Monday, March 3, 2014

Science Says You Should Throw Away Your Crusty, Old Mascara

I've had a couple of questions asking about product expiration. To talk about the issue, I'm going to frame my response largely around a Brazilian 2013 study by Giacomei, Dartora, Dienfethaeler, and Haas. The study, sexily* entitled, "Investigation on the use of expired make-up and microbiological contamination of mascaras", analyzed the habits of young women between the ages of 18 and 28 and determined that, seriously, you should probably throw away that nasty mascara you have been hoarding for half a year.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hippie/2450906227/in/photolist-4Jzx2V-9NZ3Qo-4g9vSL-9DrkGy-6GAERA-5QYvQr-aieRBX-akGdzo-6dvQmL-5Lf1PB-8fef45-5QjQV9-4Kqndo-6AT6rf-cadkCj-65RWnH-7DRmCp-kh1Z3-4JztYa-bqdbRX-hiT5b-8p6D84-5R6soV-afcGUp-ba4msg-3a1wF6-2Atnvy-3pUazp-8D2Zyj-9UBBPT-bqc4Da-4JDGsL-5PpzQy-fJyrW-8kTPYM-9KERWX-7arsCE-8dmFUK-8AMPhz-bBmd4y-bxDJtC-zKj9j-8pAS48-4Qa3BE-4LdYDN-Uh5rH-7NAmZG-5LBNj7-afeLdw-7pXJSk-dLCDF/
Why Do We Care?

The authors state that they chose to focus on mascara for a couple of reasons:

  • It goes near your eyes, one of the places you reeeeeally don't want to fuck up.
  • It's one of the most popular and frequently used cosmetics products.
  • It's aqueous, increasing the risk of bacterial contamination. 
  • People bonk their mascara wands all over the place. (You're less likely to scrape your eyeshadow palette against the bathroom counter, in other words.)
The mascara unibrow picture you didn't know you needed.
Although preservatives such as parabens can substantially decrease the likelihood of bacterial contamination, both improper storage of makeup and even-more-improper not-throwing-it-the-fuck-away of makeup can turn the most belovedly vicious of preservatives into something inefficient. The results can be potentially irritating or, in rarer cases, dangerous. 

The authors explain, "Staphylococcus epidermidis and Staphylococcus aureus proliferate in contaminated mascaras. The most common infections caused by these microorganisms occur especially when the surface of the eyeball is damaged, in other words, traumatized. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the main agent of eye infections like conjunctivitis, keratitis and ophthalmitis, which may threaten the integrity of the eye, destroying tissues and damaging visual acuity. Infections by P. aeruginosa have been reported to occur due to contaminated mascara, trauma to the eye or bad hygiene. Fungi can also be found in contaminated mascaras, although less frequently than bacteria, being related to immune-compromised people or those who wear contact lenses."

S. epidermidis
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staphylococcus_epidermidis_01.png
Brazilian standards for bacterial contamination dictate the cosmetics should have no detectible presence of P. aeruginosa, S. aureus, or coliform bacteria. Coliform bacteria usually do not cause illness themselves (with the scarier E. coli strains as an exception), but they are used as in indicator of contaminated food, water, or products, because they are easy to both detect and culture, and because their presence usually indicates fecal contamination. Other bacteria can be present in low concentrations-- less than one unit forming colony per gram. 

What Did They Do?

The authors recruited participants from a cohort of female students enrolled in a college-level pharmacy class. They conducted a questionnaire on use of expired makeup, collected makeup samples (recording the condition and percentage of products that were expired), and then stole their mascara to test to for P. aeruginosa and S. aureus, compared to a 'brand new' control. 

S. aureus
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staphylococcus_aureus_VISA_2.jpg
P. aeruginosa
Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/Pseudomonas_aeruginosa_SEM.jpg
The authors found that 97.7% of their sample admitted to using expired makeup. Mascara, eyeliners, lip products, and eyeshadow (in that order) were most likely to be expired, with 86.3% of students using an expired mascara. The researchers also found that 79% of the expired mascaras contained S. aureus and 13% contained P. aeruginosa. None of the brand spanking new mascaras were contaminated (duh. I wish they'd used non-expired-but-still-used mascara as a control, personally). 

