Have you ever wondered how long to keep that mascara you used a few times? How about that one lipstick or night cream that you’re saving for a different season? We usually mind the expiration dates on our food down to the day, but what about our beauty products? Does beauty product expiration dates REALLY matter? Keep reading for the scoop on the actual shelf life of your favorite beauty and skincare products so that you can avoid a crucial skincare mistake.
Unlike foods with clear “sell-by” dates, skincare products are slightly different. It can be really difficult to determine when it needs to be tossed and replaced.
After inspecting each of your products, you’ve probably noticed a graphic of a little jar with a number inside — this number indicates the number of months it’s best to use. So, if you see a jar with a 6 inside, and it’s been a couple of years since you’ve last used it, it may be time for it to head to the trash. Of course, product consistency is also important, but we’ll talk more about that below.
Generally speaking, facial cleansers will last about six months, while lotions and creams will depend on the bottle. A pump lotion will last longer than a year, but a jar with a lid will last about six to nine months.
You’ll also want to consider the active ingredients in each product in order to determine how long they should stick around. Retinol, hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, and vitamin C can be unstable around oxygen and damp conditions — so it’s best to stick with pump bottles rather than jars.
As a general rule of thumb, if a product is wet (think liquids and creams), it will expire before a dry product (powders and eyeshadows). As wet products tend to facilitate more bacteria growth, it’s important to mind the shelf life dates in order to avoid infection or inflammation. Let’s go into more detail for each product…
Your eyeliner’s shelf life will depend on the brand and type. As we mentioned previously, if it’s liquid, you’re looking at a three to six-month time frame. Pencil will typically last longer — around six months to a year. If you’re wondering if it’s time to toss the product, pay attention to the consistency, smell, and (if it’s pencil eyeliner) whether or not it glides on.
Mascara definitely wins the award for the shortest shelf life — it should be tossed every three months or so. Because mascara tends to dry out pretty quickly, and we’re applying it to our eyes, we want to make sure it’s safe to use and won’t bring any infections. And of course, if it’s dry and clumpy, it’s not doing our eyelashes any favors anyway!
As we mentioned above, powder products tend to last for a while because they’re dry. However, that doesn’t mean they’re safe from microbial growth, so clean your brushes and applicators regularly.
Lipsticks and lip liners will usually last about a year, but there’s no concrete time frame for these products. It will depend on the ingredients and preservatives that they contain. Check the number of months (also known as the Period After Opening) on the package.
Liquid foundations and concealers typically last anywhere from six months to a year. Just be sure to keep your fingers away from the neck of the bottle (use a sponge or brush!) for a longer shelf life.
Let your nose guide you on this one. Perfume may last anywhere from three to five years, possibly longer, but you’ll know when it’s time to get rid of it.
Unless it has a clear expiration date, it should be safe to keep for a few years. However, once it’s opened, the above time frames will come into play.
If you’d like to be more mindful of each product’s shelf life, grab a Sharpie and make a small note of the date on each product as you open them.
There’s also a nifty app called Beauty Keeper that will help you keep your product lineup in order. You can scan the batch code from your product into the app, and then the app notifies you one month before the product expires!