Fully Exposed


Posted on: November 03, 2015

Under current United States law, there are no regulations or requirements that mandate cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on the labels of cosmetic products. It is the manufacturer's responsibility to determine shelf life for products as part of their responsibility to substantiate product safety.

The Expiration Date is the date after which the cosmetic product will be expired and should not be used anymore. To clarify how long you can use a product once it is opened, the Period After Opening (PAO) sign is more frequently being utilized by American cosmetic companies. An open jar sign is followed by a number and the letter M, where the number indicates the number of months the product can be safely used after opening. For example, 12M would indicate that the product is safe for use for 12 months after opening. If a product  does not show an expiration date or a PAO sign, the user may contact the customer care department of the company that produced the product and ask for it.

Shelf life guidelines developed by the cosmetic industry varies depending on the product and its intended use. The shelf life for eye-area cosmetics is usually more limited than for other products. Due to repeated microbial exposure during use by the consumer and the possible risk of eye infections, manufacturers usually recommend discarding mascara three to four months after purchase. When mascara dries out, discard it. Do not add water or, even worse, saliva to moisten it, as that may introduce bacteria into the product.

Other cosmetics that may have unusually shorter shelf lives include "all natural" products that often contain plant-derived substances conducive to microbial growth. In addition, products that contain non-traditional preservatives or no preservatives at all may have an increased risk of contamination.

Expiration dates are simply "rules of thumb," and a product's safety may expire long before the expiration date. Cosmetics exposed to high temperatures or sunlight, or opened and examined by consumers prior to being purchased may deteriorate substantially before the expiration date.

Sharing makeup increases the risk of contamination. "Testers" commonly found at department store cosmetic counters are more likely to become contaminated than the same products purchased for individaul use. To test a cosmetic before purchasing it, apply it with a new, unused applicator, such as a fresh cotton swab.

Makeup Longevity Industry Recommendations (approximate)

  • Lipstick: 1 year
  • Foundation: 1 year
  • Mascara: 4 months
  • Powders and Eye Shadows: 2 years



Posted on: October 26, 2015

Parabens are preservatives, a class of compounds that prevent the inevitable overgrowth of a wide spectrum of bacteria, fungus and yeast from contaminating a skincare product. Parabens are effective, very stable compounds and lack side effects. Parabens are derived from PHBA, para-hydroxybenzoic acid, which occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables including carrots, onions, and blueberries. But they have a bad reputation.

In the 1990's, several studies suggested that parabens have very weak estrogenic activity. In 1998, a study concluded that the most potent paraben, butylparaben, had 10,000 to 100,000-fold less estrogenic activity than estradiol, a naturally occurring estrogen. In 2004, a British study found traces of parabens in breast cancer tissue but failed to look at the presence of parabens in the normal tissue. The study failed to show that the parabens caused the tumors or were harmful in any way. Regardless, the fear of parabens propagated rapidly and manufacturers were quick to appease consumers by offering "paraben-free" skincare products. To date, there is still no conclusive scientific data that proves deleterious effects of parabens. Nor is there epidemiological evidence linking parabens to breast cancer. Regulatory organizations in Japan, Europe, and the United States continue to support the use of parabens as a preservative.


Posted on: June 11, 2015

What does Broad Spectrum mean on a sunscreen label?

The sun emits two types of harmful rays: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA rays are the dominant tanning rays and are a major cause of skin aging and even skin cancer. UVB rays are predominantly the cause of sunburn and skin cancers, but can also contribute to the development of fine lines, dark spots and wrinkles. UVA rays penetrate through glass windows, UVB rays do not.

Broad Spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Purchase sunscreen that says "broad spectrum" on the label!


Posted on: March 24, 2015

A skincare product is considered a cosmetic or a drug, depending on its intended use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines cosmetics as "articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance." By law, cosmetics cannot claim to alter the structure or function of the skin.

Moisturizing is a cosmetic claim. A moisturizer that claims to decrease the "appearance" of fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the water content of skin is considered a cosmetic. Although skincare product manufacturers must follow the laws and regulations that apply to cosmetics, cosmetics do NOT require FDA approval before going to market. Skincare products must not be misbranded or adulterated but they do not need to PROVE efficacy or safety. They are recognized by the FDA as having no medical value.

Examples of cosmetics are as follows: facial and body moisturizers, including "eye" creams, "night" creams, "firming" creams, "toning" creams, "anti-aging" creams, and "anti-wrinkle" creams; lipsticks, fingernail polishes, and eye & facial makeup preparations. 

Products that intend to change the structure or function of skin are considered drugs. The FDA defines drugs as "articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease" and "articles...intended to affect the structure or function of..." skin. If a product claims to alter the skin's structure or function, for example, by actually "removing" wrinkles or increasing the skin's production of collagen, it is considered a drug. As a drug, the product must get FDA approval before going to market. In addition, the manufacturer must prove the product's safety and efficacy.

Manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) skincare moisturizers, including "eye" creams, "night" creams, "firming" creams, "toning" creams, "anti-aging" creams, "anti-wrinkle" creams, or rejuvenating serums, cannot claim that their product will change the structure of the skin itself. The product may claim to change the "appearance" of fine lines and wrinkles (by increasing the water content of the skin), but, by law, cannot claim to change the actual structure or function of the skin. 


Posted on: March 20, 2015

In healthy skin, there is a normal physiological balance between the production of new cells and the shedding of the old ones. The outmost layer of skin, the stratum corneum, is approximately 20 layers of non-living, yet functional, cells called corneocytes. They are held together by protein bridges called desmosomes. Desquamation is the process by which these protein bridges are enzymatically dissolved allowing the shedding of the most superficial cells. The enzymes responsible for dissolving these bridges can only function in a well hydrated environment. When the water content in the outer layer of skin decreases, these enzymes become ineffective and can not dissolve the desmosomes. The retention of these most superficial cells makes the skin look dry and scaly.

Quality moisturizers help increase the water content of the outer layer of skin increasing the activity of the enzymes that break the protein bridge connections between corneocytes. This allows for appropriate shedding of old superficial skin cells resulting in soft smooth hydrated skin. 


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I've been a New York based dermatologist for over 25 years. I love music. I love triathlons. I love chemistry. (I love petroleum jelly.) I study skincare ingredients and product formulation. I listen to skincare "advice" from self-proclaimed ......Read More

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