Does makeup expire?

It’s tempting to use every drop of makeup or skin care product, especially if you paid a lot for it. Makeup does have an expiration date, though, and its lifespan may be shorter than you think.

The exact time it takes for makeup to expire depends on the specific cosmetic, how it’s stored, and whether or not it’s sealed or open. All makeup expires eventually, usually within 2 years of purchase and sometimes as little as 3 months for eye makeup.

How long does it last unopened?

The expiration dates you see printed on makeup or on the packaging are guidelines for after the product has been opened. It can be hard to find out when sealed, unopened makeup expires since it’s not stamped on the packaging.

Generally, if properly stored in a cool, dry place, most unopened and completely sealed makeup should last for 2 to 3 years.

With that said, creamier products that contain oils or butters, like cream concealers or liquid blushes, could turn earlier because oil can go rancid. If the product is a natural makeup formulation without a strong preservative, it may also go bad, even if sealed.

All preservatives in makeup do break down over time, even if the product is unopened, so you should never keep any product for more than 3 years.

Is the expiration date a suggestion?

The Period After Opening (PAO) symbol printed on the makeup (an open jar with a number and an “M”) will indicate how many months you have between the day you open it and the day it expires. This is the makeup’s shelf life.

You should throw away your makeup if it expires, but if you use it a little bit past its expiration, you may be fine health-wise but notice it doesn’t perform to its best.

Products like lip liner or eyeliner pencils may have a longer expiration because they can be sharpened. To be sure your makeup lasts as long as it should, wash your hands before applying, clean your makeup brushes regularly, and avoid sharing.

What happens to the makeup? 

Expired makeup may become dry or crumbly, and you should never use water or saliva to moisten it, as it can introduce bacteria. Color pigments may not look as vibrant and powders may seem packed down and hard to use.

Expired makeup can also start to harbor bacteria which can lead to:

It’s especially important to not use eye makeup past its expiration, as this can be harmful to the delicate eye area.

By the cosmetic

You can generally expect your cosmetics to last about this long, depending on the type:

Product

Expiration

lipstick

18–24 months

lip gloss

12–18 months

foundation & concealer

12–18 months

mascara

3–6 months

liquid eyeliner

3–6 months

cream products

12–18 months

powder products

12–18 months

How can you tell it’s expired?

All makeup should be stamped with an image of an open jar, then a number followed by the letter M. This Period After Opening (PAO) symbol signifies how many months after opening until the product expires. It’s helpful to remember around what month you opened it.

Mascara and other eye makeup has a shorter shelf life and may be stamped with a 6M, for example, and concealer is usually around 12M. Fragrance may last as long as 5 years.

If it doesn’t have a symbol, it may have been on the original packaging, which is likely discarded.

  • The first step is to smell the makeup. If anything smells off, toss it.
  • Look to see if it has changed color. For example, many concealer products will oxidize and turn a bit orange.
  • Pay attention to whether or not the texture has changed, and throw away if the product feels different on your skin.

What about skin care products? 

Skin care products expire and should also be marked with an expiration date.

Anything in a jar or that comes with a dropper, like serum, is frequently exposed to air and bacteria on hands and should be thrown away after about 9 months. Products that come in a pump may last up to a year.

After the expiration date, active ingredients won’t perform optimally. Be especially careful with SPF and sunscreen expiration dates.

If you use your products regularly, you should have no problem finishing them before their expiration. If you only plan to use your skin care occasionally, mini travel bottles can be a great option.

When to throw it away

You should throw away your makeup once it hits its expiration point. These numbers are averages, however, so if you use a concealer a few days after 12 months, you’ll likely be fine.

Pay careful attention to certain natural makeup and skin care, which may be formulated without preservatives and may have a shorter period before expiration.

If you have an eye infection, like pink eye, or any other skin infection, toss your makeup immediately as it likely carries the same bacteria that caused the infection.

Bottom Line:

It’s not uncommon to use the same makeup for years, especially if it’s something you only use a tiny bit or each time, like blush or eyeliner. However, you should heed all makeup expiration dates in order to avoid infection and skin irritation.

Expired products also will not perform optimally. To find the expiration, look for the PAO symbol stamped on the product or its packaging, which will indicate how many months you have until it expires.

References:
https://www.healthline.com/reviewers/cynthia-cobb-dnp-aprn
Cosmetics safety Q&A: Shelf life. (2018).
fda.gov/cosmetics/resources-consumers-cosmetics/cosmetics-safety-qa-shelf-life
Creech C, et al. (2016). Prevention of recurrent staphylococcal skin infections.
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4552962/
Giacomel CB, et al. (2013). Investigation on the use of expired make-up and microbiological contamination of mascaras. DOI:
10.1111/ics.12053
Halla N, et al. (2018). Cosmetics preservation: A review on present strategies.
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6099538/
Neumann WJ. (2018). An overview of the period after opening & cosmetic shelf life.
cptclabs.com/2018/period-after-opening-cosmetics/
Shelf life and expiration dates. (n.d.).
cosmeticsinfo.org/shelf-life-and-expiration-dates
https://www.healthline.com/authors/grace-gallagher
https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/does-makeup-expire
Photo Credit: Johanne Kristensen

Leave a comment