Here's How to Figure Out When Your Makeup Is Expiring
No more guessing.
Unlike that gallon of milk in the fridge (or bottle of Motrin in your medicine cabinet), beauty products don't come emblazoned with a clear expiration date — which is why many of us hoard them way past due. And like many things in life, as hard as it may be to toss out that mascara you rely on (yet is starting to smell a bit funky), or an eye palette that's slowly been collecting dust, sometimes you just have to know when to let go.
If kept for too long, products not only decrease in efficacy, but also become a breeding ground for bacteria, which could transfer to your face and a host of skin issues.
Enter cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson and Ami Mallon, director of artistry and education for cosmetic brand Jane Iredale, who gave us the dirt behind makeup's varying lifespans. Use their insight as a guide to reference when deciding what makeup products need to go and when.
How Long Is a Product's Shelf Life Extended When It's Unopened?
Most skin, hair and body products can last up to two to three years unopened, according to Wilson. But it also completely depends on the product. For starters, Mallon notes that natural or "clean" products tend to have a shorter shelf life because there's less or more natural preservatives in the products. Typically she says that the clean products at Jane Iredale last about 30 months unopened. She adds that products are then given a PAO (Period After Opening) date, which marks how long the product will provide "optimal performance."
"Cleaner products [with] natural preservative systems are very safe and effective at retaining the integrity of a product over time, however can have a shorter expiry date than chemical preservative counterparts," Mallon tells us. "In the end it's all about finding a balance of the right products that will support the health of your skin and body and last on your skin and your vanity."
Of course, it also depends on type of product. For instance, Mallon says that powder can last longer than liquid foundation, and eye makeup products, like mascara, go quickly because they're exposed to oxygen and become dried out.
Wilson adds that color cosmetics can have a shorter life span (one-and-a-half to two years) because the pigments cannot stay suspended beyond that length.
How Can You Extend a Product's Expiration Date?
You can't extend the date past what they're formulated to last, but there are some things you can do to ensure that they survive through that duration. Wilson says to store the products in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Mallon recommends storing something like a face mist or spray in the refrigerator to not only help it last it's full shelf life, but to also provide a refreshing and cooling treat when you apply it.
What Is the Risk of Using Expired Makeup?
Wilson notes that once the texture has changed, you see signs of separation, the odor shifts to a funky note, or the color dramatically changes, it's time to toss it.
Once a product expires, Mallon says that the product will most likely no longer function as effectively as it once did, noting that an expired product can look different on your skin and even smell different, lack color vibrancy, have different texture, or last for shorter amounts of time.
One way to avoid using expired products that Mallon recommends is setting some time aside every month to "survey all of the products on your bathroom shelf for any differences in look, smell or feel!"
What's the Expiration Date on Each Type of Makeup Product?
In order to create a definitive guide on when to quit using what products, we asked Wilson and Mallon for the shelf life on each of the below products. Reference this list when a product starts to look a little sketchy. You and your skin will thank us later.
Mascara: Both experts agree that your mascara should last you up to a year. Wilson just suggests storing it in a dry place, with the cap on tight. If not properly stored, she says the product will dry out and gives it six to nine months to last.
Concealer: Wilson says you can count on your concealer lasting you 12 to 18 months. If you apply using your fingers, she recommends thoroughly cleaning your hands first to avoid any bacteria transferring. If you apply with a sponge, she suggests cleaning or changing your sponges frequently.
Lip Gloss/Lipstick: This definitely depends on the product but the experts believe these lip products will last you anywhere from 12 to 24 months. But Wilson recommends tossing once the smell and/or odor changes because oils in the products can go rancid.
Hair Brushes: Both experts agree if proper maintenance and sanitation is kept up with, hair brushes can last for years.
Makeup Brushes: Again, as long as they're properly cared for and cleaned they can last for years. Mallon suggests laying brushes flat to dry after washing. "This will assure that water doesn't enter the ferule of the brush — the area where the bristles are held in place — which can cause brush hairs to shed," Mallon tells us.
Sunscreen: If properly stored sunscreen can last longer but if it does go bad, it can be very "volatile" because of the chemicals used in the formula, according to Mallon. Instead, look for mineral based sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, she says.
Wilson adds that if you use spray sunscreen, go off the expiration date on the package or two years, whichever one comes first. "The product may not be as effective if kept beyond the expiration date," she adds.
Facial Moisturizer/Face Masks: If your moisturizer or mask is in a jar, Wilson says to toss after six to nine months. If it has a pump, give it up to 12 months in a pump because she says "it isn't exposed to the elements." And using expired moisturizer or cream can cause noticeable irritation because if it is an "AHA cream with a low pH [level] and loses water, it becomes more concentrated," says Wilson.
Eyeliner: Both experts agree, your eyeliner should last you up to 12 months (as long as it hasn't dried out). Wilson says using it longer puts you at risk for exposing your eyes to bacteria.
Lip Pencil/Lip Liner: Wilson says this product should be fine until it's done. Clean the tip occasionally with alcohol to kill bacteria if sharing, though Wilson highly recommends against sharing.
Nail Polish: Wilson says you can use polish up to 12 months with the proper storage. She suggests examining it after nine months to see if the color has faded, or if the pigments settled.