It’s the ugly truth: Your beauty products do expire. You should not use them if they are expired and the reason is that they are not effective anymore and most importantly they can be harmful (expired products can cause skin infections, irritations, breakouts etc.). So, how long is it safe to use your cosmetic products? When do they expire? Are there any guidelines you could follow?
Let’s find out!
Expiration date and PAO
- Expiration date
In the EU, all cosmetic products that have a shelf life of less than 30 months must have an expiration date printed on their packaging. The expiration date is simply the period of time it is safe to use a product. If an unopened cosmetic or personal care product is properly stored, you can use it within this period.
Cosmetic products with a shelf life that exceeds 30 months don’t have an expiration date placed on the packing but it is required that they show a PAO time. PAO stands for “period after opening” and indicates the time a product will remain in good condition after you have opened and used it for the first time. The symbol of PAO is an open jar icon with a number and the letter M (M stands for months). For example, a “6M” means you should toss the product after 6 months of use.
Following the expiration date or the PAO is an easy way to know how long it is safe to use a product. But how will you know when to toss it, if there’s no expiration date or PAO printed on it?
Here are some guidelines and tips for when to toss your cosmetic products that can make your life easier:
- Facial cleansers have a shelf life of 1 year.
- Some body cleansers like shower gels can last up to 2 years once opened.
- Facial or body soaps can last for several years if they are not opened. Once opened, you can keep using them for almost 2 years.
- Toners – up to 1 year
You can use your toner for approximately a year from opening. Note that it is important to keep it in a cool place.
- Moisturizers and Serums – 1 to 1 ½ years
Most face/body moisturizers and serums last around 12 months but their shelf life depends on the packaging. Products in a jar should be tossed in max. 1 year, whereas airtight pump products can be used for almost 1 ½ years.
- Sunscreen – up to 3 years
Sunscreens last a good two years, and if you keep them in a cool and dry place and avoid exposing them to heat, you can keep using them for up to three years.
- Foundation and Concealer – up to 18 months
The shelf life of liquid, cream, or stick foundation/concealer depends on its ingredients. Water – based products last up to 1 year, whereas oil – based products can last up to 18 months.
- Powder – based products – up to 3 years
Powders tend to last longer than liquid products. They do not contain water, so it’s not easy for bacteria to grow. Powder foundations, blushes, bronzers, highlighters etc. can last up to 3 years as long as you clean your brushes frequently.
- Mascara – 3 to 6 months
You should replace your mascara every three to six months. Mascaras dry out easily and are likely to cause infections. If you lent it to a friend or family member or used it while you had an eye infection, toss it even if it’s not expired.
- Liquid eyeliner – up to 12 months
Liquid eye liners have a short shelf life but still last longer than mascaras. Their shelf life depends on the brand, but generally they last around 12 months.
- Pencil eyeliner – 2 to 3 years
Pencil eyeliners can last up to 3 years as long as you sharpen them between uses and keep the cap closed.
- Eye shadow – up to 3 years
Eye shadows have a very long shelf life due to their dry nature. They can last up to 3 years but it is very important to use clean applicators to avoid microbes.
- Brow pencils - 2 to 3 years
Brow pencils should be cared for in the same way as pencil eyeliners and can last up to 3 years.
- Lip products – 2 to 3 years
The shelf life of lipsticks and lip glosses depends on their ingredients. Usually they contain a lot of preservatives and do not hold much bacteria, so they can last a good two years. Lip liners, like pencil eyeliners and brow pencils last longer (up to 3 years) because they can be sharpened.
Nail Polish – up to 2 years
Nail polish tends to get thick and sticky if it’s not properly stored. You can add some acetone to improve its texture and keep using it but typically a nail polish can last for up to two years once opened.
Perfume – up to 5 years or many more
You can keep using a perfume for 3 to 5 years, but how long it actually lasts depends on many factors. The most important factors are its chemical composition and how you store it.
Hair Care– up to 2 years or many more
Most hair care products (shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, styling products) last up to two years. If you store them properly (close the caps tightly and don’t let water in, keep them in a clean shower) you can keep using them for even more time. Good news: Hair sprays last even longer; you can keep using them for up to 5 years as long as you keep them in a cool dark place.
Natural beauty and personal care products do not contain chemical preservatives and, unlike conventional cosmetics, cannot be preserved for long periods of time. Additionally, since they often contain botanical ingredients, it is easier for microbes to grow. There are some warning signs that a product has gone bad and it is a good idea to learn reading them:
An oil-based product has gone bad when it starts to smell bad.
You will understand that a water-based product has gone bad when you notice a change of scent, texture or colour.
What to do to make your products last longer
- Store your cosmetics in a cool, dry, dark place
- Avoid exposure to humidity
- Avoid exposure to sun and heat
- It is preferable to use airtight pump products rather than jar products
- In case you use jar products clean your hands first
- Do not share your skincare or make up products with others
Last tip: Don’t panic if you just realized you have been using expired products. Keep in mind that recommended expiration times are usually very conservative. Just try not to use your beauty and personal care products long after the expiration date has been reached.