December 31st, 2011 / posted by paularath

Chaos in the cosmetics kit.

Perhaps it’s the strong Asian influence in Hawaii that makes us think about scrubbing, polishing, culling and cleaning our homes for the new year. We often attack our floors, windows, cupboards and carpets, but there’s one thing we may overlook: our cosmetics.

It’s just as important to clean and sanitize the stuff we put on our faces as it is to clean our homes and clothing. Makeup has a shelf life, and outdated or adulterated makeup can cause a lot of problems for your skin.

You won’t find expiration dates on cosmetics, although they should probably have them. Be aware that there is a big difference between the shelf life of a product that has been opened and one that remains sealed. It might be helpful to mark your products with the date you open them.

Unfortunately, a disease called acne cosmetica has become all too frequent in Hawaii. It means blemishes caused by soiled implements such as powder puffs, sponges and brushes. Since many products are made with natural oils, they can go bad when in contact with the oils of the skin, causing an eruption of acne.

Lipsticks have to be digestible so they are made with natural ingredients that can go rancid. You’ll notice a faint smell of rancid oil if they’ve gone bad. Toss ’em!

Like paint that settles and separates when it gets old, makeup can change color and texture when past its prime. If you see changes occurring, try removing the top layer with a plastic knife.  If that doesn’t help, get rid of it.

Powders grow the least bacteria, so their shelf life is longer. Once opened they should be good for a year or two.

Keep cosmetics sharp with a good tool.

Here are some tips from Jess Aki, who teaches cosmetology at Honolulu Community College, as well as handling makeup duties for many community theatre productions.

  • Never touch your cosmetics with your fingers because hands carry bacteria. Use a small tool to get the product out.
  • Change your mascara as often as you change your toothbrush. Bacteria can form in mascara, causing the highly contagious eye disease conjunctivitis.
  • Never pump your mascara. The pumping action can propel airborne bacteria into the tube. It shouldn’t be necessary anyway, as mascara tubes are designed to require just a swipe or two.
  • Eye pencils can splinter if not sharpened smooth and a splinter in the eye can cause a trip to the ER.
  • If you have makeup that you’re not using currently, put it in the freezer. Lip pencils, lipsticks, eye pencils, even foundations and powders can be preserved in the freezer. Oil-based foundations may separate a little, but will reconstitute when shaken. A bonus: Freezing pencils makes them easier to sharpen.

Ideally, makeup brushes should be washed every week. To clean brushes, there are sprays you can find at Sephora or a gentle shampoo (Johnson’s Baby Shampoo works well). Be sure to let the brushes dry thoroughly, hanging them over the edge of a sink or counter. My favorite easy method for cleaning brushes is  Japonesque Pro Brush Cleaner Wipes. It’s so easy! You simply swipe the brushes across the wipes and, presto, they’re clean. I buy them from Makeup expert Liz Dahl at Etch Salon, 1020 Keeaumoku Street (just makai of Young).

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year!

– Paula Rath



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