I used to think that buying a new lipstick was like getting a new dress. They both would be there, forever immaculate, waiting patiently for the perfect moment to be worn. But not so long ago I realised that our makeup bags are closer to our press (can you tell I'm from Longford? So Irish) than they are to our wardrobes.
Most of my skincare has been natural for a while, mainly because I'm quite reactive and I want to play it safe. At least the majority of the time. That's also why I don't use that many products (debatable, I'm aware), meaning I have to replace them quite quickly. So I hadn't paid proper attention to expiry dates until I started playing with natural makeup.
I knew the lid symbol on the packaging indicated how many months something is supposed to last after opening, but I was still overlooking the fact that I had had that blusher for over four years. Because it was Chanel, and Chanel is eternal.
With natural makeup the story changes a bit, because they usually have fewer synthetic preservatives (no preservatives at all is very rare), which translates into shorter shelf lives. And buying a new mascara every three months doesn't work for me. Simply because I'm a beauty snob and I like pretty things that feel luxurious and, sadly, that tends to be synonymous with a hefty price tag. So was the end of my natural affair.
But I digress. Skin is our largest organ and we feed it both topically and internally, otherwise we wouldn't bother with creams and external treatments. Just like food goes bad and it can have a negative effect on our bodies, the same happens with beauty items. Obviously you can't get food poisoning from an eyeliner, but they are prone to bacteria growth, which can lead to an eye infection. You also might react to a foundation that has gone off and break out, defeating the purpose of making your skin look better. Or a lipgloss has separated, changed colour and smells rotten, so consequently you are eating something that has expired (and have an ugly smell under your nose, which isn't that pleasant either). You get me.
Since I'm a big nerd, I decided to go through my makeup bag and boxes, because I had quite a stash at the time, checking product by product if things were okay. My memory is pretty good, yet still it was impossible to remember when everything had been opened, and that's when I discovered batch codes. They are like the ID of cosmetics, telling you when they were made, and consist of a series of numbers (or letters and numbers) stamped on the packaging. Think about them as the "best before date" of beauty, while the lid symbol with the months on it is the "once opened consume within X amount of time" equivalent.
This is when the fun begins (at least for me). I came across two websites, CheckFresh and CheckCosmetic, that help you find the manufacture date of beauty products. Easy. And incredibly satisfying. I must say, though, that the same way that I don't chuck away food that's perfectly fine, I took this information with a pinch of salt and only got rid of things that clearly weren't okay anymore but I had grown attached to. Oh, capitalism.
For those who want to take it even further, there's an app called Beauty Keeper that I adore. Just bear in mind that I have my whole wardrobe in an app too, so I don't expect you to be as obsessive as I am. However, if you are an organisation freak definitely come say hello to me on Instagram or leave a comment below. I'd like to think I'm not alone.
With this app you can keep track of your makeup bag and skincare shelf, organising each item by date and knowing when something has to be replaced, theoretically. Again, just like I'm not magically going to age overnight because it's my birthday tomorrow, a lip liner won't go bad within twenty-four hours. What I love about Beauty Keeper, though, is that I can register when I open something and this helps me see if a product is good value or not. Knowing how long it's lasted me for is a great way to see if it's really worth the money. And money is hard to earn, so you'd like to spend it well.
Plus, you can check batch codes when you buy something new, to find out how fresh it is. You'd be surprised by what's in stock in some shops, I warn you!
(Disclaimer: I do have a life, but I believe tidying is a hobby as acceptable as gardening. Or baking. Or getting drunk every weekend, maybe).
Have you paid attention to this before? What criteria do you follow to keep or buy cosmetics?