The dangers lurking in your make-up bag

They are there to make us feel better but cosmetics can be a breeding ground for bacteria

For most women, the vanity box is their little bag of tricks that helps hide their flaws and highlight their best features. But lipsticks, eyeshadows, mascara and powders can do more harm than good if they are not updated regularly. Just like food, cosmetics too have expiry dates and old and unhygienic ones can harbour harmful germs that can cause infections. So how often should you change your make-up?

Makka Elonheimo, Make Up For Ever’s International Training Manager, tells us how to keep our vanity bag bacteria-free.

How long can you keep cosmetics?

1. Loose powder (both translucent and bronzing): 3-5 years.
Go for a powder pot with a lid that has tiny holes. This ensures there is reduced  exposure to air as against ones without security lids.

2. Lipgloss: Up to 6 months.
The lipgloss applicator tip’s frequent physical contact with the lips carries microbes to the tube or bottle and reduces its shelf life. Don’t buy too many lipglosses at a time. Rotate just a few.

3. Day cream/ moisturiser: 1 year.
Using a spatula helps increase a skincare cream’s shelf life. Also do the sniff test to check if it’s off.

4. Foundation: 1-2 years.
Go for pump bottles as these have a longer shelf life due to reduced exposure to air. Open-cap bottles are more prone to germs as the entire product is exposed to air every time you open the cap.

5. Brushes: 5 years.
Brushes used to apply waxy and gel products like lipstick, lipgloss, liquid eyeliner, foundation and gel primer are highly prone to germs and must be cleaned before and after every use. Clean natural hair brushes with a mild 2-in-1 shampoo-cum-conditioner and cold water while artificial ones can be cleaned with hot water and liquid soap.

6. Lip pencil: 1-2 years if waxy; powdery ones last for 3 years.
Sharpening the pencil before every use helps sanitise it. Don’t share lip pencils as that can lead to itchy, sensitive lips.

7. Lipstick: 3-5 years.
Avoid sharing lipsticks as saliva is a breeding ground for bacteria. To sanitise a lipstick, use a sharp knife to simply shave off a thin layer from the top of the bullet.

8. Mascara: 3-6 months.
Do not ever share a mascara as eyes are a highly sensitive area. As for old mascara, it can cause conjunctivitis. Don’t pump the brush wand as that allows air to go in adding to the contamination. It also dries out the mascara pigment.

9. Eye pencils: 1-2 years if waxy. Powdery ones last for 3 years.
Smell the waxy tip to determine if it’s going off; sharpen the pencil before every use to sanitise it. Don’t ever share eye pencils as that can transfer germs and cause red, itchy eyes.

10. Sponges: 4-5 times.
Soft latex sponges tend to absorb grease and cosmetic particles easily, hence they have a shorter life span than hard sponges and should be replaced more frequently. To clean, use a washing-up liquid and very hot water as that’s very effective on grease and oil particles.

11. Liquid eyeliner: 6 months.
Sharing liquid eyeliner is a complete no-no as water from eyes can carry germs to the
brush and subsequently to the other person who uses it.

12. Pressed powders like compact, blush and bronzer: Over 5 years.
Sanitise the top layer of pressed powder by wiping with a tissue dipped in disinfecting
solution; or shave off the topmost layer every few months.

Make your mind up time

Put your make-up through this 10-point checklist every six-months. This exercise will ensure you declutter and never use expired products. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. What’s the formulation like: creamy, waxy, liquid or powdery? Creamy, waxy and liquid formulae are highly potent bacteria-breeding grounds and therefore have a shorter shelf life. On the other hand, powdery cosmetics have no such issues, be it pressed powder or the loose version.

2. Do I dip my finger in the product or use a spatula? Using a finger can spread germ microbes and reduce the cosmetic’s lifespan.

3. Does it have an integrated applicator that comes in contact with my facial features? If yes, that transfers germs from the skin to the bottle and reduces the product’s shelf life further.

4. Does it smell like it’s off? If yes, throw it away!

5. Do the contents look like the ingredient particles have begun to separate? Yes? Throw it right away.

6. Have I subjected the product to extreme heat or extreme cold temperatures at any time? If yes, then that can reduce the product’s shelf life.

7. Do I share my products with anyone? If yes, throw away the product within the expiry date on the box.

8. Can I scrape off the topmost layer of the product without affecting it? That’s a helpful way to sanitise a product regularly.

9. Does the colour/product still work for me? If it doesn’t, why are you still keeping it? Discard it and try a colour or texture from the new season.

10. Have I felt the need to use the product even once in the past three months? If the answer is no, then give it away to someone who might suit it, but do this before it expires.

Cosmetics: The dirty truth

How long women keep cosmetics*:

Mascara – 1 year
Eyeshadow – 15 years
Blush – 15 years
Eyebrow pencil – 8 years
Eyeliner – 1 year
Lipstick – 10 years
Lipgloss – 10 years


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