“Products aren’t made to last forever, and your skin won’t necessarily need the same products in six to 12 months,” says Melbourne-based dermal therapist James Vivian. “If you don’t use a product by its use-by-date, you won’t target your current skin concerns.
“Ideally you are buying products to improve or fix a problem, and once they’re finished you move to stronger ones or the next stage of management and repair. Plus, the potency and effectiveness of active ingredients diminish over time.”
If the above indicators are missing, there are other telltale signs your products are ready for the bin. Both Vivian, and Terri Vinson, author of Skinformation: A Clean Science Guide to Beautiful Skin, suggest looking out for key changes in fragrance, texture and colour change.
“Alteration in odour, particularly in products containing oil, is usually a sign that’s it’s gone rancid through oxidation,” says Vinson, the cosmetic chemist behind Synergie Skin. “Change in texture or separation like a curdle, means the emulsifier that holds the product’s oil and water together is ineffective.”
The microbiologist says people should be cautious of mould and fine particle growth in skincare products. “You can’t always see what’s happening on a microscopic level, some things don’t have odours or visibility. Bacteria, fungi moulds and virus, all microbes, can grow. It’s why products need good anti-agents, which act as a preservative system.”
To maintain and preserve the lifespan of a product, find a cool and consistent environment temperature (this can be the refrigerator), keep out of direct sunlight, don’t get water into products, use an apparatus to extract from jars, and opt for packaging that is darkly-tinted and airless, so that your product isn’t left susceptible to microbes.
All make-up should have the POA symbol, but Mecca Brand Expert Jennifer Horsley says there are certain things you can do to ensure each product remains intact for the duration of its shelf-life. Also, be sure to keep products in their original packaging, and patch test for irritation and discontinue if you are unsure.
- Mascara: Replace every three months, especially if you are an everyday user.
- Cream products including foundations and concealer: It depends on your decanting method. For powder foundations, spray alcohol on the powder pigment every so often to kill bacteria.
- Eyeliner: Sharpen before each use, then sanitise the tip with an alcohol spray and wipe away excess to ensure pigment build-up is gone before use.
- Lipstick: Store in a cool, dry area to prevent oils from melting and disturbing the formula’s longevity. Generally, you should replace your lipstick after 12 months.
Cleaning beauty tools
A UK study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology last year examining various make-up items and tools found that between 79 and 90 per cent of products tested were contaminated with bacteria. Correct storage and maintaining a cleaning ritual are vital.
Vivian, Vinson and Horsley agree it’s important to do a deep clean of make-up brushes once a week. “To avoid a nasty bacterial infection, wash them with a quality detergent and silicone brush cleaner in a downward fashion. I also recommend using an alcohol-based spritz… before wiping them on a paper towel, reshaping them and leaving them to dry out in the bathroom,” says Vinson.
For jade rollers and Gua sha, Vivian advises using hand sanitiser to clean after each use. If you are using a microfibre cloth, he explains, they should be properly washed after every use, though he prefers the use of biodegradable face wipes.
In with the new (resolutions)
Vivian says the new year is a good time to consider skin resolutions and concerns and recommends turning to a professional as the first port of call.
“When you put your skin in the hands of a professional you trust, you’ll find you end up buying and using less product. Remember skincare needs time and patience, and quite often a holistic approach, rather than stocking and moving to a different product to ‘fix the problem’ after two weeks.”
Vinson recommends adding zinc oxide sunscreen to your routine, and also suggests pre and probiotic products to bring balance back to the microbiome – which may have been thrown out by masks and pandemic stress – as well as her “ABC” approach to skincare.
“Vitamin A in the form of retinol like a Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Vitamin B3 Niacinamide and Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid powder,” she says.
Vivian also suggests Vitamin B3 Niacinamide as an “all-rounder ingredient for everyone, to energise and brighten the skin, stimulate hydrate, and to regulate oil and redness,” and adds the need for a “less is more” approach in 2021 for those who tend to fall into the habit of using far too many products.
As for make-up hygeine, Mecca’s Horsley recommends adding isopropyl alcohol to sanitise all cosmetic products and coconut oil as an natural antibacterial agent. She also suggests the use of Vitamin C to fight free radical damage and hydration mists containing antioxidants and hyaluronic acid.
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Nicole Economos is an online producer for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.