We all know beauty products aren’t going to last forever, even if we can’t admit it to ourselves. It can lose its quality for one, and when there are so many brilliant products out there – is it really worth keeping sub-par products? But they also expire. I obviously knew that makeup had to expire at some point in its life, but it didn’t mean I’d ever pay attention to it. In fact, I didn’t even know where to find out when it expired. Now I’m a little more savvy to what the little symbols on the back of products mean, and I also know that I should be a little more wary of the makeup expiration dates.
The main reason we should be aware of makeup expiration dates is because it can irritate your skin. This may be due to bacteria growing on open products (just by opening a product, you have introduced whatever bacteria is in your home, and double dipped allows bacteria from your face to get back into a product) and whilst sanitising products can improve the longevity, but there are only so many products that are okay to sanitise. There is also the chance of chemical reactions breaking down the product to result in an irritant reaching your skin. In terms of makeup and other beauty products, this will probably be a reaction with light which can result in inflammation or a rash.
General Expiration Dates
Every product has its own expiration date as identified by the manufacturer. The little open jar image on the back of a product with xM written in it is your expiration from opening, in months. This symbol is the PAO symbol – period after opening. 12M means that your product will expire 12 month after opening – simple, huh? Using my beauty inventory, I have averaged out the expiry for each product type so you have a vague idea of how long products are good for.
All of these estimated expiry dates should be taken with a pinch of salt. If a product changes colour, consistency or smell, or it starts to separate even before the expiration date, it’s time to bin it. Lipsticks may become hard, glosses and liquids may become gloopy, and oil heavy products will begin to separate. Keep your eyes peeled! Powder is much harder to determine whether it’s degraded to the point of expiriation, but if you hit what is known as ‘hard pan’, it might be time to say goodbye. Hard pan occurs when moisture gets into a product and your powders absorb it. This renders the products unusable due to them solidifying on the surface. And whilst there are many hacks to get rid of it, think about how long you’ve had the product before you start testing them out.
Onto The Specifics…
Base Products | 12-24M
Primers can last anywhere between 6-36 months which is mad. It is totally dependent on the ingredients, although it’s very difficult to generalise. I have hydrating primers that have PAOs both ends of the spectrum, although pore filling primers don’t tend to last quite so long in terms of expiration.
Foundation products expire around 6-24 months after opening, with the majority of liquid products expiring around the 12 month mark. Powder foundations, as well as setting and finishing powders, will last a little longer – closer to the 2 year mark if stored correctly (Rimmel Stay Matte has a PAO of a whopping 30 months). Products that comes with a pump will also last longer than those in a pot due to limited exposure to the outside world as there should be no risk of double dipping here.
It’s particularly important to remove foundations from your collection if they have SPF in it. SPF breaks down extremely quickly when not stored correctly, and even when it is in a cool, dark place it really shouldn’t be kept longer than 12-24 months. SPF may simply stop working after a certain point and you will no longer be protected, or the ingredients may break down and cause a reaction, particularly if you have sensitive skin. It’s definitely good to keep an eye out when it comes to any products containing SPF.
Concealer has a similar expiration date to foundation, with the majority being good for around 12-18 months. Pot concealers tend to dry out quicker those in tubes simply due the type of formula, but if stored correctly they can last just as long (if not longer, and this formulation tends to be just used for spot concealing rather than larger areas such as under the eyes).
Cheek Products | 12-24M
One of the hardest products to pan are cheek products. Most that I personally use come in powder form, but due to the nature of some being creams and liquids, there is huge variation in the expiration dates. Most powder products generally last 12-24 months, although I have products that are around the 36 month mark and still perform well. Powder products are fairly easy to sanitise, and as long as your brushes are kept clean you should have no problem with keep keeping them for extended periods. The only abnormally short expiration for a powder product that I’ve seen are the NYX HD Blushes, with just a six month PAO.
When it comes to cream and liquid products, they won’t last anywhere near as long. These products are more likely to separate or react meaning they should be kept at eye on. Personally I don’t use a lot of them, but I know that the Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops only have a 6 month shelf life, and most cream blushers and bronzers should really only be used for about a year.
Brow Products | 6-12M
Brows are a difficult area because there are so many products in the range. Whether you use a brow pencil, brow pomade or brow gel, these all have expiry dates. Some products will also last longer than others too due to the nature of using them. For example, a brow pencil will last longer than a pomade as you can sharpen it to remove any hardness and bacteria. You may see that it’s suggested that you can add a couple of drop of contact lens solution to revive it, but honestly if you haven’t used it up before it’s dried out do you really want to mess with the formula? I don’t use brow pomades right now so I can’t really pass comment, but it’s just a thought.
When it comes to brow pencils, you have a fairly decent use time of around 12-18 months. For brow pomades, you’re looking at getting around 6 months before you should consider tossing them (if they’re not hardened before then) and brow gels also generally only last around 6 months. You should bear in mind that if you are applying gel over other product in order to set your brow, you may want to ditch it before your 6 months are up as there is transfer of the inital product into the tube. Both pomades and gels are subject to double-dipping, so they’re definitely not going to stay sanitary and they’re not super easy to sanitse.
