Some things are meant to last. True love is one of them. Cosmetics...not so much. Let's bust the myth about extended makeup shelf life.
Sure, we want our mascara, foundation, and moisturizer to endure a day. But sitting on your bathroom shelf? This is where you want to steer clear of products built to last.
Shelf life is one of those areas in cosmetics that has to be just right. And it all boils down to freshness and preservation.
Natural cosmetics creators worth their salt use the freshest ingredients for a safer, higher quality product. But these safe, fresh ingredients don’t do a whole lot for you if the product is not properly preserved.
I once sampled skincare products from a brand with a farm fresh vibe. These were simple products, made with a handful of natural ingredients. And they grew mold while sitting on my bathroom vanity after a couple of weeks.
The point is, natural and nontoxic doesn’t mean squat if it isn’t safe, and a product growing mold and bacteria is not safe.
Basically, if a product is water-based (like cleansers, shampoos and some lotions) it needs to be properly preserved to avoid growing bacteria, mold, and yeast. Bacterial and microbial growth are not only gross, but can cause irritation, acne, or infection. Not good.
This is where cosmetic preservatives come in. You know parabens. Those synthetic ingredient media magnets. This is their job, to preserve products and give them everlasting shelf life. Okay, maybe not quite that long. But conventional products do last much longer in your medicine cabinet than a product made with nontoxic ingredients.
The deal is, products can be, and are, safe with natural preservation methods. They don’t have as long a shelf life as synthetics, which, if you think about it, is for the best. Not only are you not exposing yourself to the potential dangers of chemical preservatives, but your products are fresher too.
What are these safer preservation methods? Some plant and essential oils, and herbal extracts are used to preserve natural cosmetic products. Packaging in tubes and pump bottles, so contents are not as exposed to air, are also effective in preservation. Of course, fresh and pure ingredients, and small batch production also help to ensure the safety of a product.
Now you can see why it is important to dig deeper on products labeled “paraben-free”. A product that previously contained parabens for preservation could not simply have them taken out and be safe for use. The manufacturer would have to reformulate (which takes a decent amount of time and dollars) and you can bet they would be filling the public in with more info that simply “paraben-free”.
How to protect yourself? Other than parabens, watch for formaldehyde and methylisothiazolinone (MIT) on product labels. Natural preservation ingredients show up at the end of ingredient listings. Commonly used natural preservatives are vitamin E, grapeseed extract, and rosemary extract. Antioxidants are effective in slowing oxidation of certain plant oils. Some products that are oil based (depending on the type of oil) require no added preservatives.
To extend your skincare and makeup shelf life store them in a dry and cool place, use clean fingers when dipping into jars, screw lids on tightly, and wipe excess product off of rims.
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Image of cosmetics on shelf via Shutterstock