Since March 2005 all cosmetics sold in the EU have to be labeled with a PAO Symbol or Period After Opening Symbol - representing an open cream jar with the period of months given in the symbol of the jar. Here is an example -
Now that we have the boring stuff out of the way. I want to talk mascara. If you use mascara which I am sure all of do, the wand is being continuously dipped in and out from day one, so bacteria from the air will most definitely be breeding inside the tub from day one... now this is probably where quite a lot of people think 'ergh bacteria, nasty I will have to listen to money making companies like Debenhams and throw away my 4 month old £18.00 mascara'
However this is the part they do not explain - I wonder why. Mascara actually has a built-in safeguard in the form of preservatives however it requires a period of time between applications to do it's job. So that is why it isn't great to apply your mascara then let your friend use it! But using it yourself the next day will have let the preservatives get to work.
Obviously the preservatives don't ever eliminate all bacteria as this would mean your mascara would have to be sterile and the only thing that stays sterile after use is Nail Polish with its cocktail of chemicals! But on the whole preservatives do alot.
Another thing that I want to mention is while actually researching preservatives for our little beauty science lesson! I had a look at the PAO symbol on about five of my own mascaras and they all had use by dates of 6 months except for Rimmel's Lash Maxx that actually had a 12 month use by date.
Anyway, moving on to the most interesting part - I personally really wanted to know the true about so called expired make-up and having read lots of articles and press releases that where either a bit OSD-ish about bacteria or biased in the form of 'Throw your expired makeup away and come buy it from us' way. So I decided to speak to someone that was actually educated about eyes...
Who better to talk to about eyes than an Optometrist.
Here is what the Optometrist had to say;
' The eye does a really good job of washing dirt and bacteria away by the use of your tear ducts. However I wouldn't recommend extended use of mascara - say for 2 or more days without washing it off as this will cause a increase of bacteria to form on the eyelashes, which could result in the mascara drying out and creating fall out into the eye. This is a possible way that someone could develop an eye infection. Also sharing any form of eye makeup with someone that does have an eye infection would increase your chances of catching the eye infection.
As for mascara actually expiring - Over time bacteria multiples quite rapidly on any form of liquid however this doesn't mean that it is harmful - the only thing I would advise is to throw away your current eye products; eyeliner/mascara after an eye infection to reduce the chances of developing the infection again.'
I also asked about the comparison of 'expired' make-up to mouldy or bacteria ridden food that I have read alot about recently...
' Mould that can grow on food is a totally different subject to the bacteria found in makeup. Some moulds can cause allergic reactions and mould in warm conditions can produce a poisonous substance that can make you ill. Food is also taken internally. So to answer your question;- The bacteria found in cosmetics cannot be compared to mould that it found growing on food. They are two very different things.'
So there you have it.
There is no reason to feel guilty about not throwing away mascara after 3 months and if you are one of the people actually following the PAO symbols and throwing away makeup, please stop!
Here however is a list of things that the Optometrist suggests you avoid doing;
- Do not leave mascara out in the sun or on a windowsill as this will cause the formula to change and will increase the bacteria inside of the tube.
- Do not add water to mascara.
- Refrain from sharing eye makeup.
- Always screw the lid on.
- Throw away any eye products you have used during an eye infection.
- Remove eye makeup before going to sleep.