If you think your makeup is is expired, it probably is. Here is a guide to knowing if and when you should toss your makeup, and how to keep your cosmetic stash fresh and clean.
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Is your makeup expired? Are you still using it? I’m ashamed to admit I have been. This month, I was gently encouraged to find a new foundation due to my old favorite being discontinued. Going through this process forced me to take a good, honest look at the rest of my collection. I found sentimental pieces, like the Urban Decay Naked Palette my husband bought me for our first date…in 2017. Or Butter London’s Pantone Color of the Year collection that I just had to have in 2018. Let’s not even talk about the 2014 and 2015 MAC holiday sets I scored from CCS…I digress. I have come to grips that almost every single makeup item I own belongs in the trash, not on my face.
I suspect that I’m not alone. For the past year, most of us haven’t been wearing as much makeup, given the quarantine and masks. Therefore, we probably haven’t replenished our makeup inventories since early 2020 at the latest. This means we are starting fresh with rotten products. Yay! It’s easy to forget that makeup and other personal care products are perishable, but since we put them on our bodies, we need to pay their shelf-lives the same respect as the food we put in our bodies. Let’s talk about how to know when to let go of your makeup.
For more guidance, check out this article from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
How To Tell If Your Makeup Is Expired
Trust your senses
Your nose knows – and so do your eyes and hands. Is your liquid foundation separating? Does your lipstick stink? Are you struggling to get that hard-packed blush or eyeshadow onto your brush? Drastic changes in the appearance, smell, or texture of your makeup products are tell-tale signs that it’s time to let go. These are signs that the perishable ingredients have gone bad and that there is possible contamination from bacteria and fungus. It is possible to clean some products, like eyeshadow palettes, with alcohol, but let’s keep it real. Unless you’re a professional makeup artist, you’re probably not doing that. Your products may also stop performing as well over time, in which case, it’s not gonna be very useful to you anyway.
*Tip: By the way, if you are experiencing skin irritation related to a makeup product, stop using it immediately, no matter how old or new it is.
Check the package
Have you ever paid attention to the back or bottom of your makeup products? Most of us don’t read past the instructions. If you look closely at the packaging, often near the distribution information, you may find symbols, most notably a jar with a number inside it (ex., “12M”). This is the number of months in the product’s shelf-life, or Period After Open (PAO) that it should be safe to use.
Tip: When you purchase a product, write the expiration/PAO date on the label and affix it to the package.
Check the batch code
Like most mass-produced items, cosmetic manufacturers print batch codes on their products for tracking purposes. Some countries even require products within a certain shelf-life to have a “best before” date. In any event, if you at least have the batch code, you can get a sense of how long your product has been around – before or after you purchase it. Sites like Cosmetic Calculator and CheckFresh allow you to plug in the batch code of your products for a growing number of brands and find out the production date. (These sites also have great information about how production and expiration dates work.)
*If your makeup has been discontinued for a LONG time, it’s probably time to let it go and find a new favorite. The batch code checker may help your decision.
When To Throw Your Expired Makeup Away – and Why
Now that we know how the signs of expired makeup, here are some general rules of thumb to follow about the lifespan of your makeup.
Liquid/cream/gel products (Ex., foundation, concealer, cream contour or blush) – 1 year
Liquid and cream products are usually emulsified with water and oil and tend to separate over time, with the oils eventually going rancid. The moist environment is also a prime breeding ground for bacteria and fungus to grow. Yuck.
Powder (Ex., eyeshadow, setting powder, powder blush) – 1 to 2 years
Powder products are susceptible to reduced performance, hardening and cracking. Also, microorganisms can enter the picture, taking the express from your face to your brushes to your palettes.
Eyeliner* and Mascara – 3 to 6 months
Consider the fact that every time you open you mascara, you expose the wand to the air, then your eye juice, then pump said air and contaminants back into the bottle. Gross, huh? Let that serve as a reminder to throw our liners ad mascara away – and to never, EVER, share them.
*The exception to this rule is your eyeliner pencils. As long as you’re keeping the tops on them and sharpening them frequently, you can keep them a bit longer.
Lipstick – 1-2 years
Lipsticks have a firmer consistency than their liquid counterparts but are subject to the same issues – mold, bacteria, rancidity, and poor performance. Not to mention, they are exposed to our lips, a major port of entry for our bodies.
5 Ways To Keep Your Makeup Fresh
Although, makeup is perishable, there are steps we and take to keep our stash as fresh as possible.
1.Label your products and store them appropriately.
When you purchase new makeup, look at the PAO symbol and label it with an estimated expiration date. Make sure you store them in places that are clean, cool, and relatively dry.
2. Clean what you can.
Take a cue from professional makeup artists and clean your products. Start by cleaning your bottles and packaging. Makeup such as lipstick, powders, and pencils can be cleaned with a spray or swipe of isopropyl alcohol. You can also use a makeup sanitizer spray. Check out this article for tips on how to sanitize your makeup.
3. Clean your brushes.
One of the worst enemies in the war on beauty germs is dirty brushes. Yeah, it’s a pain in the you-know-what, but it’s an absolute necessity to clean your brushes regularly. Even if your makeup doesn’t come in direct contact with your skin, your brushes do, and they are a great conduit for passing germs between the two. My favorite brush cleaner is Cinema Secrets. And though it should go without saying, WASH YOUR HANDS. (Try not to stick your fingers in your products, either.).
4. Curate your collection.
Part of the reason we have so much expired makeup is because of the sheer amount of makeup in our stash. When we constantly bounce from one shiny new palette to the next big thing it becomes increasingly difficult to use anything up before it expires. Buy the things you really, really like, but try to stay away from sheer impulse buys. You’ll be more likely hit pan before hitting the garbage.
5. Return your makeup.
With the aforementioned point being made, if you buy something new, try it, and you don’t like it, take it back. Most stores have generous return policies for makeup; don’t be afraid to use them. It is better to get your money back and destash those items than have them going bad on your vanity.
It’s so easy to forget that makeup expires, especially when we have “old-faithfuls” that we don’t want to part with. But all good things must come to an end, even our favorite cosmetics. You owe it to yourself and your skin to let those old products pass away… into the trash can. Besides, it’s a good excuse fall in love with something new!
How often do you rotate your makeup? Tell us in the comments below!