When Does Makeup Expire?

Did you know your makeup bag could be hiding unwanted guests?

It’s true—makeup expires, and using outdated products can turn your cosmetics into a hotspot for bacteria. Let’s dive into when to toss them out and keep your beauty routine safe and fresh!.

Once you know a product is expired – throw it out! We know that can be hard, but gross bacteria near your eyes or lips is a recipe for infections or irritations. Your precious face deserves unexpired makeup!

If you want to dive deep into WHY you should throw it out, read our post on What Happens to Expired Makeup.

So, what IS the shelf life of makeup? When should you replace your beauty products, including Red Apple Lipstick products? Below is a timeline guide for each category of makeup. Pin this post for future reference, so you can always know WHEN a product has expired and WHAT to look for to know if it’s gone bad (because most of us can’t remember when we bought and/or opened a product before finding this blog post).

When Does Makeup Expire?

Most makeup and skincare products don’t have an official expiration date like food does.

But, they will have a PAO (Period After Opened) symbol on the box or the packaging.

This PAO symbol tells you how many months you have to use the product before expiring. We highly recommend following these suggested usage time frames.

Powder cosmetics last the longest of all formulations – as they are dry and contain little to no moisture.

Liquid and cream products last the shortest because they have more moisture.

These are examples of standard PAO (Period After Open) Symbols.

Makeup Expiration Dates By Category

  • Foundation – Liquid and cream foundations – 6-12 months once they have been opened. Powder foundations – up to 24 months. 
  • Concealer – Liquid and cream formulations: 6-12 months. Powder formulations: 18-24 months. 
  • Face Powder – Setting powder, finishing powder, and highlighters: 12 – 24 months. 
  • Blush – Powder formulas: 24 months. Cream blushes: up to 12 months. The PAO time for RAL’s blushes is 24 months. 
  • Bronzer – Powder: 24 months. Cream formulas: up to 12 months. RAL’s Sundrop Bronzer’s PAO time is 24 months.  
  • Primer – Primers can last anywhere from 6 months to 24 months. Face primers: around 12 months, some even up to 24 months. Eyeshadow primer: 6-12 months. The PAO time for RAL’s Prime Time Eye Shadow Primer is 12 months. 
  • Eyeshadow – Powder eyeshadow: lasts 24-36 months. Cream eyeshadow: lasts 6-12 months. RAL’s eyeshadows have a PAO time of 24 months. 
  • Eyeliner – Liquid eyeliners: 3-6 months. Gel liners: 6-12 months. Pencil eyeliners will last longer since they can be sharpened, removing bacteria each time you do so. Eyeliner pencils: 12-24 months. RAL’s eyeliner pencils have a PAO time of 12 months. 
  • Mascara – Mascara is one product you want to replace often because of how close it is applied to the eye & no way to clean it. Mascaras: 3 months, 6 months at most. RAL’s The Lash Project Mascara has a PAO time of 3-6 months. 
  • Lip Balm – Lip balms: 6-12 months. The PAO time for RAL’s Rallye Balm is 12 months. 
  • Lip Liner – Like eyeliner pencils, lip liners: 12-24 months. The PAO time for RAL’s lip liner pencils is 12 months. 
  • Lipstick & Glosses – Lipsticks: 12 months, some can even last up to 24 months (they will include chemical preservatives to keep them from going bad). Lip glosses: 6-12 months. Both of RAL’s lipsticks and lip glosses have a PAO time of 12 months. 
  • Setting Spray/Face Mists – 12 months, sometimes a little longer. 

Remember, natural and organic beauty products often have a shorter shelf life because they typically contain fewer or no preservatives. It’s important to note that makeup from drugstores and big box stores has often been produced a year or more before you see it on the shelves. This delay makes it even more crucial to pay attention to the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol, which indicates how long the product remains safe to use after you first open it. While preservatives sometimes get a bad rap, they are essential for keeping products bacteria-free during this extended period.

