Many women are guilty of holding onto their beauty products years after they have expired, however this can be detrimental to your skin and your health.  Just like food and medicine, your cosmetics have a shelf life.  They are not made to last.  Here are some tips to keep handy so that you can determine when it is time to throw out your cosmetics and purchase new ones.

First and foremost, if your makeup has any odor (that wasn’t there when you first purchased it)….throw it out!  This is an obvious giveaway that your makeup has gone bad and it is time to buy some something new.

Some beauty products (such as lotions or hair products) will actually have the expiration date pictured on the packaging and/or container.  You will want to look for a picture of a round jar with the lid off.  On the side of the bottom part of the jar will have a number and an “M” that looks like this:


This indicated that your product will expire 12 months after opening.  Not every product will have this logo so it is always good to check.  Also, some products will last shorter/longer than 12 months.

Here is a list compiled from an article on iVillage Are your cosmetics past their use-by date? by Eva Gizowska.

  • Fragrances – Shelf Life 18 months – 2 years: If you want to prolong the life of your favorite fragrance you should store it in the fridge.  Try to keep it in it’s original packaging or out of direct sunlight and heat.  You should discard if the fragrance changes color (especially darker) and/or the scent changes.
  • Lip gloss – Shelf Life 18 months – 2 years:  If you’re applying lip gloss with a wand you will want to wash it at least once a week.  If you apply it with your fingers make sure you wash your hands first.  Do not use if you have any cold sores.  If you wore your lip gloss when you had a cold sore throw it out.
  • Lip Liner/Eye Liner – Shelf Life – 2 years:  Liners last a long time because they’re constantly being sharpened (this obviously only holds true if your liner is the kind that can be sharpened).  Do not use eye liner if you have an eye infection.  Do no use lip liner when you have a cold sore.  Throw out your liner if you think it may have been contaminated.  Do not share your liners.  Keep liners out of direct sunlight and heat.
  • Lipstick – Shelf Life – 2 years:  Throw out your lipstick if it feels scratchy, dry, or changes color.  If you see tiny little bubbles appear on your lipstick do not worry; these are moisture drops and can be removed with a tissue.  Do not share lipsticks or use when you have a cold sore.  Throw out your lipstick if you think it has been contaminated.  If you use a brush to apply your lipstick make sure you wash it at least once a week.
  • Eyeshadow – Shelf Life for powder e/s – 2 years – Shelf Life for cream e/s – 12 – 18 months:  You want to make sure you’re washing your brushes at least once/twice a week by spot cleaning and doing a deep clean at least once a month (check out how to clean your brushes here).  If applying your eyeshadow with your fingers make sure you wash your hands first.  Do not use your eyeshadow if you have an eye infection.  If you think your eyeshadow has been contaminated def toss it.
  • Mascara – Shelf Life – 3 – 6 months:  The best tip I can give is to use one mascara at a time.  Sure we like to try different mascaras, but alternating between mascaras could mean cross contaminating.  Using one mascara at a time also means you will use it up quicker.  Do not pump your mascara, it will only generate more air into the container which can lead to further contamination.  Never put water in your mascara or use your saliva to try and wet it.  If it has dried up buy a new one.  Do not share your mascara this is one of the easiest ways to pick up and pass on eye infections.  Do not use the same mascara if you’ve just had an eye infection…you don’t want it coming back.  Keep your mascara in a clean place where it is free from dirt and dust.  Make sure your hands are cleaning before applying your mascara.
  • Concealer – Shelf Life – 12 – 18 months:  Concealer that comes in a stick lasts the longest out of any concealer.  Liquid concealer that comes with it’s own wand tends to harbor bacteria because the wand constantly goes back into the bottle.  To help prevent over contamination wipe the wand clean after each use ( you can also wash it, but make sure the sponge/brush is completely dry before putting it back into the bottle).  You will definitely want to clean the brush if you’re using it to conceal blemishes.  Try to use concealer that comes in a stick or pump form.
  • Foundation – Oil Free Foundation Shelf Life – 12 months -Moisturizing, Cream, or Compact Foundation Shelf Life – 18 months: Oil free foundation expires the quickest because it has a tendency to dry out faster.  If you want to prolong the life of your foundation you can put it in the fridge.  Foundation should be kept in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight (if you choose to not store it in the fridge then keep the original packaging to store it in that).  Wash your brushes thoroughly and frequently.  If using a sponge you will want to throw them out after a couple of uses (toss the sponge if you can’t keep it in a safe place without it collecting dirt or dust or being contaminated.  If you can store it in a safe place I would suggest using the sponge twice…once on each side).  If you’re applying the foundation to an infected area or where there is broken skin use a spatula to get the product then quickly close up the foundation so you won’t contaminate it.  If possible, always use a foundation in a tube or a pump this will greatly lessen your chance of contamination.
  • Powder – Shelf Life – 2 years:  Loose powder can last longer than pressed powders (up to three years) if stored in the right conditions, however it is best to get rid of it after two years.  Powder has a tendency to dry out and in the case of pressed powders it may not go on as smoothly.  You will want to wash your brush frequently.
  • Moisturizer – Shelf Life – 3 – 12 months:  Throw out your moisturizer immediately if it begins to smell, changes color, or if it looks like it is separating.  Your best bet is to use one moisturizer at a time (even one for AM and one for PM is fine).  It is nice to have a variety of scents to choose from, however where moisturizers don’t last very long you probably won’t use it all up in the allotted time if you have too many.  Try to keep your fingers out of the container to prevent contamination.  Use a plastic spoon or a spatula to get the product out of it’s container.

My last bit of advice….when in doubt throw it out!  I cannot stress this enough.  If you can’t remember when you purchased your beauty products then it is time to throw it out.  I know it stinks, but just think you get to go shopping for new stuff!  Always check for an expiration date on the packaging or bottle.  If you are unsure about a certain product you should contact the company.  The last thing you want is a rash or even worse a b
acterial infection.

*PLEASE NOTE:  The shelf life for the products listed above are not for “natural”, “vegan”, or even “green” beauty products.  Those products have an even shorter shelf life because they don’t contain the same amount of preservatives.  These “natural”, “vegan”, and “green” products have to state their shelf life on the packaging.  It is highly recommended  to discard these products as soon as they expire.

About The Author

Tara Rufo is a longtime Blast Magazine contributor and one of the editors of Bombshell.

5 Responses

  1. Lorraine EMerick

    PROTECT YOUR GOOD LOOKS FROM MAKE-UP GONE BAD…I would like to introduce you to the Once Opened Beauty Expiration Kit and invite you to visit my website TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR SPRING CLEANING SPECIAL ~ FREE SHIPPING!

    Ever get an eye infection or acne from old make-up? I have! Many people (especially teens!) are not aware of the effects of make-up used past its prime, a “Period after Opening” date (mandated in Europe not in the USA) or that common permanent markers are not resistant to oils found in creams and make-up and shouldn’t be used to mark-up products (kit solves this problem with SELF-LAMINATING LABELS).

    The Once Opened Beauty Expiration Kit has the solution to organize your cosmetics! Kit provides 24 attractive self-laminating labels in a pretty pink organza bag, ultra fine point permanent marker and Beauty Life Expectancy Guide to “Mark-Up Your Make-Up” with date product is opened to prevent using make-up past its prime and risking the spread of bacteria. Visit:

    P.S. Make-up used after it has gone bad, not only risks infection but jeopardizes your good looks!

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