelf lives or have expiration dates on their labels in the manner of other products it regulates, the agency says manufacturers ultimately are responsible for making sure their products are safe, and shelf life is part of that responsibility.
Nevertheless, even without a “use by” date stamped on the bottom of your foundation bottle, the FDA says there are four steps you can take to keep an eye on your cosmetics—and your health:
- If mascara becomes dry, throw it away. Don’t add water—or even worse, saliva—in an effort to make your $70 product go one more week. That will introduce bacteria into the mascara, which can then cause painful and potentially harmful eye infections.
- Don’t share makeup. If you share makeup, you may be sharing infections. Testers at cosmetic counters are even more likely to be contaminated than the ones around your home. If you feel you must test a cosmetic product before buying, apply it with a new, unused applicator or cotton swab.
- Store cosmetics properly. A desert-hot car or a rainforest-moist bathroom are not ideal locations for cosmetics, as these extremes can break down preservatives and encourage the growth of bacteria and fungi.
- Be wary of products offered for sale in flea markets or resold over the internet. Items may be past their shelf life, already used, diluted, or tampered with in other ways. They may even be counterfeit versions of your favorite, trusted products, so don’t be fooled!
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Cosmetologists and estheticians licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board of Barbering and Cosmetology are trained in the safe use, storage, and application of cosmetics and skin-care products. For assistance and to find out more about their professional services, visit the Board’s website at www.barbercosmo.ca.gov; to check the license of a cosmetologist or esthetician, visit search.dca.ca.gov.