Senior Beauty Writer
Let’s be honest, when was the last time you took a good look at that make-up drawer? Chances are it’s been a few months, or even worse, years. Some of those products are bound to have expired. We’re all probably guilty of buying WAY more make-up than we need. I mean c’mon ladies, are you ever going to use ALL those lipsticks? I know I personally own more make-up than I can use in one lifetime! What I’ve realised lately is that make-up really does go bad! The texture, fragrance, consistency and colour will change over time. That’s your cue to toss it out. Using expired make-up can be harmful to your health and your skin. It’s important you know the expiration date of those products you’re OD’ing on purchasing.
Every single make-up product comes with its shelf life printed on the packaging. You’ve probably not paid any attention to it. The symbol looks like an open cream jar and has a number and the letter ‘M’ following it. It basically stands for the number of months the product is safe for use after opening. Here’s what it looks like.
If you’re a make-up junkie, it’s important to keep track of the date you open each product so you know when to discard it. I like to keep a permanent marker in my make-up drawer, I use it to write down the date I first opened the product. Sometimes, the product packaging wears off and the shelf life symbol may fade away, at such times, you can use our make-up expiration guide to determine the real shelf life of your make-up products.
Shall we begin? For your convenience, I’ve listed the most commonly used items first. Keep this make-up expiration guide handy the next time you decide to give your make-up drawer a deep cleaning!
If you’re using a gel eyeliner, it’s best you toss it out in 6 months. Think about it, you’re constantly dipping your brush into it and over time it’s just going to turn into a breeding ground for bacteria. A pencil eyeliner in comparison is sharpened often and is, therefore, usable for upto 1 year. Keep an eye for a change in consistency in general for all eye pencils. If they become too hard or begin to sting your eyes, toss it immediately. Using bad eye make-up can lead to severe eye infections.
Again, this is something you use every day and you’re dipping the wand back into the packaging. It’s best you use up a mascara within 6 months of opening to avoid any eye infections. If you’re guilty of buying extremely expensive mascaras (I know I am), make sure you use them daily so that you can toss it out guilt-free 6 months later!
No matter how many lipsticks you have you’ll never be satisfied, am I right?! I know I have an arsenal of lipsticks that look almost identical to one another yet my eyes seem to call out mild differences in shades. Bullet lipsticks have a longer shelf life of about 2 years while most liquid lipsticks go bad in 12-18 months. The science behind the product's shelf life is the same again, a bullet lipstick can be sanitized by spritzing some alcohol onto it but a liquid lipstick can’t. So those tend to go bad quicker. My advice: don’t buy more than you can use!
If your lip balm is in a pot or a jar, make sure your hands are sanitized before you apply it. It’s just going to be a breeding ground for bacteria if you keep sticking dirty fingers into the pot. A lip balm in a tube or a twist up packaging is more hygienic in the long run. But as a rule, you should toss it over after 1 year. If your lip balm is made of natural, organic ingredients, that halves the shelf life to 6 months!
I suffer from sensitive, acne-prone skin and the slightest issue can trigger a breakout. I prefer moisturisers that come in a tube packaging, it makes for a more hygienic product. I do have a lot of moisturisers that come in a tub packaging - I use them with a clean spatula. You could even use a plastic spoon to avoid dipping your hands into the jar. As a thumb rule, toss out any moisturiser in a 1 year period - unless specifically mentioned on the packaging. Make sure you wash/sanitize the spoon every day or at least every other day!
Concealers and foundations generally have a shelf life of 1 year, depending on the formulation. The packaging will indicate otherwise if you can use it for longer.
Powders usually have a longer shelf life than liquids. You can use them safely for up to 2 years; just keep an eye on any change in texture or hardening of the top layer. That means the product has gone bad. Keep all the packaging tightly sealed to maintain maximum freshness and prevent contamination. Make sure your brushes are clean and dry to avoid any transfer of bacteria.
I’m guilty of buying too many nail polishes I can possibly use. I get sucked into the tiny packaging and the fun colours. I’ve had a lot of nail polishes going clumpy. The first indicator is the change in consistency: it gets too thick. The second indication is a foul smell. We’ve all been there, it’s okay! Just make sure you toss it out in 2 years. Make sure your favourite shades have a cool space on your dresser (sunlight can dry them up quicker). You can use my marker method to write down the expiry date in case there’s nothing mentioned on the packaging!
The main ingredient in Micellar water is thermal water! Water encourages bacterial growth and considering you’re using this to take your make-up off, you don’t want germs on your face! Don’t stock up on Micellar water - buy it as you need it and try to finish it within 6 months.
Cream-based cleansers can be used for up to one year, but if you notice a funny smell or any sort of clumping, it’s time to toss it! I prefer to write down the expiry on the bottle of the cleanser since this goes directly onto my face.
Most toners have active ingredients and water... these make it go bad quicker. Natural and organic ones have a shorter shelf life. If it smells funny or stings, it’s time to toss it out.
Not specifically a make-up product per se - but perfumes are my biggest indulgence. The good news is that if you store them well - in a dark place away from direct sunlight, they will last you for up to 8 years. I know I have a few Chanel Perfumes stashed at the back of my drawer that are over 4 years old and just as potent. Just don’t spray it directly on to your skin if they cause any irritation.
As you may understand now, different products have different expiry dates, it’s best to keep an eye on the packaging. If you travel with the products frequently, the print on the packaging will wear off. A small piece of tape put over the expiry date will ensure the print on the packaging stays intact! We hope we’ve urged you to deep clean your make-up stash today!
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