Makeup expiration: When to get rid of your old cosmetics

How long should you keep your makeup? There are recommended lengths of time for each cosmetics type but I have to admit, I don't follow them. I just have one general rule: if the product starts to smell rancid, separate, or just stop working the way it should, then in it goes to the bin!

Expiration dates for me are suggestions at best. I find that a product's shelf life is ultimately dictated by the limitation of its fomulation. For example, wet makeup like mascaras and liquid liners simply flake and dry up after four or five months. Lipsticks and glosses will start to thicken and just feel generally weird after two years. The waxes and oils in the formula will naturally dry up the more you use them, and you'll notice this when the product starts to separate (i.e. sweating lipstick, stringy gloss). The smell is the final giveaway though!

Gel products dry up faster than cream products, but you can tell if they're no good by checking the texture. If the product is too hard to be useful (usually after a year and a half) then throw it away. You can also check for a rancid smell.  

Powders last much longer though. As long as you keep them in a cool dry place and sanitize them with alcohol every so often, your powder makeup can last up to three years. I have a NARS blush that's still perfectly fine after three years with me, so I still use it once in a while. :) I actually plan to use it longer since I haven't observed any change in the formula or effect on skin at all. 

Liquid foundations or primer in tubes and jars are generally safe to use for up to 18 months. I'm more wary of liquid products since you can't sanitize them by yourself without ruining the formula. Wet environments are a breeding ground for bacteria once the preservatives stop working, so it's best to throw them away within the recommended expiration date - usually 12-18 months.

But wait, what is the recommended expiration date?

Of course I don't break rules if I didn't know what they are to begin with. :) A quick inspection of the packaging should reveal either an expiration date or a xM, with x being the number of months you are advised to use the makeup in question (i.e. 12M, 6M). Generally, this is how long you can use cosmetics: 

  • Mascara - 4 months
  • Powder foundation - 18 months
  • Liquid or cream foundation/ concealer - 12 months
  • Blush and eyeshadow - 24 months
  • Lipstick and lip gloss - 18 months
  • Eyeliner or eyebrow makeup - Pencil, 18 months / Gel, 12 months / Liquid, 6 months

Organic, all-natural products expire faster

Products that are proud to have no paraben or preservatives of any sort obviously expire faster. They can last for less than half a year for wet products, and less than a year for powders. There are natural preservatives but still none as effective as synthetics.

Storage tips 

Most women would store their makeup in the bathroom, but this is most unwise. It's humid in there, plus the temperature fluctuates (if you like hot showers). It's easier for mold to grow in your makeup! You should check for white fuzz, that's already mold. Throw ASAP!

The best way to store makeup is in the fridge. This really helps to extend the shelf life. However, I personally don't find this practical as I have a regular-sized fridge and I would rather put food in it. :P

I store my makeup in my room, away from direct sunlight (sunlight speeds up spoilage). The room is airconditioned at least 12 hours every day so it's cool inside. Even if you don't have aircon, store your makeup in a closet or bag that doesn't get hot during the day. That said, do not leave your makeup in the car EVER!

What's the worst that can happen if you use makeup past its prime?

If your makeup collection is for your personal use only then there's not much to fear, really. I've used expired lipstick and I didn't get allergies or anything - it's just really highly unpleasant. Expired foundation looks weird since the color and texture have changed, so what's the point? Etc, etc. It's better to just throw it away and give yourself some peace of mind.

If you share your makeup (either with friends or family or with clients) then it's better to keep makeup within its recommended expiration period - or even sooner than that. You don't know what kind of virus or bacteria each person carries with them at a certain point in time, so you don't want to pass that around if you can help it. 

Other risks are skin irritation and breakouts (for face products).

And that's it! Hope this helps. ;) Do you follow expiration dates to a T? Or do you have your own timeline?