SHELF LIFE: when to love it & leave it

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Incredible though it seems the shelf-life for cosmetics rests on the independent stability tests cosmetics houses do, which vary from one to three year assays. Further clouding the issue is that cosmetic houses typically look at temperature variables like freezing or overheating; they don’t take into account how we use products – leaving them open say, or lying in the sun, and so prone to contamination and deterioration. On the other hand, products which have been kept in ideal circumstances may be OK to use long after the suggested ‘sell-by’ dates. And there is of course no way of knowing how long a product has been on a shelf before you come along and buy it, the only answer to this is to look at the product categories separately and take a view from there.



Products that you put near your eyes (mascara, eye gel, cream) should be tossed out quickest – probably within three to six months – because repeated microbial exposure during use raises the risk of eye infections. For the same reason – microbial growth – genuinely natural cosmetics with plant extracts and non-traditional preservatives (or no preservatives) should also get less time on your dressing table.

Where face bases (foundations, concealers & creams) go, some dermatologists suggest a use time of eighteen months and as for sunscreens - the thinking is that the actives disarm and the protective filter in sunscreens separates after this time. But while there is no official line on sunscreens in particular, we say buy a new one for every holiday.

And the rest ..

6 M - 1 YEAR
Acne treatment, Blemish Cream, Loofah/Sponge

1- 2 YEARS
Lip Gloss, Powder, Bronzer, Body Lotion, Cleanser, Scrub, Face Mask, Serum, Brow Product

Lipstick, Lip & Eye Pencils (with regular sharpening), Nail Polish (or until it goes gloopy), Shampoo & Conditioner


New CID i-Tint £31.50 - a comfortable tinted moisturiser with light-reflective pigments to give a healthy, dewy glow

Jane Scrivner Nourishing Cleansing Balm £46 - a sumptuous balm cleanser with beeswax and jojoba oil to nourish and feed skin

Vita Liberata SPF25 Passionflower & Argan Dry Oil £28.50 - made with sensitive skin in mind, Vita Liberata's sunscreen is a joy to use

Antonia Burrell Cream Supreme Facial Moisturiser £75 - a beautiful air-light cream for maintaining skin hydration and suppleness.