What Does It Mean?

In the United States, manufacturers are not required to print specific expiration dates on cosmetic products. So, how long should you keep your mascara? The FDA recommends tossing your eyelash goop after two to four months, or any time your mascara has gotten dried up and crusty. Additionally, a 2008 study by Pack, Wickham, Enloe, and Hill found that three months of mascara use was sufficient to contaminate 36.4% of a mascara tubes with various Staphylococcus species, as well as some miscellaneous fungi. Based on this, they conclude that three months should be the absolute maximum length of time that anyone uses a tube of mascara. 

You should also go ahead and toss any products that change in consistency, smell, texture, or appearance, since this can be a sign that they are way over the hill. 

Additionally, the European Union does mandate that products display a "period after opening" symbol shaped like an open jar for goods that last less then 30 months, which gives an approximate expiration date. Thus, if you have cosmetics that are sold in the EU (or, you know, if you happen to live there or something), you can always use that. 

This mouthwash has a PAO symbol indicating that you should toss it after 12 months.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:5_PAO_12M_2007-07-12.jpg

(Unfortunately, not-putting-contaminated-goop-in-your-immediate-eye-area doesn't seem to be the norm. Not only did the participants in this study overwhelmingly use expired mascara, the authors cited previous research which showed that about 92% of women keep their mascara for longer than six months.)


Besides throwing out any yucky, expired crap you have sitting around in your makeup bags, the FDA has a page on their site detailing the best ways to ensure eye product safety (link here). Among their suggestions are washing your hands before applying any cosmetics, keeping your products to yourself (makeup is one of the places where not sharing is caring!), avoiding eye makeup if you have an eye infection, and  keeping your makeup-y things out of damp or warm areas (which means no storing makeup in the bathroom, guys). The FDA notes, "Consumers should be aware that expiration dates are simply 'rules of thumb,' and that a product's safety may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored."

*Maybe just sexy to me.

44 comments:

  1. Do people seriously "bonk" their mascara against a counter and keep it?! You can call me a paranoid hypochondriac (and you would be correct), but if I touch my mascara to anything that isn't my eyelashes, I toss it.

    Also, the three month rule - this is from the data you opened it, not of continuous use, correct? Like, if I get a mascara, use it once and then forget about it for 3 months, I should toss it because bacteria has been breeding for 3 months, right?

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    1. The study I cited was continuous use (using it every day), but manufactures recommend using the date you opened it as a benchmark.

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  2. You should DEFINITELY do an experiment using non-expired, used mascara as a control... that would be super, super cool

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    1. I don't have any means of quantifying the amount of bacteria!

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  3. Nooooooooooo I'm basically doing everything wrong >.<

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  4. I'm so terrified of eye infections that I chuck out my mascara after two months anyway, so I'm a bit glad to hear that I'm justified in doing so.

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    1. You definitely are! I know a lot of people stick to drugstore mascaras for this precise reason.

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  5. I've heard this for years, but whenever I've had issues (never infections) with my eyes, it's when I'm NOT wearing mascara and sleeping on a dusty floor or stuck moisturizer in my eye or something. I'm behind the theoretical science but I just can't yet back the applied advice. The evidence that might sway me is this: if the incidence of young women using expired mascara past the discard date is over 90%, then what is the incidence of actual mascara-caused eye infections in young women? We could use young men of the same age bracket or orthodox religious non-makeup-wearing young women as a control for baseline rate of eye infection. The reason I say this is that if contaminant growth is really as terrible in cause as it is in incidence, we should ALL be suffering eye infections or have friends who suffer them all the time.

    Let's assume that the above comparison shows no greater incidence of eye infection in young mascara-wearing women vs. control group. I would posit that if you've got old mascara and you get eye infections regularly, you are either extra-susceptible or you are at risk for another reason, like wearing contacts. For now, I call MEH and continue to wear my 2012 mascara because I'm cheap! I will now go to the drugstore and purchase a face wash that costs 3x the price of my mascara, by the way, because I'm also only logical when it comes to science thoughts and not personal planning.

