May 29, 2023 11 min read

Does makeup expire?

I know it's normal to hold on to your favorite lipstick or eyeshadow for years but I'm here to tell you that it's time to let it go.


Because it's expired and probably has enough bacteria in it to make you sick. 

I know you want to use every last drop of your makeup and even skincare products, just to get your money's worth.

But makeup do expires and its lifespan may be shorter than you anticipated.

On average most makeup products last for 2 years after purchase.Others, such as eye makeup have a shorter shelf life of 3-6 months after purchase.

Either way, they should be thrown out once it's past the expiry date. 

But how exactly can you tell when your makeup products have expired? This post contains the answer to this question and several others. 

We've compiled a comprehensive list of when and how different makeup products expire, so you can easily identify when it's time to go shopping for new products.


Here's what to expect:

  • Does Makeup Expire?
  • How Long Does Makeup Last Unopened?
  • When Does Makeup Expire?
  • How To Identify An Expired Makeup Product
  • What To Do With Expired Makeup
  • Risks Of Using Expired Makeup
  • Are Preservatives Bad?
  • Other Makeup Do's and Don'ts



Does Makeup and Cosmetics Ever Expire?

Makeup Product
   Expiring Date
Mascara 3-6 months 
Eyeshadow 12-18 months
Eyeliner  3-6 months 
Foundation 6-12 months
Concealer 6-12 months
Setting Powder 18-24 months
Blush and bronzer 12-24 months
Lipstick and Lip liner 12-24 months
Lip gloss and Lip balm 12 months
Nail Polish 12-24 months
Fragrance 12-15 months
Skincare 12 months


Yes, makeup expires just like any other product. Makeup has a shelf life, and once it's past its expiration date, it becomes unsafe to use. Most makeup products contain preservatives to extend their lifespan.

However, these preservatives only last for a limited period, and after that, bacteria start to grow in the product.


Makeup expires even faster once it has been opened. The minute you start using it, you risk exposure to germs and other weather conditions that may shorten your lifespan. Take, for example, your mascara. Ideally, it's supposed to last for 3 months after purchase. You're expected to toss it out after 3 months because it would have expired by then. 



How Long Does Makeup Last Unopened? 

It can be hard to tell how long it takes for a completely sealed or unopened to expire because it's usually not written in the packaging. 

The expiration dates you see on the makeup products or in their packaging are for after you have opened the product and begun using its contents. However, most makeup products if stored properly in a cool dry place, can last up to three years when unopened (Humidity or warm storage conditions can adversely affect a product's shelf life). And once you open the product, its lifespan changes and it can go bad quickly. 

With that in mind, it is also normal for cream-based products like cream/ liquid blushes and concealers to expire earlier than is expected even though they haven't been opened.

This is because these products contain oils and butter which could turn rancid causing the product to expire. Another thing to consider is those makeup products that are naturally formulated. These types of products contain little to no preservatives and as a result tend to go bad way faster than their other counterparts, even when sealed. 

All in all, all makeup products will eventually expire, it's not recommended to keep any makeup product for more than three years, whether or not you've started using it or it's been unopened and locked away in your dresser.



When Does Makeup Expire? 

As mentioned earlier, makeup products have different lifespans depending on the product.

Here's a breakdown of how long different makeup products last:


Mascara: 3 to 6 months


Mascara usually expires within 3 to 6 months after they have been opened. Most eye makeup products have a really short shelf life. Why? Well, studies have shown that due to their close contact with the mucous membranes, they're more likely to pick up bacteria making them expire faster.

And continued use of contaminated mascara wand or any other eye makeup products could lead to irritation of the eyes and the sensitive skin surrounding it, including the eyelid, waterline, and under eyes. 

Aside from the expiry date printed on the product, you can tell your mascara is due for a change by sniffing it. If it smells sour or acidic, change it right away. 



Eyeshadow: 12-18 months 

Cream-based eyeshadows typically last about a year while powder eyeshadows can stay for up to two years. But again, because this product comes in close contact with the eyes, it is expected you thrash even before the due date. Prioritize your eye health and always store your eyeshadow in drawers with the lid closed, to prevent dust particles from settling on the surface. Also, don't forget to clean your eyeshadow brushes after each use.



Eyeliner: 3 to 6 months



Liquid eyeliners are known for drying out even before their expiry date of 3 to 6 months especially if you forget to close the lid. But even if it doesn't, be sure to swap your old liquid liner for a new one once it's time. Pencil eyeliners and crayons also have the same shelf life and should be discarded as well, especially if used on the waterline.

