Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mascara: The 3 month rule.

One of the most commonly advertised "rules" for mascara is that you're suppose to throw it out after 3 months. The reasoning behind this is that bacteria gets in the tube and can infect your eyes.

Is this a genuine issue, or is it a marketing scam to get you to need to buy more mascara, thus giving cosmetic companies more money?

I believe its the latter.

Lets look at this bacteria issue for a moment.

1) How would it get inside your mascara? Every tube of mascara I've seen has a tiny opening with a rubber stopper that prevents too much product from getting out, and basically anything else from getting in. You can't put any dirty fingers inside, and you're probably not going to spit in it or blow dirty air inside or something. The only place the applicator wand touches is your eyelashes. I can only speak for myself, but I usually put on eye makeup after washing my face, so theoretically I don't have germs in my eyes when I put my mascara on. On that note, your eyes don't make bacteria all by themselves, and they have a natural way of flushing out anything that isn't suppose to be there (tears!).

2) If it did get bacteria inside, so what? There's bacteria in the air, which gets in your eyes. Its on our fingers, which come into contact with ours eyes and mouths all the time. If you get an eye infection I think its more likely that it'll come from your fingers then your mascara. I got pink eye once when I was 10, and I never used any form of eye make up back then. I haven't had any eye infections since then and my current mascara's are between 2 & 3 years old.

3) Don't we do the exact same thing with lip gloss? We put the same wand on our lips and back into the tube everyday. As long as it doesn't go bad people generally use the same lip gloss for several years or until its used up. If there is bacteria its not going in our eyes, its going in our mouths which to me sound a lot worse. No one's telling us to throw out our lip gloss after 3 months because it might make us sick.

I think its pretty illogical to think your mascara is going to breed some horrible bacteria after 3 months. Like I said above, all of my current mascaras are a few years old and I haven't had any problems. I have yet to have one dry up. I've only in my life used one mascara up and that took a few years and was one with the lash primer on one side & the mascara on the other so it was half what you get in a normal mascara. There has only be one mascara that I thought went bad, but it was 5 or 6 years old and I didn't remember if it smelled bad to begin with or not.

This is just my opinion. You don't have to hold onto your mascara until the end of the world like me, but don't toss out something that still works great and waste that money.

This look here was done with my 3 year old Maybelline Great Lash mascara, it still looks great right? Look no germs...


lilaznktty said...

Hello!! Love your blog btw.

But I think the main argument for switching every 3 months is because for every time you use your mascara, you pump air into the bottle. The mascara reacts with the bacterial in the air, and starts to turn bad. I think 3 months is a safe estimate for people who only use one mascara on a daily basis. Because it really depends on how often you use the mascara, and how the mascara reacts with air.

I don't wear mascaras as often, so my mascaras are also over 3 months old, but I would always smell it to see if it's still safe to use. I've had ones that smelled different after a while so I had to toss them.

Katrina said...

I really don't think mascara is going to go bad because of "bacteria" and its not like a ton of air gets in there. Its going to go bad because the formula changes with time and age. Yes, for some that happens very quickly, but that is because its poorly made, not because of outside influences. I think most mascaras are made to last longer then that, and if they didn't I wouldn't rebuy that same mascara.

Connie De Alwis said...

Neat post! I have problem letting go of my makeup which includes my mascaras. Some just don't dry up and as long as they don't, I continue using them! I event have a mascara solvent that dilutes dried up mascara. Affects the performance of the mascara though :-/

i'm not bothered with the myths but I've realised that mascaras shouldn't be shared since it may cause eye infections.

Beauty is Androgynous said...

you do bring up good points but think about it in terms of food.

You open up a container of food, close it up and put it in the fridge.

you can argue that no "germs" or bacteria can get in there but yet it will go bad anyway.

2-3 years is a really long time to be hanging on to mascara.

I've heard its anywhere from 3-6 months max but 3 months to be safe.

you're lucky you haven't gotten an infection. maybe there isn't much bacteria but the product itself could go bad.

Tish said...

This is such a well-written piece. While I may not be completely sold out on the points given, I don't believe in dumping my mascaras in the bin after 3months. I've had my Covergirl marathon mascara for nearly one year and it hasn't gone bad at all in terms of performance, scent (a very strong one which I have always hated), and formula. Just like you, I wait till my mascaras dry up or get goopy on me before I toss them.

By the way, your lashes are long. I just had to say that.

Katrina said...

Connie - I totally agree that mascara should not be shared.

Beauty is Androgynous - You do have a good point, some things do go bad quickly, but there are also things that last a lot longer then you'd think they would. Its good to be cautious, but you don't have to be paranoid.

