Beauty vlogger and professional makeup artist Lauren Updegrove recently published a video on YouTube calling attention to products sold by Sephora that she suspected were expired, or close to expiring, which dermatologists say could be harmful to skin.
Updegrove, who operates the YouTube channel Lauren Mae Beauty, posted her video over the weekend accusing the beauty retailer of continuing to sell two unique makeup lines on the sale section of its website that are at least three years old.
The beauty vlogger told BuzzFeed News that she published the video to put pressure on the retailer to explain why it was selling products that she would feel "uncomfortable" using on clients.
"I wanted to bring attention to very old products on Sephora’s sale page that I would feel uncomfortable using on clients as a professional makeup artist," she said.
The products for sale on Sephora.com that she alleged were "very old" included the Sephora x Pantone Color Corrector Palette and Sephora x Mara Hoffman collection of makeup and creams, both of which have since been pulled from the website.
Updegrove claimed in her video that these one-of-a-kind collaborations (which have since been discontinued) were created at the latest in 2016, based on press coverage and reviews of the items. That would mean the makeup items, and at least one oil-based cream, are at least three years old.
"It’s old product. It’s very old. What happens to all that dead stock? I can only imagine … it’s going to be a lot of expired makeup going on," she says in the video.
"I don't know why they're still on the website," Updegrove continued. "I was triggered to make this video and talk about it ... It is my responsibility to make sure I'm not going to be using a product [on clients] that's going to break them out or give them an infection."
After BuzzFeed News inquired about the products for sale on Sephora's website, all of the links were removed.
The retailer, however, stood firm that the products called into question were still safe for use. "[We] can confirm these products are not expired," a spokesperson for the company told BuzzFeed News. The company did not immediately respond to follow-up inquiries about the now-defunct product links.
On Tuesday, both links to the Pantone Correct + Conceal Palette and the line of Mara Hoffman products were still working and available for purchase at discounted prices. By Wednesday, however, both links stopped working and the items appeared to have been pulled from the website.
“Our clients’ safety is our foremost priority," Sephora said. "We conduct an ongoing upkeep of our product inventory to ensure efficacy and have already started the process per our standard practice."
Updegrove was not entirely convinced and said she had hoped to spark a "larger discussion" about safe and practical use of makeup.
"When it comes to creams and liquids, these are formulas that tend to go bad quite fast, and more fast than a powder," she said in her video, specifically addressing skin and lip balms. "If someone's going to buy this product, although they're going to get it on a sale, how long is it going to last them once they do open them?"
Dr. Hadley King, a board certified dermatologist in New York, told BuzzFeed News that old and aging beauty products that have been opened can be "great breeding grounds for bacteria, yeast, and molds."
"Liquid makeup should be replaced after 6 months, while dry powders can be kept for two years," King advised. "Mascara and liquid eyeliners should be replaced after three months."
Regarding unopened items for purchase — like the ones very recently on Sephora's sale section — while less likely to be contaminated, a customer should still be mindful of its shelf life and how safe and effective the product could potentially be after a few years, she said.
"When skincare products expire, their active ingredients may be less potent and less effective. Also, ingredients can degrade and these degradation products can be harmful or irritating to your skin," said King. "And even if not less effective or more harmful, old products can be less pleasant to use because particles can clump together or come out of solution, or even in unopened containers products can dry out over time."
A 2013 study conducted on consumers who used expired makeup found that people commonly used items beyond the expiration date and researchers concluded that these "products have a high level of contamination with pathogenic microorganisms."
Updegrove's video prompted viewers and others in the beauty community to question why expiration dates are not clearly labeled on products, or mandated on makeup as they are on other degradable products.
For the YouTuber, the issue extends far beyond the few items she noticed for sale by Sephora.
"I... wanted to use that as an example to have a larger discussion about makeup expiration and the rate of makeup consumption and potential problems and solutions for the future," she said.