When It Comes To Hanging Onto To Make-up That’s Way Past It’s ‘Best Before’ Date, Are You As Grubby As Me?

What's lurking in your make-up bag?
Publish date:
May 6, 2013
cosmetics, make-up, beauty product best before dates

Usually when I receive an email containing the findings of some survey that a brand has commissioned, I swiftly delete it - how profound can the 'insights' possibly be? “Moisturiser brand discovers 99% of women in the UK don’t wear enough moisturiser” – shocking revelation! Designed to flog more products!

However, the results of research undertaken by Myvouchercodes.co.uk on the less-than-hygienic habits of British women when it comes to throwing away old make-up were a bit close to the bone so I thought I’d better man up and show you this:

It’s pretty disgusting how much make-up I have precariously piled up and crammed into that little box on my dressing table. I can usually grab whatever I need for my speedy five-minute-make-up-routine in the morning from the messy heap at the front, but I know there are things lurking in there that are so far past their ‘use-by’ date it’s not even funny.

So in the interests of, erm, journalism? science? I don’t know, I cleared it all onto the floor and started going through each item, one by one, to see what the expiry dates were.

Now here’s a problem – half the products didn’t have use-by information on them at all (did you know that the little symbol of an open pot with a number in it – usually 12, 24 or 30 – is telling you how many months you should have it open before chucking it? I only found that out comparatively recently and I write about beauty for crying out loud!)

Anyway, my main problem with this system is that I have no idea when I bought or received most of these products to test, so how on earth am I supposed to work out how long they’ve been open for? That, and the following reasons are why I had SO much past-its-best make-up:

  • I am too stingy to regularly replace products just because I’ve had them a few too many years months.
  • Laziness
  • Sentimentality – if a lovely lipstick has been discontinued, you can be damned sure I’ll keep using the one I have, even if it has developed a rather ominous, powdery odour...

These were the products that I sheepishly identified as well past it.

Apparently I’m not alone (I knew it) - according to that survey, 78% of women said they weren’t aware that beauty products had expiry dates on them and of the 22% who did, a spectacular 82% said they kept their products past their use by date – hurrah for my skanky sisters!

Some of the reasons they gave included not wanting to waste the product, not being able to afford to replace it and suspecting the ‘use by’ date was just a ploy to get consumers to spend more.

Scarily, the product most women hang onto after they should have chucked it is mascara (71%) with eyeshadow at number two and lipstick/lipgloss at number three. And while I sympathise with all the reasons given above, the mascara one is the most worrying as a crusty, germ-filled mascara wand is the way to a nasty eye infection. And who wants to look like a poorly rabbit in Watership Down? Bright eyes, burning like fire indeed...

But I'm sorry, I had to hang onto two of the past-it products that I identified: this Lancome eye make-up remover is too damn expensive to chuck, even though I know I've certainly had it longer than six months. And that tiny dab of MAC lipstick in the dinky pot is from my wedding day (five years ago) so while I'll never put it anywhere near my lips again, I just like looking at the colour ok?

I asked my best pal Anna-Marie if she paid attention to expiry dates and she said: “Only on mascara (chuck every 4 months or so?), but that usually goes crusty/flaky/gets used up quite quickly anyway. I'd usually keep lipsticks for about a year and powders too. I wish cosmetics companies made smaller versions of things - who uses whole eyeshadows EVER?? Such a waste, I think that's part of the problem. OPI and Max Factor do mini nail varnishes which are the perfect size I think."

She’s absolutely right – brands do need to start making miniature products which you can use up within the recommended time limit. Plus they look really cute! I'm using a mini Clinique mascara at the moment which is amazing - a really intense black that coats lashes thickly - and I know it'll be finished well within its expiry limit.

It was hard throwing away lipsticks in the perfect shade of scarlet and fun-coloured eyeshadows which I only wear to fancy dress parties, but I did it. And from now on I'm going to use up every single product I own before I'm allowed to buy a new one. As for the stuff I get sent to trial, well I think I'm going to be using my lucky, lucky friends as guinea pigs a lot more from now on.

What's your approach to expiry dates? Are you pretty relaxed about them or do you have some magical system for knowing when to throw things away which I should probably know about? Confess your dirtiest habits here!