When to toss out beauty products
Most skincare and cosmetics manufacturers don’t have to list expiration dates on packaging, so sometimes, you may not be sure whether a product has gone bad or not. While acne creams and over-the-counter products containing drugs are FDA regulated and carry expiration dates, cosmeceuticals, which are products that offer skin-changing benefits, and most makeup are not regulated.
Using skincare products and cosmetics within the recommended timeframes is important because, once they’re expired, they can harbor harmful bacteria. All of the molecules in these products can also break down into something else, and your skin can have a bad reaction to it.
Here are the freshness periods of 10 of your favorite beauty products:
Mascara has a shelf-life of two or three months once opened. If it clumps or smells strange, toss it out. And avoid sharing mascara with others; you’ll spread germs. If you must share, use disposable applicators, and don’t double-dip.
2. Liquid concealer and foundation
Liquid concealer and foundation last six to 12 months. Replace it if it has separated into layers or its color has changed. Keeping it out of the sun extends its shelf life (UV rays can destroy preservatives).
3. Lipstick and lip gloss
Lipstick lasts up to two years, and lip gloss lasts one year. Lipstick that’s dry and lip gloss that’s extra sticky need to be tossed out.
4. Nail polish
Nail polish lasts one to two years. But if it’s extra goopy or has separated into layers and won’t blend after shaking, replace it. Use a nail polish thinner to extend its shelf life.
5. Powder, eye shadow, and blush
All three last about two years. Expired powders tend to be drier and flakier than fresh ones. Invest in cosmetic sanitizer and brush shampoo—these can help prevent breakouts and bacteria.
Perfumes, colognes, eau de toilette — they last one to three years. Perfume whose odor has changed or whose color is lighter has expired. Store your fragrances in cool, dark places to make them last longer; bright lights tend to oxidize them, which can affect the overall scent.
Lotions usually last two years. A change in color or scent means your lotion has probably expired. Go for bottled lotion with a pump rather than one in a jar; bottled lotion is less prone to airborne bacteria and will last longer.
8. Peels and masks
Peels and masks typically last one to two years once opened, depending on the active ingredients used. To expand the life of your face masks, use a spoon to dip into the mix — this prevents the transfer of bacteria from your hands. You can also place sheet masks in the fridge to extend their life.
Opened cleansers can last up to two years, but many dermatologists recommend tossing them after about a year of use. Some cleansers, like Cetaphil, are formulated to last for years.
10. Serums and moisturizers
These skincare products tend to last for about a year from opening, depending on the ingredients used. Serums containing retinol may lose their effectiveness after this mark.
Freshen up with fresh makeup and skincare products
Unlike packaged foods and drinks, cosmetics packaging doesn’t feature a “sell by” date. Some manufacturers do include what’s known as a PAO symbol. “PAO” stands for “period after opening,” and the symbol contains a specific number of months.
Cosmetics and skincare products with no PAO symbol can be harder to judge. But if you just stick to some simple guidelines and know the signs of staleness to look for, your own look will always stay fresh!
- “Makeup 101: How Long Your Fave Products Really Last!,” Seventeen, December 12, 2012.
- “Save or Toss? The Truth About Makeup Expiration Dates,” Byrdie, December 29, 2016.
- “The Complete Guide to Makeup Expiration Dates You REALLY Need to Know,” Cosmopolitan, December 8, 2015.
- “The Makeup Expiration Dates You Need To Know,” The Huffington Post, August 8, 2014.