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Your complete guide to makeup and cosmetic products expiration dates

A great way to keep yourself entertained while there is load shedding & time to clean out before the new year!


Raise your hand if you've had a tube of definitely expired mascara knocking around in your makeup bag for over a year now. Or how about a lipstick you've been swiping on for a decade? Unless you routinely set aside time to clean out your cosmetics stash, it's all too easy to keep makeup, toiletries, grooming tools, and medications long after their expiration dates. We're all guilty of it—but it's time to make a change and it's one thing to add to your things to do whilst load-shedding.

I've put together four tell-tale signs that it’s time to replace your old makeup and skincare.

1. It’s past the expiration date.

The most immediate sign is, of course, if you’ve passed the recommended timeline stamped on the side of your product. It usually appears in the form of a number and the letter M which stands for months inside the shape of a jar.

Known as the Period-After-Opening, the PAO symbol indicates roughly how long you can safely use an item once it’s been opened.

These “best by” timelines vary by product type, but all cosmetics will inevitably reach their limit. Sunscreens and fragrances typically last the longest, sometimes even up to three years. Eyeshadow palettes have an equally long shelf life but should be discarded after two to three years.

When it comes to skin creams, primers, and foundations, as an expert I would say they’re generally good for about a year, but mascaras should be replaced every three months. These timelines can be affected by a number of things, however, including how the product was stored, its ingredients—for example, do they have preservatives or are they all-natural?—and/or how quickly they may rack up bacteria, based on where they’re used or how they’re applied. Makeup brushes in particular are notorious havens for bacteria; a recent study found that they’re dirtier than most average toilet seats, despite being quite easy to clean.

If you’re stressing over how to keep track of it all, I would suggest it’s because I'm a type A personality and clinically OCD create a spreadsheet, including when each item was bought and opened, and when it should (ideally) be replaced. For me having a lot of products makes it hard to tell which ones are about to expire, so having a little list to check every once in a while, will make it easier.

2. The consistency has changed.

If your product starts to dry out or seems watered down, becomes sticky or chalky, or if the different ingredients start to visibly separate, those are all sure-fire signs that it’s time to replace it.

3. It’s discoloured.

Much like the subtle changes you look for in a fruit or vegetable that’s going bad, any signs of discoloration or changes in smell or texture are signs that your products need to be replaced

While this probably seems obvious for something where the color is imperative, like your eyeshadow or eyeliner, it could be more difficult to pick up on with certain skincare products, like a moisturizer or priming serum. You may not even take notice of it if that particular item dispenses a small amount out of a pump, or if you’re scooping a substance into your hands and then rubbing it right into your face.

4. It smells funny.

A fragrant product may naturally start to lose some of its potency as it ages, but if something scentless starts to smell—or worse, if a scented product gives off a funky odor instead of its usual aroma—it’s better to be safe than sorry. chuck it.

What are the biggest factors in a skin-care product's longevity?

Water-based products, including liquids, creams, and lotions, are more prone to spoilage from bacterial growth if the preservative system isn't strong enough or if the product is constantly coming into contact with the user, like putting your finger in a jar, This doesn't mean oil-based products are off the hook; he says they can oxidize over time, causing color and odor changes that are unrelated to bacteria.

The right packaging can help a product last longer. Still, one simple thing may play a bigger role in expiration than anything else: The clock really starts ticking once the package has been opened, because it begins to oxidize.