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If you‘re like most women I know, you have far too many jars and tubes of partially used cosmetics and makeup laying about. As someone who is always on the lookout for new and effective skin care products, I’m particulary guilty on this count. Whether your products are buried in a dark drawer somewhere or neatly stacked on your counter top, you probably wonder from time to time if it’s still safe to use these potions.  

Though we all appreciate the importance of exercising caution with make up and skin care products designed for the eye area, what about the rest of the stuff that a girl (or guy) just must have?  

In Canada and the United States, manufacturers aren’t required to print expiry dates on cosmetics. And although they do conduct stability tests, we really can’t tell how long a personal care product will last once it's been opened. In the European Union, they‘re slightly ahead of us, with the PAO (Period After Opening) system. This system lets consumers know how long a product can be safely used after opening. The flaw, though slight, in this system is that it doesn't take into consideration how the product is stored once it's opened, whether clean hands are using it or whether the kids got into it when you weren't looking. It’s still better than nothing at all as long as you remember when you opened it!

Here are some general guidelines for when personal care products should be discarded:

Cosmetics used near the eye (mascara, eye shadow for example) - 4 - 6 months
Moisturizers and foundations - 1 - 2 years
Powder based items - 2 - 3 years
Retinoids/retinol preparations - 1 year (start losing potency)
Alpha hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid) - 6 months. Alpha hydroxy acids can actually become more potent over time, increasing their potential to cause irritation
Antioxidants (like Vitamins C and E) - 6 months
Sunscreen - 1 year
Hydroquinone - 1 year  

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti-aging skincare and wellness issues in women. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed] 


Pharmagirl, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.



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