Understanding make-up expiry dates: what they mean and why they matter

Published: 17-May-2023

Tossing out a favourite make-up item before it’s all used up is a hard call to make, but it may be the right one if the expiry date has passed. All make-up products have a limited lifespan, after which they deteriorate in quality and can even become irritants

Here is a quick guide to the make-up staples and how long you can expect them to last, as well as some tips for maximising their lifespans and quality.

Lipstick expiry timeline and signs

Both lipstick and lip gloss should last at least one year, and both are unlikely to last much longer than 18 months. This is because these products contain essential oils and vitamins, as well as preservatives which naturally start breaking down after twelve months or so.

Check any lipstick or lip gloss you’ve had for a year or more, and give it a good sniff to see if there has been a significant change for the worse in its scent. You should also check for discolouration, chalky texture and moisture beads, which also indicate it’s time to throw it away.

To maximise the lifespan of your favourite lipstick and gloss, keep it refrigerated, especially during the summer as the heat will expedite the expiration process.

Eyeliner expiry timeline and signs

The lifespan of eyeliner is a lot more difficult to predict than lipstick, as some products can last up to three years while others begin to diminish in quality after just three months. It depends entirely on the formula used in the eyeliner.

Liquid eyeliner tends to have the shortest lifespan as it is more prone to being exposed to bacteria. Pencil eyeliner requires sharpening which actually helps remove bacteria, thus extending its lifespan.

Look out for a resistant white film developing on the eyeliner as this means it has started to expire. Also clean the tips of liquid eyeliner after each use to minimise bacteria build-up.

Mascara expiry timeline and signs

Mascara has the shortest expiry date of all the make-up staples, barring some kind of bacterial disaster with your liquid eyeliner. Using it everyday should see you get a good three months out of it, with occasional use stretching that to six months or so.

The short lifespan of mascara is due to its wetness being an ideal environment for bacteria, and our eyelashes naturally containing plenty of bacteria ready to be transferred into the tube via the wand.

Mascara can smell bad once expired, but it’s good advice to replace it after three to six months anyway as expired mascara can cause eye irritations. Maximise your mascara’s freshness by minimising the amount of air you allow into the tube, using a gentle glide and twist method to remove and insert the wand.

Foundation and concealer expiry timeline and signs

Expired concealers and foundations can be bad for your skin so keep an eye on their expiry timelines. The exact lifespan of these products will vary according to the formula used, with water-based products usually lasting a year and oil-based products lasting up to 18 months.

Concealer and foundation can also develop an off-putting odour when expired, plus the consistency will begin deteriorating as well. To preserve them as much as possible, keep these products somewhere with a consistently cool temperature, and give the liquid a regular shake to keep the ingredients nicely mixed.

Blusher and bronzer expiry timeline and signs

The general lifespan of blusher and bronzer is around 18 months as the dry powder base of these products makes them more resistant to bacteria. Some products containing botanical extracts like aloe or chamomile may form a grey film on blusher and bronzer products after coming into contact with liquid-based make-up products.

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