When it comes to cleaning, organizing and getting rid of what no longer serves us, we tend to focus our efforts on our closets. But what about our stash of beauty essentials? Our bathroom shelves are not only lined with the products we use daily, but also with lipsticks we save for special occasions and mystery items that have been there for so long that they’ve all but become invisible. Let’s face it—your makeup bag and vanity could probably use a purge.
We tapped beauty industry pros to learn about the whens, whys and hows of makeup and skincare product expiry dates and shelf lives. Below, we’ve broken down how long your favourite beauty products really last for and tips on how to keep them fresh for longer.
Do makeup and skincare products really have expiration dates?
Sadly, yes. “Unfortunately makeup products do actually go bad and become less effective,” says makeup artist Veronica Chu. “Every product has an expiry date and a recommended length of time that it’s good for on its packaging.”
“Assuming you have opened your new skincare product, you’ve exposed it to oxygen, which naturally begins to decay the ingredients inside,” explains Saime Demirovic, esthetician and co-founder of Glo Spa NY. “It may not go bad but it can bring down the product’s efficacy, making it less useful for your [skin’s] needs.”
Are certain types of products more likely to go bad sooner?
“Products that are all-natural have a shorter shelf life,” says Demirovic. “Especially products that are sensitive to temperatures.” She mentions that anything that “contains vitamin C [particularly] can lose its efficacy very quickly unless it is kept in a cool, dark place.”
As for makeup, Chu explains that “typically any product that goes around the eye or is a liquid formula tends to go bad faster.” And since eyes are so sensitive, you should be extra careful as expired products can cause eye infections. “Also, any liquid products, such as liquid foundation, make it very easy to cross-contaminate and breed bacteria,” she adds.
Are there any ultra-long-lasting ingredients?
“Usually products with very active ingredients last a bit longer,” says Demirovic. “But they can still cause irritation and inflammation if used past their expiration dates.”
How do you know if a product has expired?
“There’s usually a number on your skincare product which may read 6,12, 24 or 36, and this is the number of months your product is meant to last [after it’s opened],” says Demirovic. “But if the colour of your product changes or it begins to smell weird, just throw it away, even if it has not passed the expiration date. Temperature, humidity and light can cause the product to age faster.”
When it comes to makeup, aside from a funky smell (you know the one), products may stop performing the way they’re supposed to. “For example, lipsticks can get a bit of a gummy feeling,” explains Chu. “Foundations can get a bit on the streaky side. Your product will just not perform the way it was intended.”
What are some good hygiene habits to have when storing and using skincare products?
“Wipe products clean after use, especially around the rim where bacteria and mold can easily build up,” recommends Demirovic.
What’s the most hygienic way to use makeup?
“Try not to double dip your products, especially when working on your eyes,” says Chu. “This will help keep the bacteria away from your eyeshadow and eyeliner. And don’t share makeup with other people.” And of course, clean your makeup brushes and sponges regularly (weekly is ideal).
What are some of the dangers of using expired skincare and makeup products?
Aside from using products that aren’t as effective, which is a waste of money, using products past their best before date can lead to infections, inflammation and acne.
Is it possible to extend the shelf life of a product?
“Keeping [skincare products] in the fridge can not only extend the shelf life, but also allow the ingredients to stay stable,” says Demirovic.
“Try to keep [makeup] stored in a dry area,” says Chu. Many people “store their makeup in the washroom, but because of the high moisture content your makeup products are more likely to breed bacteria quickly. Keeping makeup in airtight containers and a dryer environment will help it last longer.”
So what is the approximate shelf life of each of our favourite products?
Mascara: 3 months
Foundation and concealer: 6 months to 2 years
Lipstick: 1 to 2 years
Pencil eyeliner: 1 year (because you can sharpen it and remove bacteria)
Cream or gel eyeliner: 2 to 3 months
Eyeshadow: 1 to 2 years
Blush and bronzer: 1 to 2 years
Moisturizer: 6 months to 1 year
Eye cream: 6 months to 1 year
Face oil: 1 year
Vitamin C serum: 3 to 6 months