Thursday, 30 April 2015

Daring to dice with expiry dates: Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème and REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm, versus some old soap or other

Readers who made it to the end of my recent spate of band tour posts will have noticed that towards the end of the trip - to use Tara's excellent word - I went a bit 'feral', neglecting my usual standards of personal grooming, not that these were particularly high in the first place. This slatternly behaviour felt like a small act of rebellion, and now that I am home, I find the mentality to challenge convention and generally 'kick against the pricks', however they may manifest themselves, is still with me. I am especially exercised at the moment by (to my mind) spurious expiry dates. For example, ex-Mr Bonkers gave me some dried pasta the other night that was six months out of date. My reading on the Interwebs suggests that in the absence of obvious weevils, it will be just fine for at least another 6 months or so, possibly more. And only this morning I had some porridge (best before October 2014), sweetened by honey that I should allegedly have tossed in April 2013. In the light of such high risk behaviour, it will be interesting to see if I make it to the end of this post.

And in a parallel exercise, I have also been testing some out-of-date toiletries, to see how injurious and/or efficacious they are, long after they notionally expired. For the increasing complexity of modern skincare regimes, with specific products for this or that step - preferably several indeed, so you can toggle between products offering different active ingredients / benefits - inevitably leads to a greater stock of bottles and tubes etc in the bathroom, many of which have a life expectancy of just 12 months - expressed as a PAO (Period After Opening) date. Cue Wikipedia:

"In the European Union, cosmetics products with a shelf life of at least 30 months are not required to carry a 'best used before end of...' date. Instead, there has to be 'an indication of the period of time after opening for which the product can be used without harm to the consumer'."

Source: Pinterest

So from the off, it becomes a bit of a race against time to use the blinking things up before they 'turn' in some way. Which is more or less difficult, depending on whether you are meant to use a pea-sized blob or a generous palmful per application. I simply don't have enough eyes to get through an eye cream in its allotted lifespan.

But that all said, I am not completely reckless about my health, and am prepared to believe that sun creams lose their efficacy over time, for example, such that it would be foolish to slather old lotion on and expect the SPF factor to be anything more than a shadow of its former self. And by the same token, maybe the dizzying array of acids and peptides and retinol and hydraluron etc that are in so many hero serums and creams nowadays also degrade over time, I don't know.

But when it comes to more basic cleansing / exfoliating products, I figured that they might still be up to the job, and decided to test my rather old tube of Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème and equally senescent tub of REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm - in the same bath session, no less, how brazen is that?! As for how old these products each are, I can date the Ormonde Jayne Shower Crème quite precisely, as it was a freebie at a Basenotes event in 2009. And yes, that IS an expensive freebie, but it was a very expensive event to start with, including a seminar and lunch with Roja Dove. I wouldn't drop that kind of money to see him today, I might add, but I was 'young' and impressionable back then...So yes, the shower creme is six years old, and carries a 12 month PAO symbol. The REN exfoliating balm is from a similar era at a guess and carries a PAO of just 9 months.

So how did they perform?

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème

Well, the Ta'if shower creme left my skin clean and silky smooth - the gel is a pale yellow now, but to be honest I don't remember what colour it was when I first got it. The main difference between how it used to be and how it is now is that it no longer smells of Ta'if!! Or anything. The perfume has definitely left the building. But as a substitute for soap that has a very nice hydrating effect, nothing wrong with it at all.

NB I had such a job squeezing any more gel out of this one for photographic purposes that I think I can confidently say it is more or less finished at last!

REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm

The REN scrub - 'balm' is such a misnomer for such a vicious toiletry! - looks okay in the tub. I detect a little bit of a darker cream colour in a streak across the middle, but nothing offputting like a puddle of ooze or major 'separation' issues. When I first used it, it really stung and left my skin a bright red colour, and also had a sort of salty, sauna-ish scent to it. It was very sticky and awkward to clean off, but left my skin feeling nice and smooth like the proverbial baby's bottom. Six years on(!?!), it doesn't sting nearly as much, though is as gritty and generally gunky as it ever was. Overall, I'd say it still seems to work in terms of the exfoliating aspect, but like the Ormonde Jayne it doesn't have a scent anymore - well, other than that generic kind of wallpaper paste smell which these scrubs tend to have in their base.