How Do I Know If My Makeup Is Expired?

If you don’t remember when you opened a product to follow the expiration PAO – you can check your products for the common signs of expired makeup.

  • It smells off, rancid, unusual, not fresh
  • There’s a change in texture or consistency
  • It applies different than you’re used to
  • You see separation happening
  • The pigment or shade changes or fades

These are tell-tale signs of makeup already being expired – toss those products without hesitating.

Can I Prolong the life of my makeup?

Yes! It mainly comes down to the way you store it and how you clean it. Follow these best practices to keep your makeup as fresh as possible.

  • Store makeup in a cool, dry place (bathrooms with humid showers are the worst places for makeup)
  • Don’t leave makeup in a hot car
  • Don’t store makeup in front of a bright window
  • Keep makeup containers closed tightly
  • Always wash your hands before applying
  • Clean makeup brushes and sponges often
  • Spray with alcohol (and then let air dry) powder products and lipsticks (to sanitize regularly or if you’ve shared makeup)
  • Don’t share makeup (we have enough bacteria to deal with on our own, let’s not add other people’s)

Heat, humidity and direct sunlight shortens your makeup’s shelf life by helping bacteria to grow and breaking down the natural ingredients. Heat can also negatively affect any products active ingredients, if it has any.

Follow as many of these guidelines as you can to extend the life of your makeup allowing you to more confidently make it to the expiration dates.

Makeup stored in the bathroom is especially risky.

Hot steam from the showers can cause mold, and bacteria to accelerate. We know, we know.. it’s annoying to store it elsewhere but it will help so much. Where else can I store it?

  • In your closet
  • In your bedroom
  • In a closed makeup case inside the bathroom cabinet
  • If you choose to store it in the bathroom – run the fan during a shower and for 30 minutes after that will help de-humidify

Does Makeup Expire If Unopened? 

We’ve talked about when opened cosmetic products expires, but what about those that haven’t been opened? Everybody wonders… does still-in-the-package product expire if unopened? Yes, unopened cosmetics and personal care products do have a shelf life and will expire. 

Over time, unopened products eventually have the same breakdown process as opened products. So, stocking up on products that you do not plan on using anytime soon is not always a good idea, they may end up being a waste of your money if they expire before you open them. You can make them last longer if they are properly stored, but be sure to check the expiration dates when you receive them.

Always look and check for an expiration date, most products have one which will take the guessing work out. However, since there is not always an expiration date, here’s a general guideline of how long some unopened products will last when stored correctly.

Remember though, you don’t know how long a product has been sitting before buying them. So these general guidelines won’t be 100 percent accurate. Always check unopened makeup you’ve had in backup after opening for any signs of expiration. 

  • Liquid Foundation & Cream Foundation- Up to 2 years. 
  • Concealer- 2 years. 
  • Powders (foundation & face powders, powder blush, bronzers, and eyeshadows)- Up to 3 years. 
  • Lip and Eyeliner Pencils- 2 to 3 years. 
  • Mascara- 12 to 18 months 
  • Lipstick & Lip Gloss- Up to 2 years. 

Letting go of makeup at times can be easier said than done. But it’s better than risking bacterial growth, as an example. Because of how important it is we suggest keeping track of when each product is opened so that you have an idea of how old they are.

Can we use makeup after it’s shelf life?

Cosmetic chemists are the experts when it comes to makeup. They know when a product will go bad and when it’s safe to use, so let us tell you what we know.

Our cosmetic chemist has insider’s knowledge of what can happen when you use expired products. When your favorite lipstick goes past its expiration date, the ingredients may start to separate. That doesn’t mean you should never wear old makeup – just don’t do anything risky like mix two different types of products together or apply something that smells strange. And if the smell is really strong? Better throw it out.

We all have it…. a trove of old makeup that needs to be sorted through and cleaned out. Use caution with makeup that’s very old.

You can FEEL the difference.

