The 20-year-old beauty product that 'blinded' grandmother

Australians spend $22 billion a year on beauty products, with a large chunk of that being spent on cosmetics.

From mascara to foundation, eyeliner, lipstick, even skin cream – they are items found in almost every household.

But experts in the industry are warning people not to sacrifice their health for vanity.

New Idea magazine’s fashion and beauty director Sally Nolan recently came across the story of Shirley Potter, an Adelaide grandmother who claims using an old mascara has made her legally blind.

Adelaide gtrandmother Shirley Potter claims using an old mascara has left her legally blind. Source: Today Tonight

The mascara had been sitting in Shirley’s drawer for 20 years and she was unaware of the product’s shelf-life like many other makeup users.

By the time she realised she had contracted an eye infection, it was too late.

Now she is expected to lose her sight completely within the next three years.

“A general rule of thumb is that product that you put around your eyes, they generally last about three to six months,” Nolan said.

A lot of cosmetics users are unaware of the shelf-life of their products. Source: Today Tonight

“Foundations and things like that, you can get about a year to 18 months out of them.”

Professor Justine Smith, an internationally-recognised ophthalmologist from Adelaide’s Flinders University, said cases like this were rare.

But she did say it serves as an important warning to people to check the expiry date on their products.

However, that expiration date can sometimes be hard to find – hidden away on the back of the product’s packaging in small print, if it is there at all.

Dermatologist Dr Warren Weightman believes the industry needs greater regulation.

Ms Potter is expected to lose her sight completely within the next three years. Source: Today Tonight

“I think part of the problem is that if you look at a lot of cosmetics they don’t have expiry dates on them or they’re not clear or they’ve been rubbed off, so you may not know when the product expires,” he said.

“A lot of products come from overseas where there’s no need to put expiry dates on and it’s very hard to police products from overseas.”

But if you are ever in doubt, the key message from the experts is to throw it out.