You know that your beauty products have expiration dates—but storing them in your car or in a hot, steamy bathroom can affect their consistency, color, and active ingredients, making them go bad faster and forcing you to buy all new stuff. Not good. Here’s how to tell if your makeup has been ruined—and how to store your products properly so you maximize their shelf life.
What Products Go Bad?
In general, liquid products will have a much worse reaction in hot conditions than solids and powders, says Victoria Colangelo, senior vice president of product development at MANA Products, a contract manufacturing company for cosmetics.
Those containing natural ingredients are more likely to react too. "Skin-care products with natural actives have very specific molecular compositions," says Michelle Ornstein, a natural cosmetics formulator and the founder of Enessa Skincare. Heat and "UV rays can change the active's composition or completely destroy it, rendering it ineffective," she says.
While some liquid products can withstand a few days in the heat (they’re put through rigorous tests in laboratories before being put on the market, says Colangelo), the longer they spend in a hot environment, the more they’ll break down and become ineffective.
How Can You Tell if a Product Has Gone Bad?
First, "use your nose to detect any foul smells or rancidity—that's how you can easily mark anything as unusable," says Ornstein. In terms of appearance, products will melt dramatically and those with pigment will fade in color. Here's what lipstick that was left in a car looks like.
But you'll see the biggest change with sunscreen and foundation. "The pigment and the actual formula [of the foundation] will separate," says Rosie Jane Johnston, a makeup artist and founder of cosmetics line By Rosie Jane. While stick SPFs won't change, liquid SPFs will undergo a consistency change, most likely melting to a thinner texture. Here's what our editor's tinted moisturizer with SPF looks like now after she (unintentionally) left it in her bathroom cabinet for the last three months. The texture changed from smooth to clumpy.
Photo by Alyssa Zolna
And here's a foundation that's separated after being stored in a sunny environment for the last few months. The oil has separated from the pigment, leaving it too watery and greasy to use.
Photo by Alyssa Zolna
Can They Be Saved?
Sadly, no. If you see any kind of consistency change with SPF, it's best to throw it out, says Colangelo. UV protection is the last place you want to take any chances. When you can't reform separated makeup with your fingers, Johnston recommends tossing and repurchasing.
How Should You Store Your Products?
Products with oil and silicone (including fragrances) should always be kept at room temperature because they can start to separate if it gets too hot. In the car, put them in the glove box, says Johnston, because direct sunlight can penetrate through car windows and disrupt the formulas. And if you’re vacationing or live in a hot climate like Miami (lucky you!), keep products in the coolest area of the room, and store them in an opaque makeup bag with an ice pack if you’re taking them to the beach.