When Do Your Cosmetics Really Expire?
Posted by Louise Griew
February 21, 2014 at 3:52 PM ET
Beauty Products Expiry
Like food, beauty products go bad. It’s not a good idea to use old or off makeup, not just because these products don’t behave the way they should, but because they contain tons of festering bacteria that can cause breakouts and nasty infections. Here are some tips and simple guidelines for knowing when to say buh-bye to out-of-date products.
Dates and Symbols
Many cosmetic products have use-by dates or Period After Opening (PAO) symbols that indicate their shelf life. A PAO symbol is an open jar with a number and letter; the number indicates how many months the product will last from the day you open it. For instance, if you see “6 M” on your favourite jar of cream, you have roughly six months to use it–after that, it’s best to chuck it. These are guidelines, so if you use the product for a few extra weeks or months it’ll likely be fine, but this is a great way to keep track of the lifespan of your products.
Sunscreen and products containing SPF will always have an expiry date, which takes the guesswork out of how long it’s effective for. Never use expired sunscreen, unless you’re going for that cooked lobster look! Expired SPF just won’t work–if you use it, you’ll end up with seriously sizzled skin.
Mascara gets awfully close to your eye, so bacteria can build on the wand and fester away in the tube day after day. Mascara should only be used on yourself, and if you really must share, use disposable wands and don’t double dip.
How long it lasts: three months max or until it gets dry and clumpy (whichever comes first).
Lipstick and gloss
Lipstick is quite durable, but seeing as we lick our lips, drink and eat with it on, it’s best not to keep it around for too long. Be particularly cautious if you suffer from cold sores, as they can spread from the slick of a lipstick or gloss. When glosses get extra sticky and goopy, they need to go.
How long it lasts: two years max or when it starts smelling rancid or feeling tacky.
Liquid foundation and concealer
You can often tell when a liquid foundation or concealer is going bad because it starts to separate and the colour will change. Don’t risk breakouts and mismatched colour–just let it go.
How long it lasts: 12 months
Creams, cleansers and treatment products start smelling off and changing colour as they expire. You’ll know when a moisturizer is past its use-by date because a funky smell will follow you around all day.
How long it lasts: two years
Pressed powders (eyeshadow, blush and foundation)
Pressed powders develop a film because oils transfer from your makeup brushes or fingertips to the surface of the product. When this happens it’ll become difficult to pick up colour or it just won’t apply properly. At this point your powdered product is as good as gone and will be more frustrating than anything.
How long they last: two to three years
Eye and lip pencils
You’ll probably use up your eye and lip pencils before they go bad and if you don’t, you might not be sharpening them enough. Sharpening your pencils keeps them fresh and clean.
How long they last: up to two years
A good rule of thumb is to trust your nose; if the product smells weird or rancid, get rid of it. Natural products can smell a bit weird to begin with (because they lack chemical preservatives), so make sure to sniff your green products when you open them and take stock of changes as they age.
Store makeup and skincare in cool dark places. Heat and light can destroy preservatives and natural ingredients, making products spoil faster.
Look for signs of separation, as well as texture and colour changes.
And finally, if in doubt, throw it out.
Louise Griew is a Toronto-born makeup artist and writer whose second home is Melbourne, Australia. When she’s not writing or making people look pretty, she can be found travelling, trying out the latest spa treatment or lounging in the sunshine with a good book. For beauty and travel tips, follow her on Twitter @LouiseGriew.