All beauty products, natural or otherwise, have a best-before date that sometimes isn't obvious on its packaging. Regardless of type - mascara, foundation, lipstick, cleanser or moisturiser - products aren't safe left for long if they don't contain preservative. While parabens and other chemicals used to keep them stable are often criticised, plant-based preservatives also aren't without their risks, one of which is that they often aren't as long lasting.

Bacteria infect products easily. Studies show that a little is present in even unopened jars, tubes and pots. But as soon as packaging is opened, germs rush in. Fingers, applicators and brushes add more. At some point, any preservative will lose its fight with bacteria no matter how careful you are. Only some products have a clear expiry date, so working out when to ditch them isn't always easy. Texture and smell changes are obvious signs of spoiling, so bin it immediately if it starts to pong or - heavens above - goes mouldy. There are always exceptions but, generally, foundation and concealer are good for up to 18 months or so; mascara no more than six months; shadows and eyeliners for about six months (they are, after all, in contact with the eyes) lipstick and lip pencils 12 to 18 months; and powder and powder blush, body moisturiser and face creams up to two years. (If the product is natural that time frame could well be shorter.)

One of the ways of solving the problems caused by use-bys is to buy new ones. Here are a few that caught our eye this week...

Tom Ford Soleil Blanc Body Oil ($125)


I don't usually find that Tom Ford and subtlety go together. He's more of a hit-them-square-in-the-senses kind of guy. And his new body oil doesn't disappoint. A sultry mix of amber, sandalwood and white florals, it has a transporting summer's-day-on-an-exclusive-tropical-island headiness.

L'Oreal Age Perfect Golden Age Serum ($45)
A dull complexion and fragile, thinning skin are two of the main issues faced by mature skins. L'Oreal's Age Perfect Golden Age range, specifically aimed at women 65-plus, combines an ingredient called calcium B5 with plant extracts to help combat skin slackening, shore up the skin's barrier function and compensate for loss of colour.

Elizabeth Arden Little Black Compact ($79 for two trios and palette/$35 for each interchangeable trio)
Sticking with clever, colour-matched palettes takes much of the hard work out of eye makeup. But the particular benefit of this new compact is that it's customisable. Each trio (there are 10) offers a complementary base colour, contour shade and highlighter, which can be used wet or dry. Pick two trios and make them the basis of a new winter look.

Read the label: Kojic acid


A by-product of the fermentation process that makes sake, kojic acid is known to limit melanin production, brightening the skin and minimising pigmentation.

Kojic acid isn't the only popular skin lightening ingredient - hydroquinone and liquorice extract are two others - but its effectiveness is proven, especially when combined with a gentle exfoliator. As always, make sure you use sunscreen when using any skin brightener.

It's a key ingredient in FaceWorks' Skin Lightening Creme ($60), a skincare range developed by top Auckland cosmetic physician Dr Teresa Cattin. It is also found in the Mario Badescu Whitening Mask ($37).