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Your Makeup Can And Will Expire, So Here’s What You Need To Look Out For

No surprise breakouts or irritation anymore.

by Talia Koren and Margaret Blatz
Originally Published: 

Makeup does not last forever, though I'm sure you've heard that before. You're supposed to toss makeup and beauty products after a certain amount of time, but do you actually pay attention to these expiration dates on your products? Probably not. In fact, I can’t think of a single person I know who has cleared out their beauty shelves, maybe ever – including me. Cleaning out your makeup closet isn’t some urban myth made up by Big Beauty intended to make you spend more on makeup; it’s very real, and very important. Thankfully, it’s not all that hard to keep track of when beauty products expire so you know when to toss them out. This is makeup, not calculus.

You don’t want to play with expired makeup because there can be both instant and serious, lasting consequences. As someone who once gave herself an eye ulcer from expired makeup, don’t be like me; check your makeup expiration dates before you end up needing an eye doctor or dermatologist.

Before you run to your closets, know that it (luckily) isn’t hard to find your beauty products’ expiration dates, and all of your skin care and makeup likely have the same expiration symbols on its packaging to tell you everything you need to know. So, grab a garbage bag, take some notes, and get ready to clean up your beauty routine.

Makeup Expiration: What are the actual consequences?

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You need to be aware of the effects of using expired makeup and the dangers it can cause. “Expired products will not provide the same type of results as new products because ingredients may separate, dry out, or alter in [its] consistency,” Dr. Brendan Camp, a double board-certified in dermatology and dermatopathology, tells Elite Daily. “Separation of ingredients may mean that you are transferring more oil to your face, which can increase the risk of acne formation. Old products are also more prone to contamination from bacteria, putting the skin at risk for an infection. Changes in consistency and alteration of ingredients may also impact the strength of sun protection in SPF products.”

Beyond the fact that expired products mean your products will not be as effective as you’re used to, some of the consequences can be serious. According to Camp, you can end up with dermatitis or infection. “Contact dermatitis may present with red, itchy, scaly, swollen patches on the skin,” he says. “An infection may look like a tender, red, swollen area with pus. Both are conditions that should be addressed by a board-certified dermatologist.”

Makeup Expiration: What should you do if you have a reaction?

This is the easy part. If your skin doesn’t like your makeup, take it off — immediately. “If you're having an immediate reaction to your make up the best thing to do is to wash your face thoroughly and cleanse the area,” Dr. Anthony Rossi, a board-certified dermatologist, says. “Avoid any harsh exfoliants that could irritate you further. Using a small amount of hydrocortisone will help with any irritation but if there [are] signs and symptoms of infection such as redness, swelling, pain, or pus, it's best to see a board-certified dermatologist.”

Knowing what lies ahead (pain, irritation, a reaction), I’m guessing it won’t be too hard for you to avoid the expired makeup gunking up your beauty counter.

Makeup Expiration: Knowing what it looks like

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If you aren’t sure where to find your makeup’s expiration info, here’s how: Go to your product’s label and on it will be a drawing of a little canister like this. It’ll likely be very small, but you should be able to find it on nearly all of your makeup. This little design is called the Period-After-Opening (AKA the PAO) symbol, and it’s about to become your skin’s new best friend.

However, if you find yourself using more British products, cosmetics in the UK actually have an egg timer symbol with a "best before by" date if the shelf life is longer than 30 months. So, look for that on your label instead.

Now that you know where to find it, that’s all there is to it. You'll never be able to ignore those expiration date symbols again.

Makeup Expiration: How does the expiration symbol work?

Once you locate the expiration date symbol, it’s pretty simple to work out what it means. In the illustration, there will be a number next to the letter M. Although it’s not as clear as a full date, it does reveal that your makeup will last a certain amount of months after opening it. 24M = 24 months; 6M = six months. It’s pretty straightforward, although you may have to start keeping a log regarding when you purchase each new piece of makeup in order to remember when to throw it out.

Makeup Expiration: How long does makeup generally last?

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Different products can vary in shelf life, but generally, the same products last around the same amount of time. A makeup sponge will expire in around one month. Things close to your eyes, like mascaras, roughly last between four to six months.

As you move down your face, you’ll have some more time on your side. Concealers, foundations, moisturizers, and lip liners take about a year to expire. Even most nail polishes expire in one year – and to think, my mom still has the same polishes from my childhood in her fridge. Shudders. Your blushes, bronzers, eyeshadows, and some eyeliners can last up 12 to 24 months. Lipsticks and glosses, however, can stretch out to the two-year mark.

If a product lasts over 30 months, the Food and Drug Association in the United States doesn’t require a symbol to indicate when a product will expire, but you should still keep an eye on it anyway. If your makeup is smelling a little funky or the color looks off, please immediately put it straight in the garbage bin.

Armed with this information, now is the time to go throw out all of your makeup and start fresh. I’m doing the same because I'm pretty sure I've been using the same eyeshadow for, like, four years. Oops.

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