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    1. Anna, your last sentence has me laughing my head off! ^_^

      The mascara I am currently using was opened I don't know when, and is being used every day because it still has mascara in it and it was stupid expensive to begin with. I *know* I should be more vigilant about this kind of thing and toss things once they expire, but I don't keep track of the dates and I guess I forget and am stingy/lazy. I'm yet to have an eye infection, though! *touch wood*

      Maybe mascara should only come in small tubes?

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    2. DUDE. that last bit is absolutely my excuse to only buy Benefit's They're Real! in tiny sample sizes (for 10 pounds GBP, shut up) for the rest of my life.

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    3. I'm with you on that - bare eyelashes that fall off naturally have their own bacterial communities, and staph bacteria are pretty ubiquitous in the environment and for the most part we fight them off just fine with eye lubrication and mucus and tears. An open wound or eye injury would be a danger zone, but these are the times we're told not to wear contacts or makeup anyway, even the clean stuff. Contact lenses and putting your fingers in your eye are a more likely way to pass bacteria around.

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    4. Giacomei and colleagues (2013) reported that about about 30% of women had experienced negative outcomes associated with the use of discontinued makeup products, although the authors primarily are recommending against using expired cosmetics due to the rarer, but more serious potential consequences: "...it can be concluded that these microorganisms, when present, may become highly pathogenic, compromising the ocular surface."

      It's obviously up to you to decide what risks you are willing to take with your cosmetics! I'm pretty impressed that your mascara from 2012 isn't crusty and disgusting by now, though!

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    5. It was in good shape! Still worked like it always did, no clumps or crusty or anything weird...

      ...but I used this article as an excuse to throw it away and to buy a new sample size of They're Real. My biologist side is still having a fight with my Puritan thrifty roots about throwing it away. I blame my parents - they kept their old eyeglasses from like the 1970's in the first aid kit box in the bathroom well into my high school years.

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  6. Mascara is the only beauty thing I regularly toss, but more because it gets too dried out and clumpy to be usable (which usually takes two months). I've occasionally used individual tubes for longer and I've never had an eye infection. I tend to agree with Anna Kintner: if using technically expired mascara is all but ubiquitous I'd expect eye infections to be a much more regular occurrence, but I can only think of one person I know who has had one- a non-makeup wearing guy.

    I'd also be more wary of using expired eyeliner than mascara, because one is intentionally in direct contact with your eyeball (if you use it on your waterline). But most eyeliners (of all types) seem to have much longer shelf life than mascaras.

    I regularly spray my powder cosmetics with isopropyl alcohol to sterilise them, and I avoid anything in a pot I'll get my fingers in, and lip products with doe foots. I've never really experienced a product not housed in pot expiring, but pot housed cosmetics seem to turn foul pretty quickly.

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    1. I think I got a minor infection from an eyeliner I was using on my waterline way back when, but never from mascara. The solution to that problem is not, of course, to throw away the pencil after a few months, but just to sharpen it regularly with a clean sharpener, disinfect it with alcohol, etc.

      I'm curious about the incidence of actual infection too. Doe-foot applicators for lip gloss seem like they would be bad too, but what is the actual risk? Has anyone ever got sick from one of those things, or is it just "gross"? I've had old lip glosses start to smell off after a long time - not really gross, just not right - and I get rid of them at that point.

      It also seems like it would be in the interest of a cosmetics company to put a shorter expiration date/window on products. But it seems like there must be a difference between "optimal performance"/"best before" dates and dates for things like watery eye products where contamination is a real danger. Sorry for the rambly comment - this is a complicated issue. I've mostly dealt by just throwing away things when they don't work well anymore (except nail polish - that can always be thinned and never needs to be tossed.)

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    2. I commented on that in my reply to Anna! I personally don't put eyeliner on my waterline at all and I tightline exclusively with easy-to-santize products like pencil liners.

