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Does Makeup Expire?

Does Makeup Expire?

Overflooded bathroom counters across the globe are filled with makeup products, from eyeliners to foundations. But does anyone know how long those products have been lingering in their beauty routine? 

While many products are used up quickly so their expiration dates never come into question, other products might be open for months, gathering dust. While the pasta sauce and almond milk in the kitchen have clear “best by” dates, makeup sometimes isn’t so clear. 

It may come as a surprise, but makeup does indeed expire. Not only can makeup start to lose its potency, but it can also cause serious skin issues if used once it has gone bad. 

Why does makeup have an expiration date? 

Like produce, makeup comes with an expiration date, known as a Period After Opening (PAO). While fresh veggies usually sport a specific date in the future, makeup usually has a number, followed by an “M,” which will indicate how many months the product will remain good and usable after opening.

While it may not seem obvious why makeup products come with expiration dates, it is extremely important to follow the recommendations. Expired makeup can not only become dry and crumbly but can also be full of bacteria. Additionally, color pigments can fade, and powders may become packed down and hard to use. No thank you! 

What does expired makeup do to your skin? 

The biggest risk of using expired makeup is the bacteria that may be lurking inside.

Bacteria can potentially lead to acne, rashes, staph, and eye infections. For example, using an old eyeliner can irritate the delicate skin surrounding the eye and cause puffy, red, and swollen eyes. Using expired powders can also irritate the skin and cause little red bumps that look like acne. 

Both mascara and foundation are particularly concerning when it comes to harboring bacteria. These products are exposed to air when opened and used, creating a better environment for bacteria to grow. This puts the user at a larger risk for infection or irritation. 

Another thing to note: if you do get an eye infection from another source, such as pink eye or conjunctivitis, it is important to throw any eye makeup away that you used while the eye was infected to avoid contaminating the eyes further. No one likes a repeat infection! 

Irritated Skin

Does unopened makeup expire? 

The expiration date on most makeup packaging refers to the number of months after opening that it is safe to use the product. But this makes it hard to know if sealed, unopened products have expired. 

If the product has been stored in a cool, dry place, most unopened products should last between 2 to 3 years. The only exception to that rule is creamy products, such as those that contain oils or butter, since oils can go rancid and expire quicker. 

Additionally, more natural, clean beauty products that don’t have many or any preservatives may go bad faster. Ultimately, nothing should be used that is over three years old.

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How to tell if makeup is expired

While all makeup should be stamped with that helpful little number followed by the letter “M,” remembering when exactly you opened the jar or tube is another part of the equation. There are a few quick tests you can do to see if that product that has been lingering on your countertop is still good. 

  • The first step is to smell the makeup. If anything smells off, toss it out.
  • If it doesn’t immediately smell funky, look at the color. If the color has changed, it is a signal that the product is no longer good. Concealers, for example, will oxidize and turn orange after they’ve gone bad. 
  • Lastly, check the texture. If the product feels different to the touch or how it feels on your skin, toss it out. 

Do skincare products expire? 

Like cosmetics, skincare products also expire and should be marked with an expiration date. A good rule of thumb is that anything that comes in a dropper, like serums, and is constantly exposed to air and bacteria should be tossed after about nine months of use. On the other hand, products that come in a bottle with a pump can last up to a year. 

While expired skincare products can also cause similar skin issues to makeup, another issue is that expired ingredients no longer work nearly as effectively. Sunscreens and anything with SPF, for example, won’t perform optimally once they expire. And this can be a huge issue, leading to potential sunburns. Ouch! 

Makeup shelf life

To ensure your makeup lasts as long as possible, keep it in a cool, dry place. Unfortunately, makeup that is stored in the bathroom can have a shorter shelf life. The humidity from the shower can breed mold, especially in older cosmetic products. While it may not be convenient, it’s best if you can find a drier and cooler place to keep your prized products to extend their life expectancy. 

Additionally, each product has a different shelf life, which is really determined by what ingredients are inside.

Nail polish

Nail polish’s shelf life is about one to two years after opening. 

To ensure it makes it closer to the two-year mark, keep it away from heat and direct sunlight as these things can make the polish separate and become discolored faster. 

If your open polish has simply become goopy or clumpy, add a little nail polish remover to the bottle, give it a shake, and it should be good as new. 


Foundation lasts about six months to one year. 

To prevent germs from creeping in, try to keep your fingers away from the neck of the bottle when using. Instead, pour the foundation onto the back of your hand or directly onto your sponge for application.

If you are noticing that the foundation is separating, it’s time to part with it. 


Blush lasts about two years after opening, and it is one of the longest-lasting cosmetics in your makeup bag. 

