What Happens to Expired Makeup: The 2 Main Reasons Why You Should Throw Out Old Makeup

People are often confused about what to do with expired makeup – should they throw out old makeup or keep it. But it’s hard to tell when cosmetics expire, so sometimes we end up using expired products and they make us sick or cause skin irritation! That is a terrible experience. This article will help you understand what happens with makeup as it gets older and how to know if your makeup has gone bad or not. If you follow these tips, then you can feel confident that your beauty routine is safe for the environment and your health!

Beauty products definitely go bad. Even Red Apple Lipsticks have a best-by date. That is why cosmetics are frequently mentioned in cleaning routines throughout the year. Is it necessary to get rid of them? What happens to expired cosmetics?

Yes, expired items should be thrown out. It is important to keep an eye on those makeup expiration dates to know when it is time to replace your products.

Products are normally marked with an expiration date, or best before date, meaning that the product should be used before then. They are considered no longer good to be used past that specific date, whether the item has been opened or not.

With cosmetics and personal care products, you will most often see a little open jar symbol with a number on the label or original packaging. These are called PAO Symbols. POA stands for “Period After Opened” and the number is the “number of months” that the product should be used for after opening. Sometimes you may only see a PAO symbol instead of an actual date. Even if the product has not reached the expiration date, if it has been opened for the number of months it says on the symbol or longer, it is best to throw it out.

Image of POA makeup packaging symbols showing makeup expiration times.
Period After Open Symbols – Usually run in Half Years.

Is this really necessary, and why is it so important? The best idea is to follow these suggested usage dates and throw out any expired makeup. There are 2 very important reasons to do so. Keep on reading to find out what they are.

First Reason: All Makeup Deteriorates

The first reason why you should go through your makeup every so often and throw out any old and expired products is simply that makeup does break down over time.

Cosmetics don’t last forever. Even unopened makeup will deteriorate over time, and the older they get:

– The more likely they will expire and turn into a form that can be harmful to your skin or body

– Varying levels of effectiveness

– Different color or look entirely

– Smell different, or bad

– Lose their ability to moisturize or protect from cold/heat/sunlight, etc.

– “Beneficial” ingredients might cease to be beneficial.

– The more bacteria they gather and/or grow. It’s not only gross, bacteria accelerates the breakdown process.

The older a cosmetic is, the harder it becomes for your skin to benefit from what the cosmetic was intended to do. This is for a variety of reasons:

– Ingredients change consistency or dissolve

– Ingredients interact with each other in ways that they didn’t when the product was fresh and new

– Some ingredients may simply break down into what can be either gross, or harmful, chemicals & bacteria.

Most products contain some sort of preservatives in them, natural versions or not, to help them last longer. It’s also there to help prevent bacteria from growing, but again, these do not last forever. One thing to keep in mind is that some more natural, and those considered clean, beauty products will have fewer preservatives (some may not even have any) and these might expire even quicker than regular products. It’s very important to pay attention to POA and suggested usage times once they are opened.

Once the shelf life, or open time has been met, you might notice a change in the way they apply and perform. The consistency and texture might be different causing them to not perform as well as they used to. They might not wear as well as they once did. Liquid and cream products can dry out making them very hard to work for you. Keep in mind that products that are constantly being opened and exposed to air tend to go bad quicker.

· Liquid products, such as foundation and concealer, can start getting clumpy, or the oils in them might start to separate, causing them to not apply as smoothly and may even cause your skin to break out.

· Mascara starts to dry up over time. So, if you notice your mascara not lasting through the day, or if it starts flaking off on you, it’s time to toss it.

· Liquid and gel eyeliners will also start to dry up when they go bad. They will start to lose pigmentation and may even become flakey on you.

· Facial and Eye Makeup – Blushes, eyeshadows, bronzers, and face powders in general tend to last longer as they are dry formulations, containing little to no moisture as liquid and cream products do. However, you will know that they have expired once they start losing pigmentation, dry out and become hardened, or they might even start to crumble, which will make them unusable.

· Expired Lipstick starts losing pigmentation when they are no longer good. The texture and consistency might be affected as well, making their application not as smooth as it should be. They could also begin to smell funky.

· Lip glosses tend to dry up, losing their pigmentation and shimmer over time, which once again affects their application

Image of makeup products and a makeup bag as a part of post talking about what to do with expired makeup and if it is bad to use expired makeup.

Second Reason: Bacteria Can Start to Grow

The second reason, and it’s a doozy.. , to make sure to throw out expired makeup items is that bacteria can start to form and grow in any product, making them unsafe to use. Once any preservatives (which help prevent bacteria from growing) start to break down, the risk of bacteria growth increases drastically.

Also remember that products you touch (or that touch your face- your lips and eyes) to apply such as cream products, lipsticks, mascaras, and liners, for example, can have bacteria transferred onto them. When the ingredients in start to break down, including the ones that are supposed to keep bacteria at bay and prevent them from multiplying, you have a major recipe for disaster.