So in summary, I wouldn't say that the experience of using either product is quite as pleasurable as if they were scented still, but I don't think they have lost their functional benefits, and I am assuming that they are not doing me any mischief either. I would be more wary of old sunscreen, as I say, or a product I am going to use on my face. Old shampoo is probably okay, thinking about it.

And maybe I could also do my bit to increase my throughput of toiletries washing more...;)

Oh, and finally, here is a toiletry product that comes without any kind of best before date - soap. I don't know how old this bar is, but evidently if you let it hang about for too long, it will crack, split and turn into a pair of upturned coracles.



Tara said...

Lovely mention of coracles! An even better word than feral :)

I also love the expression "toggling" between products. Something I do a lot now.

I've never thought about the expiry of shower/bath products and very much doubt you lose much apart from the fragrance. However, "active ingredients" definitely decrease over the time. I think air exposure doesn't help either which is why Paula Begoun warns against jar packaging. I've noticed my Dermologica Gentle Cream Exfoliant works much better when I open a new tube.

LOL at the amount you'd pay for Roja!

odonata9 said...

Love your posts - I'm always learning new words or phrases, like coracles! I think with beauty products, it's not that anything will be dangerous, just that it might not be as effective (or smelly as you found!). As Tara mentioned, exposure to air breaks things down and if it's something that touches your fingers or skin (like a rollerball or a lipstick), bacteria and oil could be introduced into the product. I've been going through a phase where I'm trying to use things up and clear things out, so I've been using a lot of samples and gifts with purchase that had been sitting around. Used up samples of tinted moisturizer, eye cream, and night cream, and gave myself a mud mask just last night. So far, no ill effects!

Vanessa said...

Hi odonata9,

Why, thank you. I do agree with you that products are unlikely to be dangerous - though there are lots of dark mutterings about the health risks of aged mascara - yet the definition of the PAO date above sows the seed in your mind that the whole system of having that symbol is about 'harm' avoidance. If there is no likelihood of actual harm, I think they shouldn't put the date on those products - either that or change the definition to say something about the item's likely efficacy instead?

Good for you for having a putsch on old skincare / makeup samples - I am almost certainly at the end of this Ta'if shower creme now, so will try to finish another tube of something next, and generally be more systematic in my attempts to use stuff up!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I must say that I have not had much occasion to use the word 'coracles', so it was nice to find an outlet for it.

And it is true about the toggling, isn't it? I switch between Olay Regenerist serum for daytime use vs that Indeed Hydraluron, for example. Yes, you have confirmed my hunch that active ingredients might deteriorate - a bit like Vitamin C in orange juice, as I well remember from my St Ivel days.

I am a big convert to tubes, I must say, though I have rather a lot of things in jars to finish up, haha!

crikey said...

I probably have more products kicking about and in semi-regular use where I could cross out the 12M and write 12Y and *still* be a little fretful about them being out of date.

Some of the mismatches between the size of the jar and the expiry date seem weird...the pot of eyeliner? I use that almost every day, and after three years i'm still not seeing the bottom of the jar so can't bring myself to ditch it. I am clearly a revolting pigpen of a human being. But I find it hard to believe that dry cosmetics expire or become death-lurgy-generating powders of doom.

Ancient lipsticks? I might slice off a couple of milimetres every now and then, but if it's a good colour I'm not going to bin it unless it's obviously *off*. And that aging tube of Clarins cleanser I found when moving house? Absolutely fine. Even smells rather nice. Even if it's possibly approaching secondary schooling age.

(I can't believe I'm admitting to such slatternly habits on t'internets...But I do wash my brushes regularly. So not all hope is lost.)

Gil said...

Awesome piece, Vanessa. I'm a bit more finicky on expiry dates and wouldn't be brave enough to put older products on my skin. I helped my grandmother clean out her closets this summer and found all sorts of cosmetics from the 60s and before, including perfume from Israeli perfumer Judith Miller. I wouldn't even put it on my skin! Perfume seems to turn after a few decades, and makeup certainly expires (dried mascara from the 70s is NEVER in fashion). But I think you're right about other body care products - there's no reason to throw out before you try!

Vanessa said...

Hi crikey,

Oh, you are a woman after my own heart - in yet another (unexpected!) way. One who plays Russian roulette with out-of-date mascara, no less. 12Y is hardcore, haha. I do have a Clarins handcream from the 90s, which still seems to behave in the usual way. There was a bit of brown weeping initially, but the cream now comes out a whitish colour as you would expect. And hydrates just as well. I quite agree about the size of the jar, which is another factor to bear in mind as well as recommended 'application portion'. And some jars and tubs take forever to use up. NB I read 'revolting pigpen' as 'revolting pigeon'. I thought it a novel image for a slovenly person.

