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There's an Easy Way to Tell If Your Beauty Products Are Expired (Who Knew!?)

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By Petra Guglielmetti, Glamour

We often hear guidelines from dermatologists about how long we should use certain beauty products; the FDA has advice on this too. The one that always stands out in our minds is the three-month rule for mascara (whether we all adhere to such advice is another story entirely). It makes sense, and of course we want to avoid using expired products that could be crawling with grody, possibly harmful bacteria. Yet somehow, we've gotten this far in life without ever knowing there's a really easy way--embarrassingly easy--to know whether one of our makeup, hair, or skin care staples is well past its prime.

Did you know there's a little stamp on each beauty product's packaging and/or label that tells you how many months you should keep it? Yep, it's there. It looks like a little open jar with a number inside (officially called the PAO logo, or period after opening), and your eyes have probably scanned right past it a million times when you're looking for a shade name or ingredients list. When Mic pointed out this obvious detail yesterday, we had a flash of recognition; we'd seen the logo before but honestly never really paid attention to it. Now, as we take stock of our own product stash, we're faced with concrete evidence that many of the items we've hoarded for a year or more weren't intended to last nearly that long (oops). And as for our new stuff, we're excited to see keep dates are a lot longer than we had anticipated:

Here's some Chanel illuminating powder we can hang on to until July 2017.


And these Urban Decay eye and lip liners are good for two years--sweet!


It's all very interesting, but there's one obvious complication: remembering when you actually opened any given item. That's not easy when you're a bit of a...collector. If that's you, and even these handy expiration labels won't help you, here are calming words of reassurance from one of our favorite dermatologists, Ranella Hirsch. "It's not do or die, more common sense," she says of retiring products right on time. "If it smells funny, looks funny, or just seems off, discard it. Why risk it? Note how similar this is to checking food in the fridge." Overall, we're feeling pretty inspired to resolve our hoarding tendencies this year. Clear our weekend schedules, we have a medicine-cabinet purge coming on.

Photos: Lindsay Schallon; Design: Natalie Long

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