Even beauty items face the ageing process

ALIX STRAUSS

Should beauty products be stamped with expiration dates like cartons of milk, indicating how long they will last before turning?

Some industry professionals say yes, pointing to increasing number of organic products that have shunned preservatives. Conversely, there are those multitasking unguents that layer chemical upon chemical, which can increase volatility and shorten the product's life span.

"As companies create more complex products to simplify consumers' regimens, they end up with a plethora of problems," said Dr Joel Schlessinger, a dermatologist in Omaha, and president and founder of LovelySkin.com, a beauty site specialising in products mostly available in a dermatologist or a cosmetic surgeon's office.

"Instead of applying two creams, you're applying one, and there are certain products that simply don't play well with each other," he said.

Benzoyl peroxide, for example, has a shelf life of three months once opened, Dr Schlessinger said, and can degrade the antibiotics it's sometimes paired with even when sealed. "That doesn't mean it doesn't work, but if it's benzoyl peroxide plus an antibiotic, you're losing the other product's effect," he said.

Other popular ingredients vulnerable to heat and sunlight are plant extracts, antioxidants, retinol, glycolic acids and vitamin C. Packaging is also important: eye cream, for example, tends to have a high bacterial growth rate because it tends to come in jars, said Ron Robinson, a chemist in Manhattan who specialises in the technology of cosmetic ingredients and the founder of chief executive of BeauytyStat.com, which reviews new products.

"Ingredients may not coexist well if they have different pH levels," said Dr Ruthie Harper, an internist in Austin, Texas, and the creator of Skinshift, a line of products supposedly tailored to a patient's genetic makeup. "One may be low-level or more acidic, and another might be too high, or have more alkaline. The mixture may render them neutral or inactive. Other ingredients may not be chemically compatible. The truth is, the more ingredients, the shorter the usage."

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