The Dangerous Reason Not To Use Expired Makeup

We hate to admit it, but we've certainly been guilty over the years of hanging on to makeup a little longer than we should. Sometimes it's the pretty packaging that prevents us from tossing it, other times it just seems like such a shame to put something in the trash before it's actually finished. But trust us when we say you need to let go of your cosmetics when they've expired, as the issues go far beyond just your makeup not looking its best anymore. In fact, you could actually be taking a serious health risk.

"The concern after the [expiration] date is that products may change composition [the way a mixture is made up] and therefore be more at risk of contamination from bacteria and [molds]," consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, explained to Refinery29. "By applying this to your face, you could be causing irritation or pore blockage," she added. And those with existing skincare worries (everything from more serious skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis to not quite so major issues like dry skin) are even more likely to suffer the consequences of past-their-prime cosmetics. It turns out each makeup product carries its own serious risks that just aren't worth taking a chance on.

Expired mascara and eyeliners can be the worst offenders

There are health risks with any expired beauty products, but it turns out that putting expired mascara and eyeliners near your eye can carry some of the most serious health risks. "Your eyelashes are meant to protect your eyes and prevent contaminants and particles from the air and environment from getting in. So when you apply mascara and the wand is dipped back into the tube, anything collected on the lashes (bacteria included) will get in. This is where possible problems can be created," Renée Rouleau, a celebrity aesthetician and founder and creator of Renée Rouleau Skin Care, told Byrdie. Because of that, it's recommended you only hang on to your mascara for three months at a time. After all, as doctor of optometry Robert Corry, an optometrist at University of Utah Health's Moran Eye Center, explained, "The longer you keep mascara, the more likely it will contain bacteria. The eyes are a sensitive area and vulnerable to infection." In fact, a University of Utah study found as many as 80% of expired mascaras have staph bacteria in them.

As for expired eyeliner, because that can get so close to your eye, it's also super dangerous. "Using old eyeliners can irritate the delicate eye area, causing it to become puffy, red, and swollen," Kelli J. Bartlett, artistic director at Glamsquad, explained to The Healthy. Just like mascara, experts suggest only keeping your liquid eyeliner for three months before tossing it.

But other expired makeup can be super dangerous, too

Don't think it's just mascara and eyeliner you need to keep an eye on the expiry date of, though. "Liquid products, like foundations, are a mixture of water and silicone or oil, and when these go bad it can result in the two phases separating," Ramón Pagán, cosmetic chemist, product developer, and aesthetician, told Refinery29. "Because it contains water, it can also develop microbial growth." Said bad foundation can even result in a case of acne cosmetica, which, as Renée Rouleau told Byrdie, happens when acne develops due to blocked pores. It then results in bad bacteria getting onto and into the skin. And no one wants that.

Blush can carry its own risks, too. Particularly cream blushes. "Expired cream products can irritate your skin, exacerbate rosacea, and clog pores. The same ingredients that give a product 'glow' or moisture can cause big problems when allowed to spoil," Kelli J. Bartlett shared. And that can only be exasperated if it's a product you're continually putting your fingers into, as that can introduce even more bacteria into the product.

There's also an issue with old lipsticks or glosses. Bartlett explained that lip skin is very thin, which means your lips can really suffer if they come into contact with expired products. "When sources of bacteria or viruses are introduced into lip gloss ... the gloss wand can transfer bacteria into the ampule, contaminating the entire product."

So always take note of your makeup's expiration guidelines

The best way to avoid these serious side effects is to keep an eye on your makeup and their expiration dates. Most makeup products will tell you how long they're good for on the bottom or the side. Look out for the open jar symbol, as the number on the inside (which usually constitutes months) will tell you when to throw it out after it's been opened.

As a general rule of thumb though, you can probably keep using foundations that are water-based for around 12 months after they've been opened and oil-based foundations for closer to 18 months. Powder products can keep for closer to two years (because they're not such breeding grounds for bacteria), while your cream cosmetics will need to go into the trash (be brave!) between six months and a year after you first open them. When it comes to lip products like lipstick, that tends to be okay for around a year, while glosses last around six to 12 months (as long as they've not been contaminated, of course). 

The most important thing to remember, though, is that it's not worth taking the risk on expired makeup products. If you're sensing your cosmetics may be past their best (they may have developed a smell, become dry, or changed color) put them in the trash, not on your face. You're always better to be safe than sorry, right?