Believe it or not, all cosmetics and skincare products have an expiration date. Should beauty products have expiration stamps like cartons of milk or other perishable items indicating how long they will last before going bad? Some industry professionals say yes, other says no, while some conscientious manufacturers choose to put a date on the bottom of their packages- usually a little icon of a makeup pot with an open lid with either the letter M (for month) or Y (for year).

Exposure & Bacteria Buildup

As a general rule it’s important to note that a product may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored. For instance, a product exposed to high temperatures or sunlight, or opened and examined by consumers prior to purchase may become “less fresh” before the expiration date.  Preservatives in makeup and skincare products do in fact kill common bacteria, however, studies have shown that a little bacterium exist in makeup before we buy it whether it’s natural, organic, or made with preservatives.  Once you open a new product, airborne bacteria swarms in. You then add to the bacteria by touching the product with unclean hands and/or an unclean applicator.

The FDA & Expiration Labeling

Despite common belief, the FDA does not currently regulate expiration dates and expiration labeling of cosmetics and personal care products. According to the FDA “manufacturers have the responsibility to determine shelf life for products, as part of their responsibility to ensure product safety.”  The voluntary shelf-life guidelines developed by the cosmetic industry vary, depending on the product and its intended use. In 1980 an article written by David Pope for Drug and Cosmetic Industry, a trade publication, suggested minimum shelf life of 18 to 24 months “to maximize cost efficiency in warehousing, distribution, and marketing.”  His suggestions were adopted by the industry and are currently used by many manufactures.

Consumer Tools

To help consumers keep track of their products expiration dates, many beauty bloggers and magazines regularly provider readers with checklists of the life span of their makeup. For example, here is a quick list with the usual expiration dates:

  • 3-7 Weeks: Loofahs and Sponges
  • 3 Months: Mascara, Liquid Eyeliner
  • 6 months-1 year: Skin Creams, Moisturizers, Sunscreen, Anti-Aging/Anti-Acne Products, Liquid Foundation, Liquid Concealer
  • 2 years: Perfume, Cologne, Nail Polish
  • 3 years: Powder-based makeup, Lipsticks and Glosses, Eye and Lip Pencils

Changes Down The Road – Mobile Apps

Going forward we can expect to see more and more brands providing consumers with information on the life span and quality of their products. To jump start this movement, a company called Well-Kept Beauty is currently developing an interactive makeup inventory app that will allow users to keep track of their makeup and skincare collections while also monitoring product expiration dates.

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What are you thoughts on cosmetics expiration dates and the FDA’s role in regulating the labeling of beauty products? Would you use a makeup inventory app to track expiration dates and mange your makeup and skincare collections? Let me know what you are thinking.

1938 is the online magazine blog for Well-Kept Beauty, formally entitled Primer.

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