Nothing lasts forever. Not even cosmetics. Overtime, they can lose their efficacy or their preservative system (if they have one) can stop functioning, allowing bacteria and fungi to grow in your products. That can be very dangerous, and lead to irritations and, worse, infections.
So, how do you know when it’s time to throw away a product? In the European Union, products must be stamped with a Period After Opening date (the symbol looks like a jar and features the number of months the product can last), but in the USA cosmetics are not required to have expiration dates (although some companies are starting to print them on the packaging).
Even when the packaging features the expiration date, this provides only an indication. If the product is stored away from light, heat and air, for instance, it will last longer. Products without preservatives last a lot less than those with them. Still, it’s important to know how long a product can last on average so that we can try and use it up before it has the chance to go bad.
Here’s a guide on the shelf lives of beauty products:
4 to 6 months
Mascara and liquid eyeliners have the shortest shelf life and last only from 4 to 6 months. That’s because bacteria thrive in moist environments. And when that happens, nasty eye affections can occur. Be safe rather than sorry and change these products regularly!
Skincare products, such as cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, sunscreens, and lip balms usually last about a year (although those that contain antioxidants or anti-acne ingredients tend to last less). Cosmetics with a creamy or liquid texture, like foundations, concealers, cream blushes and eyeshadows, last a year too.
On average, lip products such as lipsticks and lipglosses can last up to two years.
Powder products, such as powder eyeshadows, blushes, and powders, last the longest. That’s because bacteria need a moist environment to thrive, so, unless you use them wet, or some bacteria happens to enter them by chance (this can, for instance, happen when you’re ill or touch the product with dirty hands), they can last up to three years or even longer. The same is true for nail polishes and perfumes. Three years is the minimum, but if properly stored, they can last longer. Eyeliners and lipliners can last up to three years as well.
Do you follow expiration dates on your cosmetics, or do you keep them until you see some change in texture, colour, or smell?