21/03/2011 16:08 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

How Healthy Is Your Makeup Bag?

Admit it, we've all been guilty of stashing less-than-fresh mascara and the odd tube of crusty concealer in our makeup bags, haven't we? But did you realise out-of-date makeup could be a health risk?

applying-makeup-to-model Makeup can harbour bacteria that cause skin infection. Photo: AFP/Getty Images, Rizwan Tabassum

According to a survey of 1,000 women carried out by Debenhams, nine out of ten don't realise makeup has an expiry date. In other words, we're not aware that makeup goes off - which might explain why 68% of us only replace items of makeup and skincare products when they run out, not when their use-by date comes around.

And that, say experts, can affect your skin by causing irritation and even infection. Why? Because past-it makeup is a breeding ground for nasty bacteria.

The minute you open a makeup or skincare product for the first time it starts to be contaminated with bacteria from the air and from your fingertips. Once they have deteriorated, they don't work properly, plus the breakdown of ingredients such as fatty acids can produce substances that irritate your skin.

The survey suggests women keep lipsticks and lip glosses for up to ten years, rather than the one to two years recommended on the labels. And eye shadows and powder blushes aren't thrown away for a whopping 15 years, whereas the recommended pot life is anything up to two years.

To spring-clean your makeup bag, bin anything that's past its 'best before use' date (find the logo on the label that looks like an opened jar). If something looks or smells off, throw it away, along with sponges that haven't been washed regularly.

What's the oldest item in your makeup bag?

If your mind matters follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook