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Makeup Expiration Cheat Sheet: Important Expiry Signs You Need To Know

According to a survey research by Escentual.com, some women keep their makeup for up to 6 years after their expiry date, and 70% of women never clean their makeup brushes, exposing themselves to dangerous toxins and bacteria. Um, that doesn’t sound good, does it? If you think about it you wouldn’t keep food for months after the use by date so why should this be acceptable for makeup?

To raise awareness about the harm of using expired makeup, I made a visual guide to makeup and skincare expiration dates, with some common expiry dates and helpful tips on how to extend the product-life.


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How Bad Is Expired Makeup Really?

Does makeup expire? Short answer: Yes! The efficiency of active ingredients becomes compromised over time and your makeup trap bacteria, which means replacing them regularly is necessary to avoid skin irritation and breakouts. Expired makeup can also start to harbor bacteria. This can mean irritation and bumps that look like acne. The molecules in makeup can also break down into something else. It could lead to inflammation.

How To Avoid Expired Makeup?

Look for the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol. Unlike food, the use by date on your makeup products is reliant upon the first day you use them, not the purchase date. The PAO symbol is easy to understand: ‘M’ stands for month, i.e. ‘6M’ means that once you’ve opened a product you should stop using this product after six months

What If I Forgot The Opening Date?

Fear not! If you forgot the opening date or can’t find a PAO symbol on your products, just check out this cheat sheet of makeup and skincare expiration dates, with some common expiry dates and helpful tips on how to extend the product-life.


  • Expiry signs: Most foundations expires in 6-12 months depending on ingredients. When the consistency thickens, color lightens or the foundation is separating into layers it is time to toss.
  • Helpful tipStash your foundation somewhere cool and out of sunlight, as UV rays can destroy preservatives. Also buy foundations with a cap to minimize bacteria and avoid touching the neck of the bottle.


  • Expiry signs: Mascaras should only be kept for 3 months if you use it everyday and 6 months for occasional use. Also toss if you notice the mascara gets clumpy or starts to smell.
  • Helpful tip: Don’t ever share your mascara! And no double dipping or pumping the wand as it will dry out your mascara. If the formula dries up, add a few drops of baby oil.


  • Expiry signs: A moisturiser normally lasts 1-2 years but if it starts to change consistency or color, it is time to toss.
  • Helpful tip: Keep your moisturiser in a cool environment with room temperature or cooler to make it last longer.


  • Expiry signs: Most lipsticks last 12-18 months but if you start noticing funky smells or difference in texture, it is time to toss.
  • Helpful tip: Keeping your lipstick in a dry and cool place will prevent breakdown of ingredients. Also don’t apply lipstick straight after eating – it cultivates bacteria.

Lip Gloss

  • Expiry signs: A lip gloss should be tossed after 12 months or if it starts to smell or gets extra sticky.
  • Helpful tip: Store your lip gloss in the fridge as it slows the breakdown of ingredients. Also buy glosses with silicone wands as that stays cleaner longer.


  • Expiry signs: Keep your blush for no more than 2 years. Also toss it if you notice a hard rim on the powder or if you see color changes, oil marks, cracks or if it starts to smell.
  • Helpful tip: Clean your brushes on a regular basis or use disposable makeup sponges. Also avoid oxidation by closing the lid after use.


  • Expiry signs: Creams last around 6 months, powder around 24 months. If you notice a change in color or a change in smell, it is time to toss.
  • Helpful tip: Make sure your brushes are clean when you apply your eyeshadow – that will prevent bacterial growth.


  • Expiry signs: Liquid eyeliners last 3-6 months but if you notice changes to texture, smell or if it dries out, it is time to toss.
  • Helpful tip: Clean the tip of your liquid eyeliner after each use to minimize germs and keep the eyeliner pencil away from steamy environments.

Nail polish

  • Expiry signs: Nail polish lasts 1-2 years. You should toss your nail polish if is starts separating into layers and won’t blend after a shake.
  • Helpful tip: Keep your polish in a dry and cool place to prolong it’s lifetime.


  • Expiry signs: Normally cleansers last around 1 year, just be aware of changes in color or lumps in texture.
  • Helpful tip: Buy a cleanser with pumping function, that will minimize germs and make your cleanser last longer.


  • Expiry signs: Primers last around two years unless you notice change in smell, color or texture, then it is time to toss.
  • Helpful tip: Stash your primer somewhere cool and shake regularly to mix the oils. Buy a primer with pumping function, that will minimize germs and make your primer last longer.


  • Expiry signs: Fragrances can last 8-10 years unless you notice discoloration or changes in smell, then it is time to toss.
  • Helpful tip: Store your fragrances in dark places and avoid heat and direct sunlight to prevent the fragrance to oxidize as that will cause a musty smell.


Do you replace your makeup or do you also hold onto it for a long time? Let us know in the comments below 🙂

Emilie Hagstörm

My name is Emilie Hagstörm. Born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden to a Swedish Father and an English Mother. With a background as a Pharmacist, I use a scientific approach to research what REALLY works. When you read one of my beauty reviews you’ll know that it is honest and unbiased because I don’t work for a make-up retailer or manufacturer, and I’m completely independent.

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