Eyeshadow | 12-24M
I know, I was shocked too when I realised that some of my most expensive eyeshadows expire within 12 months, although most will definitely survive longer than that in your collection. Eyeshadows are one of those products that, because they’re usually powder, can be sanitised but also seemingly last forever. I don’t tend to declutter if I still use the palette and they swatch well and go off this basis, rather than their actual expiration date. I haven’t got the funds to replace a £40 palette that I love and use, just because the manufacturer tells me to. Do keep an eye on cream bases as they may harden or start to separate, and will realistically only last a maximum of around 12 months.
Eyeliner | 6-12M
The expiration of eyeliner, like brow products, will depend on what you use. Pencil liners can be sharpened and have 12-24 months to before it’s time to dispose of them. Liquid and gel liners on the other hand can’t be sanitised easily without affecting the formula, and you’re looking at no more than 12 months before expiration. Most actually have a 6 month expiration date, but they’ll often dry out around this point anyway which makes life much easier for you.
Mascara | 3-6M
Oh mascara, you are such a pain in my bum. I do really like high end mascaras (even if people do insist that they’re not better than what you can pick up at the drugstore), but replacing them regularly is a nightmare. I don’t like using the same mascara every day so I rotate them, and therefore never use them up before they expire. Most mascaras will say 6 months on the time – apart from the odd one that says 12 months; ignore those and stick to 6 – but honestly, do you want a bit of crusty chemical riddled with bacteria that close to your eye? I didn’t think so! Work on the basis that after 3 months, your mascara should be making its way to the bin – much longer than that and they’ll walk there themselves!
Lip Products | 12-36M
Lip producs have a variety of expiration dates, mainly because there are so many different formulas. You’ve got your ordinary bullet lipsticks which have an expiration date of mainly 18-26 months, since you can easily chop off the tip to remove any nastiness and sanitising is fairly easy.
Moving onto gloss and liquid lipstick where the expiration date will be much closer to 12 months. Now think about all the lip products you’ve got in your stash: it is estimated that the average person will get through about 3-4 full lip products per year with regular use. If you have more than 3-4 products open in your collection at one time, they’re going to go off. Keep an eye on the consistency and colour, and definitely don’t put them anywhere near your lips if they start to smell.
Facial Sprays | 6-12M
I couldn’t believe that my favourite facial sprays only have a 6 month shelf life. If you bath yourself in setting spray like beauty YouTubers do, you’ll easily get through product but most people don’t. It can be a little difficult to check out what is going on in your facial spray bottles if they’re opaque, but it doesn’t hurt to open it up and have a look if you’re not sure. And you’ll definitely smell if something funky is going on inside.
Applicators | Various
I bet you didn’t think about makeup applicators did you. If you apply everything with your hands they should always be clean every time you use them, but what about brushes? Theoretically we should be washing brushes we use with liquid products once a week, eye brushes once a fortnight and face brushes once a month – as a minimum (raise your hand if you don’t; you’re not alone). If you can stick to this then your brushes can last forever provided that they’re great quality. But if they start falling apart, just treat yourself to some new ones. You’ll thank yourself when your application is back to flawless.
Beauty sponges on the other hand should be replaced at least every three months. I know! And that’s with regular cleaning, so if you don’t keep your sponges clean and don’t allow them to dry out after use. If you hide them in the dark without air, toss them all out now and start again as all you’ve done is encourage the growth of mold. Beauty Blenders are expensive to replace that regularly, but it’s your skin or your bank balance. Definitely keep an eye out for value packs and sales if you’re a big fan of the original Beauty Blender, or test out the Real Techniques version instead to save yourself a pretty penny.
Now Make The Decision
These dates are not the be all and end all of products. Please bear in mind that it will vary from brand to brand, formula to formula, and also think about what you’re actually using. Natural products will not last anywhere near as long as your average product due to the reduction in preservatives.
I actually don’t have anything in my collection older than 4 years old, as this is when I started getting into makeup and anything older than that always got used up, but I have many eyeshadow palettes that are older than 12 months (seriously, who is getting through a full eyeshadow palette in under a year?) and my every day bronzer has been open for almost twice the suggested time. However, this makeup only ever goes on my face so I know that I keep my products in a good condition, and will instantly ditch anything that is on its way out.
It’s also interesting to note that the expiration date given on high end items is usually a lot sooner than those on drugstore products. This could be due to ingredients in higher end products being more volatile and breaking down a lot quicker, or it could just be them want you to bin them and repurchase them. I can’t say for sure, but it’s just a theory.
To increase the lifespan of your beauty products, they should be stored in a cool dark place. You may love the look of your acrylic drawers in the natural light by your window, but this isn’t going to keep your beauty products viable for the longest time. It’s also not ideal to keep your beauty products in your bathroom where they will be affected by the humidity of the shower. There’s a reason the IKEA Alex drawers are a popular choice – they keep your makeup in a dark place, reducing reactions with light.
A monster post for a scary concept only seems fair. Are there any products you know you should’ve passed to the big makeup drawer in the sky?