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I received my first makeup kit as a Christmas gift from a family member many years ago, and I remember being thrilled with it. I couldn’t wait to try it out and experiment with this beautiful thing I’d only ever heard about but never had the opportunity to use. In hindsight, I realize that makeup set was most likely bought at a dollar store and thus, composed of ingredients I probably should not be putting on my skin.

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The scary thing about this though, is that I only just recently disposed of one of the last lip glosses from that set after hoarding it for over 10 years.

The point of my story is this: we hang onto old makeup like we hang onto old clothes, clinging to the hope that we will wear them again one day and cluttering our lives in the process. Good makeup isn’t cheap, so it can be admittedly hard to throw it away.

Unlike old clothing, however, old makeup poses serious risks to our health. We need to change our thinking and accept that, like food, makeup only lasts so long.

Old Makeup Is Unhealthy

A new study conducted by London Metropolitan University scientists found that expired cosmetics can contain lethal bacteria, including — but not limited to — ubacterium (which causes bacterial vaginosis), aeromonas (one of the causes of gastroenteritis and wound infections), and propionibacterium (one of the main causes for acne and other skin conditions).

In the study, five beauty products were tested by Dr Paul Matewele, a senior lecturer in Biomedical Science at London Metropolitan University. These products were from high-end brands just coming close to expiration or past their ‘use -by-date.’

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What they found was nothing short of shocking.

“All the old make-up products of foundation, lip gloss and lipstick tested positive for Enterococcus faecalis under strict laboratory tests,” said Matewele. “Enterococcus faecalis is the potentially deadly strain of bacteria which causes meningitis and Septicaemia and is one of the biggest killers for newborn babies.”

Dr. Patrick Bowler, the founder of The British Association of Cosmetic Doctors, explains that “most products are packed with preservatives – in some cases as many as five or six – to ensure that they don’t allow bacteria to breed easily.”

With that being said, if you’re trying to live a toxin-free lifestyle, you should consider opting for organic or vegan products anyway. Be warned, however: lacking chemical preservatives, the shelf life of such products may shorten dramatically. Pay attention to expiry dates and don’t buy more than you need.

If your makeup doesn’t have an expiry date, you may be able to tell it has gone sour simply by paying attention to the state of your skin. Expired makeup can cause a reaction in “response to the molecule breakdown, that could lead to inflammation. And contact dermatitis, a broad term for inflammation of the skin, can in turn lead to redness, bumps, a rash, or even blisters and swelling of the skin” says Hadley King, M.D., a dermatologist at SKINNEY Medspa in New York City.

What You Can Do

The below list outlines when you should toss a particular product:

Mascara: 3 months

Liquid eyeliner: 3 months

Pencil or Kohl eyeliner: 12 months

Cream blush and multiple sticks: 12 months

Liquid Foundation/Concealer:  12 – 18 months (a water-based foundation will last up to 12 months, while oil-based will last slightly longer – 18 months – due to its natural preservative system)

Lipstick: 12 – 18 months

Powders (blush, bronzer, foundation):  24 months

Eyeshadow: 24 months

Nail polish: 24 months

Fragrance:  3 – 5 years

Choosing The Best Possible Cosmetics

It’s also important to note that what chemicals are in most cosmetics are not good for our skin. A new study led by researchers at UC Berkeley and Clinica de Salud del Valle Salinas has demonstrated how taking even a short break from various cosmetics, shampoos, and other personal care products can lead to a substantial drop in the levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals present within the body. You can read more about the impacts of cosmetics on health here.

As previously mentioned, vegan and organic products are your best bet, but be sure to check the labels on any products you purchase. Many personal care products unfortunately do not have a list of ingredients so if you’d like further clarification about a product, I’d suggest contacting the manufacturer directly and asking them for an ingredient list.

Unfortunately, in this day and age we must be vigilant about choosing products; many personal care products that use words like ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ are sometimes labeled so because they do not contain specific chemicals, but they may still harbour other harmful ingredients. If you are purchasing from a health food store and ask the clerk, I’m sure they can direct you to the safest products.

You also have the option of making your own! What could be better than putting together 2-5 ingredients and creating your own natural and organic products? This gives you full control over what ingredients are used and what you allow your body to consume. Check out “Top 5 DIY Everyday Personal Care Products” for some great homemade makeup ideas, or try a quick Google or Pinterest search!

I also recently wrote an article about a beauty blogger that went vegan (link here) and why it’s important. She can direct you to great cruelty free and vegan products to make sure you are getting the least amount of toxin exposure when using makeup.


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