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Safe Use of Eye Makeup

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Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Have you seen Simply Skin Eye Makeup online or in my shop?  No?  Well that comes as no surprise as I do not produce makeup..... well not yet anyway.  However, just because it's not in my product range, doesn't mean I shouldn't blog about it, especially if I feel it would benefit and educate my customers.

I want you to do something for me.  I want you to go and get your makeup bag, or wherever you keep your cosmetics, before you read this blog as I want to make this blog as interactive as possible.

Have you got your makeup bag and its contents with you?  Yes?  Then let's begin.

(Click 'Read more' to continue)

First I would ask you to empty all the contents of your makeup bag onto a table in front of you.  Now, take some time to look through all your various products and make three bundles:
Bundle 1 - new makeup which has not yet been opened
Bundle 2 - opened makeup which has (definitely) not yet been open for 3 months
Bundle 3 - all other makeup (make sure to include any makeup that is open but which you're not certain whether it's been open for more than 3 months or not)

So.  Which bundle contains the most product? 

Well I would suspect Bundle 3 - if you're anything like me (or what I used to be like). 

Bundle 3 may hold that special bright eye-shadow that you've had since your teenage years which you keep incase it comes back into fashion someday and you'll be wanting to wear it, or it may contain that special glitter eyeliner that you keep specially for those fun party nights, or mascara which you love because of the way it curls your eyelashes, or an expensive eye-liner you spent your hard-earned money on.  Does any of this sound familiar?  Do you find it impossible to simply throw out some of your makeup..... just incase?

Well, please read on and, hopefully, by the time you have reached the end of this blog you will have changed your mind about keeping your old makeup... just incase.

So.  Look through all your products, it doesn't matter which Bundle it lies in, and lift out a mascara, for example.  Go to the side label and look for the "use by" symbol - this is commonly a picture of an open jar with a number in it.  Do you know what this symbol means?  Well the number tells you the number of months the manufacturer recommends the product can be used for, once it has been opened.  For mascara products this may be 12 months, for other products a bit longer.  If you cannot read the number of months on the symbol and are not sure when you opened the product, can I ask that you to place your product in Bundle 3.

Now take the contents of Bundles 1 and 2 and place them back in your makeup bag, ready to be used when you next need them.

The contents of Bundle 3, we want to separate further into the following categories:
Eye Pencils
Liquid Eye Shadows
Powder Eye Shadows

Now ask yourself 3 questions:
Have I had an eye infection?
Do I store my products in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight?
Do I ensure the lid is always tightly closed after use?

If you answered 'yes' to my eye infection question, then there's a good chance that this eye infection was caused by your eye makeup.  In which case you need to pay special attention to how long you keep your eye makeup and how you store it.... you may have had a very lucky escape.

If you answered 'no' to either my product storing question (remembering that a bathroom is not a 'dry place' and your car is not always a 'cool place') or my 'tightly closed lid' question, then again you need to be vigilant with how long you keep your eye makeup.

The 'use by' symbol on your eye makeup is a guideline from the manufacturer, detailing the number of months you can use the product after it is first opened, assuming you have stored it correctly and have not had/do not have an eye infection.  It is after this time that the preservatives used in the product will stop working, if these right conditions are present..... if these conditions are not present then the preservatives may have stopped being effective much earlier.

What do these preservatives do in your product?
These preservatives are designed to fight bacteria that may irritate and damage your eye.  However, depending on how often you use your product and how you look after it and store it, these preservatives may have to work pretty hard and stop working earlier than the time shown on the 'use by' symbol.  The longer you use a product, the easier it is for bacteria or fungi
to get into your makeup, potentially causing eye or skin infections, health experts warn:  "If a person holds onto something for too long a time, or adds water to something, or if it's a product that's continuously touched, then you're adding germs," explained a cosmetic chemist.  Indeed I have read that a New York optometrist and spokesperson for the American Optometric Association, Dr Thau, says she treats one or two women each month for cosmetic-related infections with many makeup infections not even being unreported or undiagnosed.

Eye makeup — specifically, mascara and any creams or liquids that are around your eyes — has a shorter shelf life than other cosmetics. Many experts recommend replacing eye makeup, especially liquids and creams, after only three months.

What Can Happen If You Continually Use Old Eye Makeup?
Well let me reiterate a true story I have just read.  A 20-year-old didn't think anything about using a mascara for twice the recommended amount of time. That is, until her right upper eyelid started to itch.   "The whole eyelid was very, very red and it was swollen," says the girl. The condition continued on and off for two months until she was diagnosed with blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelid that can be caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. She's got it under control with antibiotics — and a brand new mascara.

In addition to scaly, itchy lids, contaminated cosmetics can cause bacterial conjunctivitis or a stye, an inflamed oil gland on the edge of the eyelid. Styes start out as relatively simple problems that can be easily resolved but if you don't address them, you could be left with a permanent lump.

And with any eye infection, there is always the possibility of going blind.

So now you have been informed of the risks of wearing old eye makeup, let's get back to Bundle 3.  Are you ready to sort through the eye makeup in Bundle 3 now?  I don't want to dictate to you what you should and shouldn't do with regards how long you keep using your eye makeup - whether you follow the manufacturers recommendations or the recommendations I am going to list below.  I just ask you to be honest with yourself and err on the side of caution.   I have searched the internet for recommendations and have found that most documents and write-ups all agree with the below recommendations. 

How long should you keep your makeup?
Here are the recommended shelf lifes for each eye cosmetic after it has been opened for the first time.

Mascara: Toss your mascara after 3 months.  Mascara has the shortest life span of all make up because the risk of transferring bacteria back and forth from your eye into the mascara tube is so great.  If your mascara starts to dry out before its 90 days is up, throw it away.  Don’t add water or saliva to your mascara to rewet it.  Doing so will only increase your chances of getting an eye infection.

Eye pencils: Eye pencils can be kept up to 2 years.  To make sure you’re using a clean tip, sharpen before each application.

Eye shadows: Keep your applicators clean and your liquid shadows should last 12 months.  Powder shadows will keep 2 years.

If you’ve had an eye infection, you’ll need to throw out all the eye make up and applicators you used from the time you developed symptoms.  The virus or bacteria that caused the infection has probably taken up residence in your make up, so using those cosmetics again could cause you to develop another infection.

Think of your make up a bit like you do your food.  If it smells weird, develops a film, or has a mold-green tint to it, it’s gone bad and needs to be tossed out.

Here's a handy tip that I now use: When you open a cosmetic for the first time, write the date on the product. It will help you keep track of how long you’ve had the make up so you’ll know when it’s time to throw it away.

Whilst I hope I have helped highlight some of the precautions you should take when using eye makeup, I hope you continue to enjoy using your eye makeup and....... I hope you enjoy carrying a makeup bag which feels lighter than normal.

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  1. Anne

    Thanks for sharing this Vivienne. I was really surprised to read that you shouldn't keep make up in the bathroom and I bet most people do. I also did as you asked and went through my make up bag - now I have to go and treat myself to more! Please keep up the informative posts.

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