Eyeliner pencils, however, are a more hygienic option compared to liquid eyeliners or retractable pencils. This is because you'll have to shave them down at least once every week to keep to tip sharp and fresh for application. This minimizes repeated exposure and as such they can be used for much longer than the average 6 months.



Foundation: 6 to 12 months


Foundations typically last between 6 to 12 months. Occasionally, you'll see some foundations that have a shelf life of up to 18 months or 24 months. But whatever the expiry date or PAO symbol states, you should toss out your foundation if you notice the formula separating in the bottle, or if it no longer applies as smoothly as it used to. Once you notice that your foundation is clumping, drying, or pilling off your face, throw it out immediately. 

This is particularly important if you're using a water-based foundation. Water-based foundations are the most popular kinds you'll find in the market, and they're great, but because they're water-based, they provide a more comfortable environment for bacteria to grow.



Concealer: 6 to 12 months



Concealers last anywhere between 6 to 12 months depending on the formula. However, you can tell your concealer has expired once it begins to oxidize or turn orange when you apply it to your face. But you must not wait till you see a change in color or texture before you discard your concealer. Most concealers come in tiny tubes with application wands that are used to transfer the product from the bottle to the face. 

This constant contact with the skin can lead to contamination of the wand from bacteria buildup on the skin. If you're using a concealer in a pot, make sure to thoroughly clean the brush used in scooping out the concealer before and after use, to avoid the transfer of bacteria which can further break down the preservatives in the products and shorten its shelf life.


Setting Powder: 18 to 24 months



Powder products generally last longer than liquids, so yes you can hold onto your setting powder for up to 2 years, and if it's loose powder, better for you. Just make to keep your powder brush clean to prevent build-up and transfer of bacteria from the brush to the powder.



Blush and bronzer: 12 to 24 months


The average shelf life for powdered blush and bronzers is 2 years but more recently, cream alternatives have become popular and they do tend to have a shorter shelf life of 12 to 18 months instead, compared to their powdered counterparts.





Lipstick and Lip liner: 12 to 24 months


It's okay to hang on to your lipstick and lip liner for more than two years. This is because they're made with preservatives that keep them from oxidizing or hardening up. But you'll know your lipstick is due for a change when the texture begins to change upon application (clumping up or drying out).



Lip gloss and Lip balm: 12 months



Lip balms and glosses are things we use daily, even when we don't want to wear a full face of makeup. It just feels nice to not have cracked or chapped lips. If you make use of your lip products regularly then you'll most likely use them up before the expiry date. But you do need to store them carefully, with the lids tightly closed after each use.



Nail Polish: 12 to 24 months


Depending on the formula, nail polish lasts between 12 to 24 months. A good way to tell if your nail polish has gone bad is to observe the contents of the bottle. If they're separating even after a good shake, you might want to let it go. Expired nail polish will also appear goopy or clumpy when applied.


Fragrance: 12 to 15 months


Perfumes and body sprays expire within 13 to 15 months once opened. You should also know that naturally formulated scents will expire quicker than the ones containing alcohol and stabilizers. You can also tell your perfume is way past its due date when you begin to see sedimentation in the bottle, a color shift, or notice changes in the smell.



Skincare: 12 months



Makeup products are not the only thing you shouldn't use past their expiry date. Skin care products like serums that come with a dropper should be disposed of after 9 months. This is because they're frequently exposed to air and bacteria on the hands. As for products that come with a pump, those can be used for up to a year.


But mind you, the active ingredients in the products won't be as effective after the expiration date and as such won't perform optimally. Relating to this, you should be extremely careful to know the dates of  SPF and sunscreen products to get the best use of them.


It's essential to note that these timelines are not set in stone, and some products may last longer or shorter depending on factors such as storage conditions and usage.

Lastly, if you plan to only use your makeup and skin care products occasionally, you most like will not be able to use up the contents of each product before it expires. So instead of buying a full-size product, I'd suggest getting mini travel bottles or small trail-size options so as not to waste the products or your money.