A makeup artists we know you will probably find that some expired cosmetics are difficult to apply or don’t have the same effect as when they were in date – this is because beauty products naturally break down over time, which means bacteria levels increase too. Yikes! So make sure you check for a ‘best before’ or “use by” date before buying any new face cream, lipstick, mascara etc.. When in doubt, it’s always best just to get a new tube.

If makeup feels scratchy, thick, chunky, flat, hard or just doesn’t apply like it used to, it might be time to recycle it.

Mark your products when you open them.

A good idea would be to place a small sticker on each with the month it was opened noted on it. Always check your makeup and if you notice any signs of expiration, it’s definitely time to toss it. You can always refer back to this guide, so make sure to bookmark it!  

Image of Red Apple Lipstick product with the date of opening written on it with marker to remind when the makeup expires
Markers, colored sticky dots, blank garage sale price dots, or masking tape can all be used to mark the month and year you opened a product.

Don’t Forget The Smell Test

With proper storage your products will last a good, long time. Certain products like eye makeup can be visually inspected easily, other products might use your nose for a clue. Products like liquid eyeliner, eye cream, and lip products easily trap bacteria, and bacteria eventually puts off a smell! So, give your beauty product a sniff, they usually take on a sour or rotten odor when they go bad.

Frequently Asked Questions 

When should I throw out makeup? 

It is a good idea to throw out makeup products that you have had for over 2 years. In general, liquid and cream products will last anywhere from 6 months to 12 months, while powder products will last for a couple years, sometimes even longer if stored correctly. Mascara and liquid eyeliners should be replaced more often as they tend to expire quicker. Those should be thrown out every 3 to 6 months. 

What happens if you use old makeup? 

Excellent question! There is a complete article that answers this question, What Happens to Expired Makeup. We highly recommend reading it. 

When should I throw away my eyeshadow palette? 

When stored correctly (in a cool and dry place), eyeshadows will last at least 2 years. Always check your eyeshadows for any signs of expiration. If you notice a change in smell, texture, lack of pigmentation, or if your shadows have started to harden, it is time to throw them away. 

How do I check my makeup expiry date? 

Always check the labels on makeup products. The majority will have a symbol of an open jar with a number of months on it, this is called a PAO (Period After Opened) symbol. This symbol lets you know how many months the product is good for after it has been opened before it expires.   If you no longer have the original packaging, contact the maker of the product. I promise, they want your happiness above all else.

Why should you throw away old makeup? 

The main reason for throwing away old makeup is because over time bacteria can start to form and grow in any product. Once the ingredients in makeup products start to break down, the risk of bacteria growth increases drastically, making them unsafe to use. Continuing to use old products past their Makeup Expiration Dates can cause skin problems, anything from clogged pores in your skin and breakouts of your skin or eyes to serious infections from bacterial growth. 


  1. How do we know how long it’s (mascara) has been sitting on shelve. Before I purchased it? Bc. I just purchased some and opening it. It clumps(says it won’t on package) feels dry. Paid about 20.00 at cvs.
    Bc, I feel it was already expired before purchasing. Had no date or symbol on it.

    1. Jay Harper says:

      When buying at a drug store, sometimes it can be really difficult to know how long a product has been sitting since made. And more importantly, what conditions has it been sitting in. Red Apple products are not sold in drugstores, but we are familiar with the chain of warehouses required to stock store shelves of popular chains. Products are produced at their manufacturing facilities. If in the US, things move faster, but if the product is produced overseas, then the it can require up to 4 months just for the product to reach the United States. Shipping from overseas also is in metal boxes for months at a time. At any rate, once a product is ready to move to a store, it first goes through a series of regional warehouses, and then to a local warehouse, and then to a local storeroom, and then eventually to the shelf. There are no government requirements to list when a cosmetic product was manufactured. I would recommend you return that product to the CVS and either try another, or potentially another brand. Good luck with your Makeup Shopping!

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