It’s true that nothing lasts forever, and beauty products are no exception. Once you open your newest skincare or makeup find, the clock starts ticking—and honestly, sometimes the countdown begins before you even open it.
Have you been holding on to some products for years? Trust me, you’re not alone (I know I’m guilty). But, as the weeks and months go by, the half-finished bottles are slowly losing their efficacy. Using expired beauty products may seem harmless—sometimes, it just means they’re less effective. Other times, however, they can lead to unwelcome skin irritation, reactions, and infections.
A few different factors contribute to a product’s shelf life, including the formula, ingredients, packaging, and storage method. Due to a lack of regulations, a clear expiration date can’t always be found (thanks, FDA!), so we’re breaking it down for you. And anyway, what better time to refresh your beauty cabinet than with spring approaching?
The shelf life of each product is unique, depending on its specific ingredients and formulation, but here’s an estimate.
Moisturizers, face creams and eye creams: 6-12 months.
Facial oils: 9-12 months.
Sunscreen: 6-12 months (should come with an expiration date from the FDA).
Anti-aging & anti-acne products: up to one year, depending on the ingredients.
Masks: 12-18 months.
Liquid foundation & concealer: 6-12 months.
Mascara and liquid eye liner: 3 months.
Eye & lip pencils: up to 1 year.
Powder-based cosmetics (eye shadows, blush, foundation): 1-2 years.
Lipsticks & glosses: 12-18 months.
Nail polish: 1-2 years.
Remember, these are only general rules of thumb. Be cognizant of any changes you notice in consistency, color and odor, then replace your products accordingly.
The good news is: you can optimize the shelf life of your beauty purchases with a few easy fixes. For starters, store all of your beauty products in a cool, dry place away from heat and humidity. Keep in mind that sunlight also emits heat, so opt for a shaded area.
As long as your beauty products are stored in a cool, dry place away from heat and humidity, sealed and unopened products should be as good as new without any air or bacteria entering it.
Be extra careful with products containing active ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide, retinol, hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid and vitamin C, as they break down quickly and should have minimal exposure to heat or oxygen.
Water-free formulas have a much longer shelf life compared to other textures. If you’re hoping to extend the life of eye shadows, foundations, highlighters or blushes, opt for a long-lasting powder formula.
Try to avoid getting water into any of your containers, as it could cause mold to develop over time. Also, prioritize purchasing products that are in sealed air-tight containers like pump-tops instead of jars, as they stop oxygen, water, and contamination from entering to extend shelf life. Additionally, dark and opaque packaging keeps light out, which stops the product from breaking down faster.
Wash your hands before applying any skin care to your face or body to minimize the chances of getting dirt or bacteria into the product, especially those stored in jars. You can always use a clean spatula to be extra cautious.
We know that was a lot of information but better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to skin health! Here are some quick ways to stay on top of these dates. While it may not always be available, keep a lookout for the period-after-opening (PAO) symbol that identifies the lifetime of a cosmetic product after it’s been opened. In case you haven’t noticed it before, the symbol looks like an open container with a time limit on it, like 12M or 24M. Also, click to download and print out our graphic below and have it handy. And, if you’re anything like us and like to stay organized, you can use stickers or tape to keep note of when you open products and how long they should be good for. Stick them right on each jar or bottle, so you can easily keep track.
With spring just around the corner, now’s the perfect time to give your beauty collection a refresh. Check out what’s new.
Click to download and print out for easy reference:
Illustrations by Megan Badilla