Blush will last even longer if you are religious about cleaning your makeup brushes. If you don’t opt for regular cleaning, you are putting old makeup, germs, and skin cells onto the powder and onto your face each time you use it. 


Similar to foundation, concealer can last up to a year. 

It is also best to keep concealer out of direct sunlight and avoid touching the applicator with your fingers. Also, just like foundation, once it starts to separate, it’s time to say goodbye. 

Eye shadow

Eye shadow has a surprisingly short shelf life, at just three to six months. While other types of powdered makeup can last up to two years, eye shadow should be replaced more often because it is used around your eyes, which are very delicate and prone to infection. 


Eyeliner is good for about one year, and pencil eyeliners even longer. Pencil eyeliners have a long shelf life because they are constantly being sharpened, which removes the surface where bacteria can congregate. 

Like everything in your makeup bag, it is best if eyeliners are stored away from the steamy bathroom. 

Colorful Nail Polish


Replacing mascara regularly is crucial for avoiding eye infections and should be tossed out every three months. If you notice the formula getting clumpy or smelling funky, it’s a signal that it has gone bad. 

An important thing to note is that you should never share mascara, it can cause cross-contamination. Sometimes, not sharing is caring! 


Lipstick lasts about one year after opening. 

Your lipstick has come to the end of its life if you notice there is a change in its texture, for example when it becomes dried out or goopy. To make sure your favorite lippy last longer, keep it in a cool, dry place—definitely not in your hot car. 


Fragrance is the longest-lasting product in many morning beauty routines, as it lasts three to five years. Get the most out of that expensive perfume by storing it out of direct sunlight. Some brands even suggest storing them in the fridge. 

Makeup Brushes

Taking care of your makeup brushes is important to keep bacteria out of your products and also to help preserve the brushes’ longevity. With proper care, they can last for years. 

Make sure to wash them weekly, if not more often, using a gentle face wash to kill any bacteria and get rid of any dirt. And be sure to always lay them flat to dry: if brushes are dried standing up, water might trickle down into the brush head and can cause the hairs to shed. 


Similar to makeup brushes, if properly cared for and cleaned hairbrushes are safe to use for years. To clean them, fill a bowl with water and add a few drops of shampoo. Swish the brush around in the water for about 30 seconds and lay bristle side down on a towel to dry. 


We mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. You should never use sunscreen after it has expired as it will not properly protect your skin from the sun’s rays. However, mineral-based sunscreens do last a little bit longer, so look for products with zinc oxide or titanium oxide for the longest-lasting product. 

Face Masks

If the face mask is from a jar it should be good for about six to nine months. A pump can extend the shelf life up to 12 months of use since the mask will be less exposed to the elements that bacteria love. 

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How to store makeup

Safely storing makeup is easy—here are a few tips to keep in mind: 

Keep away from moisture 

While your skin loves and needs moisture, your makeup certainly does not. This unfortunately means that the bathroom counter is not the best place to keep your products. Moisture facilitates the spread of bacteria, so move your beloved cosmetics into a cool, dry place. 

Avoid sun exposure 

Keeping most products out of direct sunlight is equally important. Exposing products to sunlight can break down the ingredients and cause the formula to split, especially cream and liquid products. In case it isn’t clear yet, store your products in a cool, dark place instead. 

Pull out the drawers

You are probably starting to wonder: if not the bathroom countertop, exactly where should I store my cosmetics? One ideal place is in a pull-out drawer, since drawers are dark, and because of this they can be a bit cooler as well. Keeping products on a countertop or even a closet shelf makes them prone to collect dust as well, so keeping them in a drawer protects them even more. 

Head to the kitchen 

You may have heard about this rather odd-sounding trend, but storing your products in your fridge is actually a great option. For all those products that prefer a cool place, the fridge is a great storage solution (just keep them slightly away from your produce). Everything from nail polish to eye cream is safe to store in the fridge, and it is a much better option than your bathroom counter. There are even mini makeup fridges on the market nowadays made just for this purpose.

Clean and store your brushes 

It cannot be emphasized enough how important regular cleaning of your brushes is. This will not only help extend the shelf life of your products but also keep bacteria off of your precious skin. 

It is also important to note that storing brushes is just as important. When drying your freshly cleaned brushes, place them flat and horizontally on a clean towel so that no water accumulates. After they are dry, place them upright in a mug or mason jar so that the bristles can stay dry and aired out. 

Final thoughts

While it may seem harmless to dig out that old lipstick, makeup does expire and can cause all sorts of issues to your skin, from rashes to infections. Additionally, products with ingredients such as SPF can no longer work as well as they did when you purchased them after sitting in a drawer for a year. So toss expired makeup out to keep your skin healthy.

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Jackie Lutze has been writing about cruelty-free beauty for years and loves finding the best vegan products to help readers build their ultimate beauty routine.

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