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  7. Interesting! I'd love to read a post where you check all of your makeup for bacterial contamination, or at least discuss what can & can't get contaminated. My understanding is that water is needed for bacteria - not sure if that's correct - so things like mascara can get contaminated, whereas things like a gloss that's formulated without any water won't be a breeding ground in the same way. And it seems like powder products rarely go off / basically last forever, as does nail polish.

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    1. Also, would you consider getting rid of the captcha? Half the time I don't finish leaving a comment when it comes up (or if I get it wrong the first time). There are other options for avoiding spam - moderate all comments, moderate comments with links or keywords, etc.

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    2. The authentication process for leaving comments here is a serious hassle. Half the time I will think of something relevant to add to the conversation, but choose not to comment because I can't be bothered logging in and then figuring out the captcha. Also, I don't particularly want to be linking people to my LJ since I don't use it, but that's the only easy option for me.

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    3. I've found that allowing anonymous comments and not using captcha/moderation is fine, so long as I set it up to moderate comments that are more than a few days old. That cuts down on the work, and spammers seem to rarely comment on the latest post anyway. But I don't get so many comments. It took me a while to figure that out, though, because the filtering settings on blogger were the default and so I thought I needed them.

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    4. Apologies! I'll see what I can do. I do get a fair bit of spam already, but it's possible that removing the captcha won't make an effect. I'll try to figure it out this weekend.

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  8. I'm bad about keeping an expensive mascara that I didn't like. (Just because it was pricey, as if that makes any difference.

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    1. At least if you're not using it, it's merely vanity decoration!

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  9. This is why I'm glad I use cheapie mascara -- Essence, baby! $4.00 before the coupon!

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    1. That's a common strategy! I live on mascara samples, personally.

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  10. I keep my makeup way longer than I should -- because I hardly ever wear it. Even if it's expired, I'm not going to throw out a tube of mascara I've only worn once in six months. What am I supposed to do, buy a brand-new makeup kit whenever I want to dress up?

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    1. I wish I had some important insight on this, but to my knowledge, no one has ever looked at what happens when you use a mascara and then just... don't for a while. Obviously be cautious and decide where your personal risks and limits are!

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  11. Mascara is definitely something I stick to with expiration dates. I generally go by the three month rule, but I'll usually toss it sooner if it changes texture or starts irritating my contact lenses. Lip products though... I still have some glosses from middle school, and I'm 22. What else are you supposed to do when that perfect candy apple red gloss got discontinued and the brand was never heard from again?! Caboodles lipgloss, you'll forever have a spot in my lip products drawer.

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    1. You might consider looking for a dupe? It probably won't be a perfect match, but that lip gloss also won't last the rest of your life!

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  12. I would not keep using a mascara after I accidentally bonked it. Especially in the bathroom. (Also, thanks for the laughs with the mascara unibrow.)

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  13. I'm more interested in the bacterial contamination of false lashes. While I don't wear them myself, I see YouTube "gurus" clean off and reuse their falsies multiple times and it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Since the eyelids and lashes are normally colonized by S. aureus and other little beasties, do the lashes also harbor typical bacteria found on the skin? Are the falsies themselves an ideal breeding ground for disease, (and then for the sake of beauty we proceed to glue their petri dishes to our eyelids)?

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    1. Intuitively, to me, falsies seem much safer. You can clean 'em off with alcohol and that'll kill any buggers hanging out on them.

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  14. It would be great if companies would make a stylish mascara case, and then just sell little sealed amoules that you can open, put into your case and use like a normal mascara - like a refillable powder or eyeshadow compact. That way you wouldn't have to have so much open at one time!

    I use my mascara until it dries up or starts to smell off - and I've only ever had the latter happen once. Fortunately, it went from 'perfectly normal smell' to 'OMG, I'm going to throw up smell' literally between one use and the next, so it was easy to distinguish that something had gone wrong...

