Beauty products: how to do the big sorting at the start of the school year

The golden rule for keeping your care properly is to store it in a clean, dry place, away from extreme temperatures, and to avoid going in and out of the heat as much as possible. If you remember to close them well, it's even better! To know their lifespan, refer to the packaging: if there is an expiry date - this is not always the case, because it is not mandatory - it is often thirty-six month. This is a duration commonly accepted by cosmetics manufacturers. The tests are made to cover these three years. Beyond that, the product is expired and must be thrown away! There is also a PAO (period after opening): represented by the drawing of the small jar with a number inside, this is the shelf life recommended by the manufacturer once the jar has been opened. All contaminable products have one, because it is mandatory.

The PAO depends on the "sensitivity" of the formula, and therefore, in particular, on the preservatives it contains. It is therefore variable, most often from six to twelve months, but never beyond eighteen months. Depending on the products, we can have both information, or only a PAO. Examples: an anti-stain serum, manufactured in 2021, will have an expiry date of 2024 and a PAO of six months once it is opened, while a shower gel will only indicate a PAO of twelve months.

Expired or not?

Just as in the case of a food product, to find out, we first look at the date. Then, if there is any doubt, or if it is no longer legible, we rely on the smell, the appearance and the color. When the treatment is oxidized, these qualities change: it no longer gives off the same fragrance and its texture is different, less smooth, sometimes lumpy. Not clear anyway. It may also ooze or become darker, out of phase. If you no longer remember when you opened the jar or the tube, and you are still hesitating, you can always apply a small dose of product to the back of your hand, advises Sylvie Coslédan, analytical manager in microbiology at Avene. Spread it and feel it, to see if the comfort of use is still there. Fortunately, in all these cases, the risks are not very great: you can have a skin reaction, or even irritation. On the other hand, it is more unfortunate if it is a treatment applied near the eyes, a product for babies or if the skin is reactive. There, it is better not to tempt the devil. At the slightest suspicion, go to the trash...

Attention fragile!

Some products are more perishable than others. In theory, all those formulated with water, the medium of choice for bacteria and other fungi, are contaminable. Fortunately, the preservatives take care of the grain and limit the risk of possible bacterial contamination... most often by not very clean fingers. On the other hand, if you use care intended for sensitive skin, vigilance is essential: they have a shorter expiry date, between six and twelve months, instead of thirty-six, because they contain fewer preservatives in order to to be better tolerated. Also be wary of certain anti-aging treatments: retinol oxidizes easily. Ditto for vitamin C, which is an unstable molecule.

Produits de beauté : comment faire le grand tri à la rentrée

In any case, the PAO must be monitored and used quickly after purchase. Same principle of precaution concerning dermatological creams, most often drugs with a deadline to be respected. As for the tubes of sunscreen that have been started, we throw them away without remorse at the end of the summer! “They may have been in contact with sand, water, or even subjected to high heat on the beach, in the car. These are very exposed products, whose UV filters degrade quickly,” warns Sylvie Coslédan.

And organic products?

They meet the same regulations and therefore do not present more risks. Formulated with effective preservatives (sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate), they are tested to resist bacteria like an ordinary product. Their shelf life is identical to that of conventional cosmetic products: six to twelve months after opening and thirty-six months without being opened. It is their natural assets that may be more sensitive to light. But they undergo the same storage resistance tests. They are therefore kept like the others, in a temperate and clean place.

Make-up side

"For products that we put on the face like make-up, the rule is to be more careful than with those that we apply to the body, because the skin is more sensitive to them", recommends Savéria Coste, doctor of pharmacy and creator of the Garancia brand. Same reflexes to protect them well: beware of the sun, direct light, humidity. Do not forget to close the products well after use, so that they retain their qualities for a long time. And do not take too long to get rid of it when the PAO is exceeded.

Eye shadows, blushes and earths of sun are compacted powders. Formulated without water, they are much more resistant to time than their creamy counterparts, which can dry out. They can be kept for several years, tightly closed, so that they remain clean. To limit the risk of eye or skin irritation, “wash your brushes once a month with warm water and soap. Rinse them and spray them with a jet of alcohol to disinfect them,” advises Savéria Coste.

The liquid foundation can, like a treatment, go out of phase, and we then have the impression that it has turned. If it is not out of age, shake it well. He must regain his usual fluidity. Otherwise, throw it away. “But it is not necessarily more sensitive than a compact or a stick, which can dry out,” warns Savéria Coste.

Lipstick and other balms are oily products that can go rancid. They then become drier, less slippery, and more pleasant to use.

The mascara requires that we redouble our attention, because we apply it near the eye, which is a sensitive area. If it is not sealed tightly, it may dry out very quickly. Are you tempted to add a little water inside? Abstain! There would then be a risk of bacterial contamination. At least a drop of oil, concedes the creator of Garancia. And for one or two uses at most, the time to buy another one.

The varnish, on the other hand, becomes pasty when it is too old. It is tempting to add solvent to refluidify it. Only problem, it gradually destroys the formula and gradually dilutes the pigments, which become much less intense. It is better to throw it away and get into the habit of wiping the neck and closing the bottle tightly after use.

More or less protective packaging

The jar is the container most subject to contamination, because you open it and put your fingers in it. Its PAO is therefore shorter. The tube protects the formula better, especially if it has a pump. Thus, there is no (or little) air in contact with the product. Airless packaging is airtight and opaque. The formula does not come into contact with air or light. These are most often bottles or tubes, but there are also airless jars for the care of fragile skin. Thanks to Sophie Strobel, biologist and cosmetologist.

Which trash do we throw in?

Only one in three French people systematically sort their hygiene, beauty and care products.* However, sorting is becoming more and more perfect. Thus, a pot, a tube, a bottle on which is written PET, HDPE or PP is good for the sorting centre. When it comes to a glass container, it is also recyclable. Just like aluminum sprays… To limit your waste, also think about recycled and recyclable plastic, limit over-packaging and favor refills and bulk.* Barometer on the sorting of cosmetic products, Harris Interactive/ L’Oréal, October 2019

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