How long do different make-up items stay fresh after you’ve opened the container (foundation, powder, mascara, eye-liner, eye shadow, blusher and bronzers, lipstick)? This probably depends on which preservatives the items contain, but could you give me an indication of how long the items generally last? Do brands with fewer preservatives have a considerably shorter lifespan?

This is a long question with numerous ways to answer – but the most important way to answer, in my opinion, is not so much about how long make-up lasts but rather what preservatives they contain.

Being in the aesthetic and beauty business the skin the my focus, and adding preservative rich, non-breathable make-up will do nothing more than damage your skin and hasten ageing. A key preservative commonly found in make-up is methylisothiazolinone (MI) – this preservative has been known to cause rashes, break-outs, lumps, swelling and even blisters. Be aware of what you are doing to your skin. These reactions are hastening ageing.

Opt instead for breathable and minimally preserved make-up, and always follow the expiry date.

On average most products will last between 12 months to 18 months (Mascara however should only have a shelf life of about 3-4 months), but you may need to dispose of them sooner based on numerous factors including:

  • How you store your make-up
  • Where you store your make-up
  • Which make-up tools you use for what product
  • How you clean your make-up tools and brushes

What sort of effects do people risk when they apply expired make-up (if the risks differ per type of make-up, please let me know the risks involved with using the items mentioned above)?

As mentioned before, my key focus is on the skin and skin ageing. A key element often overlooked with regard to old or expired make-up is the amount of bacteria build up found in your existing make-up and make-up brushes/tools.

Bacteria build up is of primary concern and a key to why you would want to dispose of old make-up and brushes.

It makes sense that re-applying make-up with bacteria growth will do little good for your skin. It is for this reason that more and more people are developing allergic reactions to wearing make-up.

An allergic reaction or bacteria build up in the skin will initiate a response in the skin that can hasten visible ageing. What more reason do you need to pay attention to the quality and expiry dates of your make-up.

Do the risks depend on the ingredients that the specific items contain – for example, do brands that contain fewer chemicals have as harmful effects when they’ve expired as expired chemical-laden brands?

The obvious answer here is yes. That being said you should be as careful with your make-up ingredients as with the food you eat. Always read the labels and ensure you know all about the chemicals and preservatives in your make-up. Still that being said, bacteria build up is of primary concern.

In this regard I cannot stress enough that sometimes longevity of your product can be shortened by how you use your make-up and where you store them.

I.e. never keep your make-up in the bathroom, and try store your kit in a cool and dry spot.

Are there any clues that readers can look out for to alert them to the possibility that make-up has expired – something like, if foundation’s colour, consistency or smell has changed, it’s time to toss it.

Make-up and the associated brushes and tools are expensive, so I can understand a reluctance to dispose of product that still appears to be ok. For better longevity of your make-up and tools store them in a cool, dry area. Clean your tools with a disposable paper towel after each application and should you get sick either avoid wearing make-up or replace your make-up afterwards to avoid contaminating it.

If you follow these guidelines you will improve the lifespan of your make-up and tools/brushes. That said if your make-up begins in any way to alter from the state in which it was bought, throw it away! I.e. if your nail polish starts to separate, in the bin. If your lipstick changes smell, in the bin. Pay attention and you will be fine.

*Special Thanks to HI Magazine*