Q. I am confused by dates on products. I have so many expensive beauty treats at home, which I don’t use on a daily basis, but only for special occasions – like my YSL Touche Eclat, or Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. There are symbols on the packaging that tell me to discard after six months or 12 months after opening – but they’re no way finished, and I could still get lots of use out of them. Do I really need to throw them away? It seems such a waste!
A. Manufacturers now cover themselves by putting dates on packaging as guidelines for how long to keep them. There are some general rules – for instance, you should replace your mascara every three months, foundations are designed to last for between one to two years, fragrance for a year – and so on. (NB Powder textures have an almost indefinite lifetime, as there is no water in which bugs can breed.) A lot depends on how you store things, though – ideally, away from heat and sunlight, with lids firmly screwed on. With Touche Eclat, brushes can get ‘whiffy’ if the product isn’t used – but you can wash the brush like any other make-up brush, with a touch of laundry wash; massage with your fingers till you get a nice foam, then rinse and leave to dry on a dry towel. Our other best advice is to use your eyes – and nose: if a product goes runny, or separates, or starts to smell not just ‘off’ but different, ditch it. And always apply make-up and skincare with spotlessly clean hands, as it’s very easy to transfer bacteria into products from grubby fingers.