Does Makeup Expire? Here's What to Know

Experts are here to take out the guesswork.

Makeup brushes with dispersed powder against a pink background
Photo: Getty Images

As beauty editors, we have a ton of makeup products in our arsenal, which sometimes makes using them up before their expiration date tricky (to say the least). And while we cringe at the thought of tossing a much-loved mascara, the effects of using expired makeup are way worse. 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 create a host of skin issues. To learn more, we tapped cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson and director of artistry and education for Jane Iredale, Ami Mallon, who helped us figure out what makeup products need to go and when.

From mascara to lipstick to foundation, keep reading to find out when your makeup products expire.

How Long Is a Product's Shelf Life?

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 are fewer 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, they 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."

It also depends on the type of product, too. 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?

While you can't extend the expiration date of a product, there are some things you can do to ensure that they survive through that duration. For instance, Wilson recommends storing the products in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Mallon advises keeping a face mist or spray in the refrigerator to prolong its shelf life and provide a refreshing and cooling treat when you apply it.

What Is the Risk of Using Expired Makeup?

Once a product expires, Mallon says that the product will most likely no longer function as effectively as it once did. An expired product can look different on your skin and even smell different, lack color vibrancy, have a different texture, or last for shorter amounts of time, she adds.

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. One way to avoid using expired products is by setting some time aside every month to review your makeup collection. "Survey all of the products on your bathroom shelf for any differences in look, smell, or feel," says Mallon.

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.


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.


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 are kept up, 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," she adds.


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, notes 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 it after six to nine months. If it has a pump, give it up to 12 months because it isn't exposed to the elements, she comments. And using expired moisturizers or creams can cause noticeable irritation. AHA cream with a low pH level will lose water and become more concentrated, explains Wilson.


Both experts agree that 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 of 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, although Wilson highly recommends against sharing.

Nail Polish

Wilson says you can use polish for 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.

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