    Since even the cheapest mascara that doesn't smell like floor cleaner costs about $25 here, and tubes of mascara seem to last forever content-wise for me, I refuse to just throw something out because it 'might' be off. I am very careful with the wand when it's out, though.

    I did once drop a doe-foot Revlon lipgloss applicator into the bathroom sink. Since Revlon lipgloss is $28 a tube here, I quickly snatched it out, boiled it, washed it with soap and suck it back into the tube! :-D (my sink was at least freshly-cleaned, so there was that).

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    1. I like the case idea, especially since that's so common now for eyeshadow, blush, pressed powder, etc, but I don't know how you'd get everything clean for cream products. Anything not fully scrubbed out of the old tube and brush would contaminate your brand new products!

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  15. What really annoys me is why don't mascara companies make more minis if this is the case? I prefer minis just because I can spend less, try more formulas, and I use them before they dry out. This almost feels like nutritional information telling you a bag of chips is 2.5 servings... Who doesn't eat a whole bag of chips? It's nonsense. If mascara expires after 3 months, give me an option I will use within that time.

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    1. I personally find that my minis last me less than 3 months before they start changing texture, but your mileage may vary!

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  16. i can never remember when I got my mascara, it still feels wet… I need to keep better track of this! Health is so important!

    glossedonbeauty.blogspot.com

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  17. Aaaand there's why I switched to tinting. $10 at the local TAFE and I get 6+ months of perfectly black lashes plus I help a beauty student pass their course vs. $30+ every 3 months (so $10/mo if I want to wear mascara.)

    I can see why the students keep using expired mascara; it's ridiculously expensive for something that you re-buy so often so unless you're lucky enough to work for a cosmetics company it's a major financial drain and students just don't have the moolah for it. (Plus, the tubes are NEVER used up in 3 months. There's an argument for selling smaller mascara tubes there, actually...)

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  18. Thanks for the interesting article. Hope you don't mind that I just shared it on my business FB page Check Out These Lashes https://www.facebook.com/Checkouttheselashes . I also paid in my advertising campaign with Facebook to boost the post. So I am sure you will see some interesting comments coming in today as the ad in in review and should be published anytime.
    WOW....the reminder of how ewwww our bathrooms can be with germs. I am a compulsive "bleacher." I bleach it all and still don't feel it's clean enough. It's good to know that our fiber lash mascara we offer at Check Out These Lashes comes in a hardshell case that helps to avoid some of the germ contact that mascara can incur from bathroom counters and such. Also our product will typically last 2-3 months if applied one coat per day by the end user...so it fits right in your guidelines of pitching it about the 3 month mark. Great advice....interesting read for me today. Thanks for sharing this! Feel free to visit my website at www.checkouttheselashes.com Thanks again!

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  19. When Should I Throw Out Mascara: Each aesthetic or even each constitute item find ended over time, you need to delete word away regardless http://dailycome.com/when-should-i-throw-out-mascara/

    ReplyDelete
  20. اعمال شركة تنظيف بالرياض متميزة داخل المنطقة التي تعمل بها لانها تعمل علي تقديم كل ما هو جديد في عالم النظافة لتقديم خدمة متميزة للعميل فتعامل مع شركة تنظيف فلل بالرياض ستلاقي فريق من العمال لدك مختصين في اعمال نظافة الفلل وهذا يحدث ايضا مع شركة تنظيف خزانات بالرياض
    والتي تعمل علي نظافة الخزانات وتعقيها للقضاء علي الاوساخ والبكتريا الصغيرة التي توجد بها معكم ايضا شركة تنظيف مسابح بالرياض التي تعمل علي الصيانة والتنظيف بواسطة اثنين من الفنين المختصين في مجال المسابح واليك خدمة اساسية تلبي لك العيش في بيئة خالية من الحشرات الصغيرة من خلال قسم شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض الذي يعمل علي القضاء علي جميع الحشرات المنزلية كما يوجد قسم اخر في مجال مكافحة الحشرات وهو شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض التي تقدم خدمة الوقاية والقضاء علي هذه الافات بواسطة مبيدات طبيعية

    ReplyDelete

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