How To Identify An Expired Makeup Product


Identifying an expired makeup product can be quite challenging, especially if it's not showing any visible signs. Here are a few tips to help you identify an expired makeup product:


  • Check the expiry date - Most makeup products have the expiry date printed on them. If you notice that the product is past its expiry date, it's time to throw it out. Some products don't have an actual date printed on them. What you might is the Period After Opening PAO symbol. This symbol is usually an open jar with a number and an 'M' in it which tells you the number of months you have to use the contents of the product before it expires. So for instance, if the symbol shows '6M', it means you have 6 months from the day you opened the product, and after that, it's to open a fresh bottle. 
  • Smell it - If you notice a strange smell coming from your makeup product, it's a sign that it's gone bad. Most makeup products have a characteristic scent, and if it smells different, it's time to let it go. 
  • Look at the texture- If the product has changed in texture or consistency, it's a sign that it has expired. For instance, if your mascara is clumpy or your lipstick is dry and crumbly, it's time to replace them. 
  • Check for discoloration -If you notice any discoloration or separation in your makeup product, it's a sign that it has gone bad. For instance, if your foundation has separated into layers or your eyeshadow has changed color, it's time to get a new one.


What To Do With Expired Makeup


Once you have identified an expired makeup product, the next question is, what do you do with it? Here are some tips on how to dispose of expired makeup:


  • Throw it away: The safest and easiest way to dispose of expired makeup is to throw it away. However, it's essential to do it correctly. Start by wiping the product clean and then putting it in a sealed bag before disposing of it. This will prevent any harmful bacteria from spreading. 
  • Recycle: Some makeup products such as lipstick tubes, eyeshadow palettes, and foundation bottles can be recycled. Check with your local recycling facility to see which makeup products they accept for recycling. 
  • Repurpose: If the makeup product is not too old, you can try to repurpose it. For instance, you can use old lipstick as a blush or eyeshadow. However, this is not recommended for products that have expired. 
  • Donate: If the makeup product is new and unopened, you can donate it to a women's shelter or charity organization. However, it's essential to check with the organization first to see if they accept makeup donations.



What Are The Risks Of Using Expired Makeup


Using expired makeup a few days after its expiration date is not a big deal. Although you may not get the desired result. The makeup will not apply smoothly and may start crumbling or melting off during the day. Your expired skincare products also may cause no serious harm but they might not offer you the protection your skin needs seeing that the active ingredient is no longer effective. That aside, here are some risks associated with using expired makeup:


  • Bacterial Infections: Expired makeup is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, which can lead to skin infections, eye infections, and other health issues. 
  • Skin Irritation: Expired makeup can cause skin irritation, redness, and rashes, especially for those with sensitive skin. 
  • Acne: Using expired makeup can clog your pores and cause acne breakouts. 
  • Allergic Reactions: Expired makeup can cause allergic reactions, such as itching, swelling, and hives.



Are Preservatives Bad?


We've been talking all about makeup and its expiration dates, and one important thing to know is that for makeup to last for years, it needs the help of preservatives. But recently, natural or organic beauty brands have been giving the term "preservatives" a bad rep. Instilling fear that preservatives contained in makeup products are harmful to the skin. Which is not true.


There are harmful preservatives you should avoid like parabens, aldehydes, and triclosan but there are also good ones with less irritating and unproblematic properties like sorbic acid, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sodium benzoate, dehydroacetic acid and much more. Another fun fact is that some of these preservatives are ECO-Certifed, meaning they're not only safe to use on your skin but also not harmful to the environment.


Preservatives are important components when it comes to making these products because they inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria in these water-based products such as foundations and mascara. But imagine you saw mold on your mascara two weeks after you bought it because it didn't have preservatives. That doesn't sound appealing right?


Of course not. The truth is even the so-called natural or plant-based products are not natural, because, in the end, these products will have to be stored for over a year, and keeping a product for that long does require some amount of preservative unless it would become a perishable product like food, which you'll have to use up within two weeks. And we all know that is not feasible.


In essence, know this. The right kind of preservatives in your makeup and skincare products is not bad for you or your skin.



Other Makeup Do's and Don'ts


Using expired or contaminated makeup can be harmful to your skin and overall health. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your hands are washed before starting your makeup routine, especially when you're going to e apply products with bare hands around your eyes.
  • In the same vein, use clean makeup brushes and sponges to apply to your makeup. Don't forget to wipe down your dressing table with a clean cloth or sanitizer once you're done.
  • Write down the dates you opened a product on the content to remind you to throw it out when it expires.
  • Don't share your makeup products, especially eye and lip products.
  • Remove your makeup properly with a specific cleaner to avoid clogged pores which can lead to acne or rashes.






Makeup products do expire, and it's essential to know when to throw them away.

Always check the expiry date on your makeup products and dispose of them safely when they expire. Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry, and using fresh makeup products will help keep your skin healthy and looking its best.

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