Q: Please can you advise me of the shelf life of unopened cosmetics? Over a few years I have accumulated a fair amount, and with 3 teenage daughters it seems a shame to throw it out if it's still fit for their use. The makes I have are Smashbox, Laura Geller and Stacey. Also how long can I keep nail polishes that have been opened for?
Alison: There weren't always shelf lives for beauty products so here are a few guidelines that you can go by. I tend to think that if it looks ok, it usually is!
Your powdered products will last the longest, such as blushers and eyeshadows, as bacteria can't grow there. Any products that have a wax base (not containing water), such as cheek and lip tints, will last for quite a few years as well.
However, bacteria will grow more easily on emulsion-based products, such as cleansers, face creams and moisturisers. Plus, people tend to apply them with their fingers, which can increase the possibility of bacteria growing. So the average shelf life of these products is about 2 – 3 years unopened, and about 6 months once opened.
The product with the shortest shelf life is a mascara. This is because it’s used so close to your eyes and eye infections can occur and develop quite easily. So, once opened it should be used in about 3 months.
To keep track of my products, I date them with a sticky label as soon as they arrive to me. Once opened, I then update the label – just so I always know where I am with them all, and there are a lot of them!
Nail polishes can last the longest – I've had some of mine for about 5 – 6 years. They are solvent based in order to keep them in a liquid form and to disperse the colour pigment properly and bacteria finds it difficult to grow in this type of solution. I would only recommend throwing them away if they thicken up as they won't apply as well and the colour tends to change and not mix as well then either.
To prolong the shelf life of your make-up, regularly clean your make-up brushes as they can spread bacteria between your products.