Spring clean your makeup

(Published in The Observer on Sunday, 1 April, 2012)

Spring cleaning needn’t be just about the rather tedious chore of tidying up the home – it’s also the perfect time to clean out your cosmetics bag.

Often, it’s all too easy to leave last season’s lipsticks and eye shadows from a bygone era collecting dust at the back of a draw. Yet, just like the drugs in your medicine cabinet, your makeup has an expiry date too – in fact, they start to deteriorate as soon as you crack open the seal. Not only can this lead to numerous skin and eye infections, products that are past their best can change in colour and texture, leading to a less than flawless finish.

While it’s tempting to hoard your favourite items, now is the time to purge.

“Creams and liquids contain emollients that when exposed to air over long periods of time may eventually oxidize and form bacteria,” Gisel Calvillo, senior artist at MAC Cosmetics explained.

Looking after your makeup is key to ensuring it lasts as long as possible – no one, after all, wants to chuck out a half used product simply because it’s expired. Always wash your hands before applying, keep in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight, keep lids closed tightly and never share. Products with pumps – such as foundations and creams – will keep longer as scooping the product out with your fingers repeatedly transfers dirt, oil and bacteria. Bear in mind that natural formulas will not last as long as they are often free of preservatives that help keep cosmetics from spoiling.

“Powders can have a life of one to three years depending on the care,” Gisel said. “If you use clean brushes, instead of fingers or sponges, you will get the maximum life out of them. Creams, liquids and lipsticks last anywhere from one to two years.

“Mascara I usually replace every six to eight weeks. This will keep the product true to its formula. Dry mascara can have clumps, which makes it harder to use when you want a clean application.”

Pencils, such as eyeliners and lipliners can last up to three years, as long as they are sharpened regularly.

Yet, unless you keep a diary note of when each product was first used, how do you know when it’s time to throw out the old and make way for the new?

“There will usually be a synthetic smell or taste to the product,” Gisel explained. “As to powders- they usually form a barrier on top that will make it hard to use. When this happens it’s definitely time to toss it.”

Brushes and tools

Using makeup brushes and tools such as disposable sponges can help extend the life of your makeup; however, they too need to be treated with care and regularly cleaned to limit the buildup of bacteria.

Experts suggest that you wash natural-bristled brushes once a month and synthetic brushes three to four times a month with a mild soap or baby shampoo.

Lay the brushes flat to dry so that the bristles don’t break and to help maintain its shape. Cosmetic makeup sponges should be gently washed after every use and tossed within one month.

Product shelf-life

Even though these products can last longer use your common sense and if it starts to smell funny – dump it.

Lip-liner: Can last up to three years.

Concealer: Can last up until 12 months

Pencil eye liners: They should be sharpened regularly and can last up to three years.

Eyeshadow: These usually last for up to three years. As a money saver, eyeshadow can double as eye-liner, so you can save money buying another product by using a super thin brush to apply it to the lining of your eyes.

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