Thank you Tish.

LT said...

I don't follow the 3 month rule either. I have 5 or 6 mascaras in rotation right now and the oldest is probably way past the 3 month mark. My eyeballs haven't fallen out yet...that's a good sign right?

Cheryl Anne said...

I'm glad that someone throws caution to the wind regarding the age-old mascara issue.

I would LIKE to throw out my mascara after three months, but I don't use mascara often enough to warrant a toss that often. If anything, I usually can't remember when I last bought the tube, so if I think it may be 6 months or so, then I'll consider tossing it. Usually, for me, the mascaras I've bought tend to clump before long, so, then I toss.

But nice to know that if I do keep them hanging around long enough, someone out there hasn't had any ill effects.

Thanks for your thoughts on this!

ndoodles said...

I think switching it every 3 months is ridiculous but I do think that your eyes are an extremely sensitive part of your body. People get eye infections easily and frequently. Just know that when it comes to your eyes, be very careful. If something smells weird or looks weird... throw it away.

GS said...

I´ve never followed that "3 months rule" I throw my mascaras away when they get REALLY dry and that usually happens after a year or when I get bored that can be before ... or after. You have a nice blog and you FOTDs are really cute.

Anonymous said...

You sure have some good points on this one. I use my mascara's longer than 3 months too. But your eyes are very vulnerable and mascara is what comes the closest too them (except eyepencil on your waterline, but that can be sharpened for use). As long as the mascara works fine and your eyes don't react on it, you can use it, I guess.

xLRH said...

I keep mascara for 6 months, I think they start smelling funky after that. By the way, I tagged you in my latest post!

Shen said...

i agree on you on some points. i don't throw away my mascara just after 3 mos. i have mascaras that has been in my stash for quite awhile but not more than a year. of i've been using it a lot, 6 mos. is the test for me. :)

Lucy said...

I follow my own rules. If it smells funny, out it goes. Dry and clumpy, good bye. I don't agree with all this bacteria getting in the tube. There is bacteria living all over and on your lashes. Why will is go bad in three months. If you don't have any eye infections or share your makeup I wouldn't toss after three months. The same with other makeup. If the color gets weird, smells funny or taste bad, well get rid of it. I had about 10 lip glosses. Two I had to dump because they tasted funny. I never used them! The others I used a few times and they were fine.

Anonymous said...

I think it really depends on the mascara and the individual. If its gone bad..i think most people are smart enough to throw it away. With that being said..i find it hard to believe a mascara would go bad after only 3 months. And to the person who uses the food comment..

That is absolutely the worst comparison/argument I've ever heard. Food spoils incredibly quick without the use of preservatives.. next time, read the ingredients on the mascara packaging. I'd bet good money that a 1/4 are preservatives.

After reading this post, I know I'm going to love your blog. I love a girl who can think for herself.

Anonymous said...

"Look no germs..."
Have you ever been able to see a germ? Just because you cant see them, doesnt mean they aren't there.

CNN article on the shelf life of cosmetics:

Northeastern State University Oklahoma experiment results:
(they tested and found bacteria)

Your article was well written and almost persuasive had it not been completely scientifically inaccurate. You should get references next time.
Congratulations on being lucky enough not to get an eye infection with bacteria ridden mascara.

Kelly said...

1. There is no evidence that the content of the CNN article is scientifically based. Just because it says "CNN" doesn't mean it isn't a regurgitated press release (ahem).

2. U of OK study found that only 36% (that's only a third, people) of the mascara tubes had microbial growth. Most of the bacteria found growing on them, Staphylococcus epidermidis, is one of the many, many bacteria that live on our skin all the time. And saying that they "had microbial growth" doesn't say how much, and it's not at all the same as saying that it causes infection, let alone blindness.

If you buy a natural mascara with no preservatives then maybe you should be careful about spoilage. In general you are probably much better off to worry about the toxic chemicals in highly preserved mascara. See

PS - Dear America, please get a better science education so psuedo-science and fear-mongering marketing campaigns don't fool you into throwing away your money.

Anonymous said...

I think your post has some very good points in it and is something to think about, and although the 3month mark is a big too short for me, it is true about bacteria as I recently starting using an old mascara again and it causes me some problem along my lash line.

Peaches said...

Great blog! WOW! I'll never get to your status of efficiency but I sure am glad I stumbled upon you for pointers on product use. Great work! Please come see my page if ever you have the chance. I a totally amateur & talk about products as if I'm sitting down with my girlfriends.

Anonymous said...

wow! excellent! :)