If you were to keep using these expired makeup products, you would run the risk of encountering serious skin issues. They can cause anything from clogged pores and breakouts to skin irritation, rashes, and even serious infections.

Wetter formulas are more susceptible to bacteria growth than powder formulas because of their higher moisture content. That is why powder products will usually last about 2 years. Liquid and cream products are usually best to be used within 6-12 months. Products that come in direct contact with the eyes such as mascaras and liquid/gel liners should be replaced every 3 to 6 months at most to prevent any eye irritation or infections from occurring.

Image of a lab technician working with a cosmetics specimen to determine makeup expiration date.
Cosmetics and Personal Care products are rigorously tested in order to determine the best expiration date.

How Do You Know if a Product Has Expired?

It’s true, sometimes makeup products will last longer than the shelf life, some may go bad before. As a general rule though, PAO’s are a fabulous guide to help you keep track of how good your products are doing. If, however, you notice any of the following:

· difference in smell (if it smells off),

· changes in texture and consistency,

· lack of pigmentation,

· difference in application,

· notice any separation happening,

then it most likely has expired and would be best to get it out of your makeup bag.

What Can I Do To Help Prolong the Life of My Products?

1. Store makeup products in a cool and dry place. Heat and humidity are bacteria magnets.

2. Always wash your hands before applying your makeup.

3. Apply makeup to cleansed skin.

4. Make sure your products are tightly closed when not in use.

5. Clean makeup tools such as makeup brushes and sponges often. Try to deep clean your brushes once a week, no longer than every two weeks.

6. Avoid stocking up on products that you will not use anytime soon, especially before their expiration date.

7. Avoid heat and humidity. Don’t leave products in a hot car, and steam from showers can accelerate breakdown.

8. Avoid opening makeup in unclean places, such as busy public bathrooms. If you must, plan on using that product for a much shorter period of time or sanitize it as listed in the FAQ of this article.

We highly recommend going through your makeup and checking to see if any products have been around for way too long. It would be a good idea to throw those out as they more than likely have expired, you do not want to put your skin at risk of contracting any kind of irritation or infection. Play it safe, if you are ever in doubt just toss it out and then head over to Red Apple Lipstick’s website to replace your favorite products. Share your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.

Try Not To Share Makeup

This may sound obvious, but don’t share makeup – don’t borrow your friend’s eye shadow. Don’t use your friend’s lipstick. And don’t use her mascara or eyeliner.  The risks are even higher if you have scratched eyes, cut lips, or any open wounds on your face.

Let me tell you why don’t you want to share.

Sharing lip colors can spread a cold sore – the herpes virus that causes these painful little blisters on your lips or around your mouth. You can also get other infections.

Sharing eyeshadow is bad for other reasons too. Did you know that sharing eyeshadow can spread pink eye and other eye infections? That’s right, don’t let anyone borrow your shadow, if you can help it. And don’t even get me started on the fact that it’s just plain gross to share makeup in general – it’s also possible your friends makeup is expired, and a lot of makeup, especially old makeup, isn’t clean enough to be shared.

– don’t share products that you use with someone else, don’t borrow your friend’s lipstick, don’t use her mascara or eyeliner.

– sharing eyeshadow can spread pink eye, staph infections or cause other eye infections.

– don’t share makeup with someone else, don’t even think about borrowing a lipstick. Lipsticks get opened in all sorts of unclean places, like public bathrooms.

There are plenty of other reasons why you don’t want to share makeup, but I don’t think I even need to say why because you don’t want anyone else’s makeup. It just doesn’t sound sanitary, and don’t forget it can spread cold sores which are painful and contagious!

So don’t share makeup with your friends or family – use your own.

Image showing two women sharing makeup. It is a big no no when you are trying to improve your makeup's usage life and reduce skin issues.
Do your best not to share makeup – especially around sensitive areas like the lips and eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How do you know makeup is expired or past its shelf life?

A good indicator is if it has passed the expiration date on the product. You can also tell if a product is no longer good if you notice a change in scent, texture, consistency, and application as well as if you notice any separation happening and any lack of pigmentation.

2. When should you discard makeup?

This will all depend on each particular product. A good general guideline, though, is as follows:

Foundation (liquid & cream)- after 12 months

Cream products- after 6 to 12 months

Powder products- after 2 years

Mascara & Eyeliner (gel/cream)- after about 3 months

Lipstick- after 12 months

3. Can you sanitize makeup?

The best thing you can do is to deep clean any makeup tools you use. Deep clean makeup brushes and sponges about once a week, if possible, this will help keep bacteria from spreading. From time to time (it is not necessary to do this too often), you can lightly sanitize powder products by gently scraping off, or wiping off with tissue paper, the top layer, and then lightly spraying with isopropyl alcohol (70%).

You can also spray the exposed part of lipsticks with it and then wipe them clean with either tissue paper or a paper towel. You do not need to do this that often, especially if you are not sharing your makeup with anyone else.

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