When Does Makeup Expire?

Most likely, you already know that makeup expires and they all have an expiration date. If not, we’re glad you’re here! We don’t want your old makeup, cosmetics or beauty products to become a breeding ground for bacteria.

It’s very important to make sure those expired products get thrown out. Once expired, you do not want to be applying them onto your face. You certainly don’t want eye infections, skin irritation, or dirty bacteria near sensitive areas like your delicate eye area, for example.

For more on why it is so important to throw out old makeup past its expiration dates, make sure to read the article on What Happens to Expired Makeup by clicking here. 

With that being said, what IS the shelf life of makeup? When should you replace your beauty products, including Red Apple Lipstick products? To make it easy to know when makeup products expires, we have put together a guide including timelines for each category of makeup products. It will not only help you know when they expire but also explain what you want to look for and keep an eye on when it comes to knowing if a product has expired.

When Does Makeup Expire?

It is easier to know the shelf life when products have an expiration date. But not all makeup will have one on the package.

Most of the time though, they will include a PAO (Period After Opened) symbol, which tells you how many months you have to use the product before expiring. We highly recommend following these suggested usage time frames. Powder cosmetics will usually last longer than liquid and cream ones as they are dry formulations, containing little to no moisture. Here is a general shelf life timeline for each type of makeup product (from the time of it being opened): 

These are examples of standard PAO (Period After Open) Symbols.
  • Foundation – Liquid and cream foundations last from 6-12 months once they have been opened. Powder foundations, on the other hand, last up to 24 months. 
  • Concealer – Liquid and cream formulations last from 6-12 months, powder formulations from 18-24 months. 
  • Face Powder – Face powders such as setting powder, finishing powder, and highlighters will last anywhere from 12 months and up to 24 months. 
  • Blush – Powder blushes are usually good for at least 24 months. Cream blushes will usually last up to 12 months. The Shelf Life / PAO time for RAL’s blushes is 24 months. 
  • Bronzer – Powder formulas will last 24 months. Cream formulas will last 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 will usually last for about 12 months, some even up to 24 months. Eyeshadow primer will usually last from 6-12 months. The PAO time for RAL’s Prime Time Eye Shadow Primer is 12 months. 
  • Eyeshadow – Powder eyeshadow formulas will last between 24-36 months. Cream eyeshadows will not last as long however, they usually will last anywhere from 6-12 months. RAL’s eyeshadows have a PAO time of 24 months. 
  • Eyeliner – Eyeliner can last anywhere from 3 months, all the way to 24 months. Liquid eyeliners usually last between 3-6 months, while gel liners last between 6-12 months. Pencil eyeliners will last longer since they can be sharpened, removing bacteria each time you do so. Eyeliner pencils will usually last between 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 eyes. Mascaras will last 3 months, 6 months at most. RAL’s The Lash Project Mascara has a PAO time of 3-6 months. 
  • Lip Balm – Lip balms will usually last anywhere from 6-12 months. The PAO time for RAL’s Rallye Balm is 12 months. 
  • Lip Liner – Like eyeliner pencils, lip liners can last anywhere from 12-24 months. The PAO time for RAL’s lip liner pencils is 12 months. 
  • Lipstick & Glosses – Lipsticks will usually last 12 months, some can even last up to 24 months. Lip glosses will last anywhere between 6-12 months. Both of RAL’s lipsticks and lip glosses have a PAO time of 12 months. 
  • Setting Spray/Face Mists – Most setting sprays and face mists will last for about 12 months, sometimes a little longer. 

Keep in mind that your more natural, clean, and organic beauty product, cosmetics and skin care products might have a shorter shelf life as these might contain less, or no, preservatives in them.

That is why it is so important to check the labels on the original packaging and pay attention to those PAO symbols.

Will my products make it to the Expiration Date?

Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes makeup will expire before these suggested usage times, sometimes they may even last longer. So, always keep an eye on your products. Make sure to periodically check your makeup items. If you notice that they start to smell off, there’s a change in texture or consistency, a difference in application, any separation happening, or lack of pigmentation, you will want to toss them out. These are common signs of expiration and it would be best to get them replaced.

Can I Prolong the life of my makeup?

There’s a few ways to help prolong the life of your makeup products. Keeping cosmetics products stored properly is the best thing to do. If you can store your makeup in a cool, dry place you can extend your makeup expiration dates to their fullest.

And for sure try not to leave makeup in a hot car. Not only is it hot, which promotes bacteria growth, sometimes it’s subjected to direct sunlight – ouch. Heat, humidity and direct sunlight will most certainly shorten your makeup’s shelf life. Heat can also negatively affect any products active ingredients, if it has any.

Make sure to keep them tightly closed when not in use. Always wash your hands before applying your makeup, and make sure to clean your makeup tools such as makeup brushes and sponges often. 

These general guidelines can help 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 could be bothersome to store that stuff elsewhere – but it will prolong the life of the product.

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 product will eventually have the same breakdown process as opened product. 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 even 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 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 artist we know says 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. 

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