Vanessa said...

Hi Gil,

Well, hats off to you for having higher standards than me and crikey, say! I inherited some perfume from the 60s and I must admit I didn't hesitate to apply it to skin. I guess I am of the generation whose mothers used to always say: 'You eat a peck of dirt before you die.' Or in our present case, 'you absorb a peck of dirt transdermally', hehe. You'll be glad to know I don't have any mascaras that are quite that old as from the 70s, and I will try to use up the ones I have. Maybe I should only own one at a time in fact - that could be where I am going wrong.

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

You make me laugh Vanessa and I can even kind of hear your voice reading it to me. You've also finished a bottle, highly commended for that.
Portia xx

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough I don´t have any hInterestingly enough I don´t have any half empalf one. Be that is it may. I am extremely wary of the whole "use by" culture. Whatever happened to just giving it a sniff? Fair enough with some skin products, perhaps a little more care should be taken, I am the last one to want an epic ausschlag. The food industry and their BBEO labelling is frightening though. I wonder how many tons of food gets thrown away because of a date stamp? If it doesn´t have mould growing on it, is not walking away on it's own, and has been protected by being in a tin or plastic packaging then it´s fine. That does not include Herr Roja Taube who is way, way, way past his sell by date. Bussis.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough I don´t have any half empty products.* (No idea what happened above. Hmmmm.

Vanessa said...

Hey Portia!

I guess I do probably write as I speak, though I hadn't thought about that before! And now I am on a mission to finish stuff up left, right and centre. How clean and hydrated I shall be!

Vanessa said...

Hi Val,

That was an odd misprint, I agree - 'empalf' sounds like a character from Lord of the Rings. I had some of the expired pasta last night and it was absolutely fine in every way. From working in the food industry myself, I can say that the dates were shorter on some supermarkets' products than others, even though it was the same thing as we made for other people. Which told me that generally these things have an 'idiot factor' built in and can safely be consumed somewhat after the expiry event. ;) My father, who famously kept St Ivel Gold in the wardrobe as well as long after its best before date, is living proof of this. Or he was until he died from quite unrelated causes.

Thinkingmagpie said...

I don't know why but I have this strange but firm belief that everything would be OK up to 2 years after the expiry date... Once I used a Givenchy's shower gel 10 years over the expiry date. I was OK and smelled great.

Vanessa said...

Hi Yuki,

Good on you for your shower gel derring-do!

Undina said...

Not only I haven't had an occasion to use the word "coracle" - I had no idea it existed until today! :) Thank you for constantly improving my vocabulary.

Undina said...

I know I'm late (and in this case I do not mean to reading the post ;) ) but I can confirm the color of Ta'if's shower gel: mine (also freebie but with purchase from last year) are of the color you've described. And it smells divine :)

I do not have a firm stand on the expiration dates issue. With food I usually use a common sense. With cosmetics and toiletries I don't really check those dates, I'm not sure if my creams and other products even have those (I'll check it out later today). Usually if something is open and in use - even, let's say, once a week, I just go through it, as long as it takes to finish it. With something that is sealed, I do not have any problem opening and using it 2-3 years later (all those GWP jars stay in my drawer until I need one of them for the trip). But if I opened something, used for a while and then neglected for a year or two, at some point I just toss it away. Lipsticks are different: with the number of tubes I have I could never finish them within a year or two, especially those strange colors that I use on a couple of occasions per year. So with those I use a nose and taste test: I throw away anything that doesn't smell good or "tastes" strange on my lips.

Vanessa said...

Well, I am glad about that! I will try to keep lobbing the odd offbeat word into future posts...;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Not late in my book - not even to comment! Always great to get your perspective on topics. Envious of your Ta'if still smelling divine, but it serves me right for hoarding it all those years - I didn't want to use it up and ended up not using it at all!

I think that yours is a very sensible approach to expiry dates. A product should last long enough for a person to use it in a steady, 'normal' way. I also think that products last pretty well unopened too - well, I hope so, as I have lots of things in that category! Lipsticks definitely take a long time to finish. My shortest record - for my favourite Nude Rose by Burberry - is about 2 years, but I have many lipsticks that are way older than that, and I see no reason to toss them. ;)