Are You Safe With Your Cosmetics?

ByABC News
November 13, 2002, 10:13 AM

Nov. 18 -- Mascara and foundation, experts warn, can give you more than mile-long eyelashes and a flawless complexion. Cosmetics can cause irritations, allergies and infections that may, unfortunately, leave you looking less than beautiful.

Is your makeup bag full of products left over from a decade of changing fashion trends? If so, it may be time to get rid of the old, at least for safety's sake.

"Expiration dates for cosmetics are arbitrary and are not based in fact," says Dr. Lisa Donofrio, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

Most have long shelf lives, but past research shows, a little bacteria is present in makeup before we even buy it. When you touch the product with unclean hands or with an unclean applicator or brush, you are adding more bacteria, explains the Food and Drug Administration.

At some point, aging cosmetics lose their ability to kill bacteria no matter how cautious you are when using it. While there are no guidelines for cosmetic use, experts agree that it is a good and safe idea to keep track of how long you have been using products.

"The risk of infection can be reduced if you change them every three to four months," recommends Dr. Robin Ashinoff, chief of dermatologic and laser surgery at New York University.

Another indication that your cosmetics belong in the garbage and not on your face? "Any noticeable changes in texture, color, or smell," says Ashinoff, should be immediate grounds for cosmetic disposal.

Donofrio also says, "Consumers should be wary if a clear cosmetic turns cloudy or if makeup turns oily or begins to separate from its base."

If your cosmetics become thick or clumpy, never attempt to revive the consistency of the makeup with water or saliva. "Both are non-sterile substances that can kill the prophylactic preservatives in cosmetics and act as a breeding ground for bacterial growth," Ashinoff says.

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