Lash Rehab: Heating Up Mascara – Not a Good Idea (But it Works!)

By Lynnie | July 5 2011 | 17 Comments


What’s worse than having your only mascara turn to sticky, unusable gloop overnight? How about only realising that it’s gone gungey as you pull the wand out of the tube to apply it, seconds before rushing out the door to a wedding? When there’s zero opportunity to get a replacement and the thoughts of going without leave you feeling a bit faint?

That’s the situation I found myself in the other day, suited and booted and blowdried and (almost) fully made up, about three minutes before the last possible moment we could leave for the ceremony. To add insult to injury, I’d actually bought a new Lancome Virtuouse only a week before in duty free, but hadn’t bothered to bring it with me.


Feeling increasingly frantic, I had a moment of madness and decided to break a cardinal beauty rule. I heated up the tube for a few minutes in a glass of hot water until the contents liquified to a more normal viscous mascara-like state.

It’s definitely not something I’d recommend: mascara has a three month shelf life of normal, non warmed up use for a reason. That’s because the moist environment of the tube is already the perfect breeding ground for air-borne bacteria that might be introduced to it with each applicatory pump, without any extra warmth being added to the mix.

Past that three month window, the antibacterial agent usually found either in the mascara itself or on the brush ceases to function, which is why you’re supposed to chuck it to avoid inadvertently winding up with an eye infection.

My tube of mascara was hovering around that three month mark when I decided to (ill-advisedly) warm it up, and I obviously chucked the mascara immediately after that last-gasp use. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures and all that.

And I have to admit that these particular desperate measures worked like a dream.

Beauty, Eyes , , ,

17 Replies to "Lash Rehab: Heating Up Mascara – Not a Good Idea (But it Works!)"

  • Kirstie says:

    wow, never actually knew that about the antibacterial agent ceasing to function. I never do this though… honest guv’nor

  • miffyonline says:

    Have you tried a drop or two of eye drops to loosen up a gunky mascara?

    I really have to purge and throw out some old mascaras. I went mad in NY about 15 months ago and came home with about a dozen mascaras. Over the next 6 months I opened and used THEM ALL which was stoopid as now they all need chucking.

    I was back in the US in April and have been much better at opening my mascara purchases one by one, and saving the pretties.

    BTW Lancome have a duo box of Hypnose right now, for about €35 I think, I allowed myself to buy a pack last night as one of the tubes I need to chuck out is a Hypnose.

  • CherrySue says:

    Does anyone actually know of anyone who’s gotten an eye infection from mascara? I’m getting slightly dubious of Boffins now ;)

  • Tina~bean says:

    I caught conjunctivitis from a child a few years ago. Never threw out my make up, just laid off the eyes while it was gross. Unfortunately reinfected myself. :-(

  • ZsaZsa says:

    I regularly throw out my mascara. I never think about it being because it has reached the 3 months mark, but more about if it is a bit ‘passed it’. Having had an eye infection recently I am even more aware of how easy it is to get an eye infection then I was before. Mind you, it gave me a great excuse to throw out makeup that didn’t suit me on the basis that it would harbour bacteria.

  • Deefu says:

    @cherrysue, i agree with you i have had makeup longer the the “use By” date and never gotten infected and sure some of my eyeshadows are YEARS old, are we sure this wasn’t something thought up by makeup companies to get us to keep buying???

  • Donna says:

    I only throw out if its dried up. If I had an eye infection I would but never happened and never got one from mascara either.

  • Ola says:

    I have definitely read a blog post somewhere else (I can’t remember the name of this blog now, but it will come to me) featuring a conversation with an optician who said the time of use of mascaras can be much longer than 3 months regardless of what the packaging says… Hm hmmmm…
    Anyone knows for sure?:)

  • Babs says:

    I’ve had conjunctivitis a few times but caught it from the kids I work with. I have never had any ill reaction to older than 3 month mascara. Honestly I think it’s pretty much bullshit that you are not supposed to use it after three months especially as the packaging has the little “6M” on it (I just checked my mascara there) which means 6 months after opening. The longest time frame on a cosmetic I have seen is “24M” or 2 years and that was for dry / powder products and bubble bath type things. I do think it’s a lot of scaremongering to make people buy things more sell by dates on fruit, and I have seen people throw that away when it is perfectly good just because the date told them to. Ridiculous.

  • CherrySue says:

    Thanks for that Kirstie, you’ve at once vindicated my cynical nature (about mascaras) & scuppered my idea for a blog post :D

    Just kidding, really interesting to hear so many others are of the same opinion though.

    That’s not detracting from a great post Lynnie, you’re a beauty MacGyver, what are ya? ;)

  • miffyonline says:

    oh and for the record, powder products don’t harbour bacteria, so they should last forever. Ditto nail polish – it will never go off. If it gets clumpy or dried-up you just need a few drops of nail thinner (NOT remover) and it will be back to its normal self.

  • TheMakeupGal says:

    You can also tell by the smell of a product, particularly mascara and lipstick, if it is ‘gone off’, I’d heard somewhere you should smell the product when you first use it, any change in the smell is an indicator that it’s time to chuck it. I’m fanatically about product hygiene and always dump mascaras between 3 – 4 months old, part of the reason why I never buy expensive mascaras, it would break my heart to dump expensive ones after only 3/4 months.

  • sparklicous says:

    i think the issue with bacteria comes more from if you have any sort of bacteria on your eye lash, then it will get onto the brush, then multiply in the container. i’m fairly prone to eye infections (super hot, i know) and if i forget to throw out the mascara i used while it wasn’t 100% then it’ll give it back to me.

    i also got eczema on my lash line when i was about 15 from using a maybelline mascara for a year and a half and never removing it at night/days at a time. it took prob 10 years to clear up totally. i’m guessing that the consistency was so thick that it clogged the pores along the lash line. my doc was at a bit of a loss since he’d never seen it before. so it’s not exactly a common worry to have.

  • fifi says:

    That is amazing I never knew that – have not bought mascara in over a year, never caught an infection – but will be weary of that now. Thanks! I would say you could prob push it up to six months though – three months sounds like a manufacturer’s dream!

  • csarina says:

    A girl in a chemist once told me that adding a couple of drops of glycerine did the trick. I have often done the heating up thing, though, and never, ever got an eye infection. I HATE HATE HATE throwing out cosmetics, and I love my big collection, and just sit and admire it for HOURS. Mad woman!!!

  • alanah says:

    i heat my mascara when i first buy it it i dont like the formula because it thins it out and i like very natural lashes because i have rather long lashes and prefer natural makeup

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