Understanding The Shelf Life Of Your Beauty Products

Just like food, your skincare and make-up products have an expiration date. In fact, holding on to old products results in 92% of us harbouring germs in our beauty stash. Think it might be time for a purge? Here’s what you need to know.
Understanding The Shelf Life Of Your Beauty Products


The Product: Concealer

The Shelf Life: 12 Months 

Concealer is meant to cover blemishes, not cause them, which is what can happen if you use one which has expired. If your concealer dries out, changes in texture, becomes cakey, lumpy or smells different, throw it out immediately.

The Product: Face Powder

The Shelf Life: Two Years

Typically, face powders can last well beyond their expiration date. Just be sure to minimise bacterial contamination by lightly cleaning your compacts regularly and avoid exposing the product to air. Make-up master Laura Mercier recommends throwing away powders with broken lids and checking for mould and any unusual smells. The same goes for eye-shadow and other powder-based products, like blushers.

The Product: Nail Varnishes

The Shelf Life: One Year

While nail colour won’t go bad from bacteria, over time, the lacquer will dry out and become thick and clumpy. To lengthen the life of your polish, keep the lid securely fastened and leave it in the fridge to slow down discoloration and solvent evaporation. 

The Product: Lipstick

The Shelf Life: Two Years

Look after your lipsticks and they can last up to two years. Just never leave them without a lid on, and clean with a wipe occasionally to remove any top layer of bacteria.

The Product: Foundation

The Shelf Life: One Year

Except for powder formulas, all foundations are water-based, which means bacteria can thrive. Unopened, foundation can last for a couple of years, but once the seal is broken, it’s best to replace it after six to 12 months. Keep your foundations out of moist environments, such as your bathroom, and always away from heat.

TOP TIP: For both your skincare and make-up, make sure you’re tightening lids, or better still, investing in pump containers over jars. This will prevent water from getting in, which over time, can cause mould and bacteria to develop.  

The Product: Mascara

The Shelf Life: Three Months

While many stand by the four to six-month rule, make-up artists like Bobbi Brown recommend replacing your mascara every three months. As the brush is taken out, used, and then put back into the tube, it collects bacteria along the way – risking irritation or even conjunctivitis. If a mascara has dried out or has a different texture, colour or scent, chuck it immediately. Make-up artists also recommend regularly cleaning your wand to prevent it becoming clogged with product.

The Product: Lip Gloss

The Shelf Life: One Year
Similarly to mascara, pumping the wand in the tube can result in a thoroughly unhygienic lip gloss. If gloss is discoloured, or different in texture and thickness, it’s probably best to throw it away.

The Product: Cream Shadows & Blush

The Shelf Life: Six Months

Creamy make-up products only last around six months, as unlike wax formulas, they contain extra moisture for bacteria to thrive on. Keep an eye on these products for signs of mould, smell or separation, and throw away if the appearance changes.

The Product: Eyeliner

The Shelf Life: Every Three To Six Months
Liquid or pencil, eyeliner should be replaced every three to six months; pencil liners can last a little longer but the cap should always be kept tightly closed. However, if you’ve had an eye infection, throw away, and you may have used to limit the risk of developing another infection. 


The Product: Make-Up Sponges

The Shelf Life: One Month
Experts agree blending sponges should be replaced every month and washed with cleanser after every use. Signs that you need to throw it away can include any deformities on the sponge and unexplained breakouts.

The Product: Brushes

The Shelf Life: Every Three To Six Months

Make-up artists agree you should be replacing your brushes every three to six months. The good news is, your tools give obvious clues when they need to be tossed. Experts like A-list make-up artist Caroline Barnes say any shedding, discolouration or unpleasant smells are signs to hit refresh. Especially if these don’t disappear after a thorough clean.

The Product: Fragrance

The Shelf Life: Five Years

Fragrance is one of the longest-lasting products you’ll own. But while perfumers agree scents don’t fade in intensity, they can become oxidized and sour. “To counteract these effects, keep the bottle away from the light and heat. It’s also important to keep using it until it’s empty – the oxygen inside half-empty bottles increases the risk of alteration,” say the experts at Fragrance Direct.


    The Product: Moisturiser

    The Shelf Life: Two Years

    Providing you keep your moisturiser sealed and away from the sunlight, there’s no reason why your moisturiser would expire before two years. Ingredients are usually preserved, but if the texture or consistency starts to coagulate or separate, throw it away. Where possible, try to avoid buying your moisturiser in a jar. Expert’s claim they carry a higher risk of contamination as we use our fingers to apply the product.  

    The Product: Eye Cream

    The Shelf Life: Six Months

    As a rule, the closer a moisturiser comes to your eye, the shorter its life span. The ingredients not only become less effective, but can cause irritation and possible bacterial infection like conjunctivitis. Pay close attention to their look and texture and opt for pump-based products to be on the safe side.

    TOP TIP: The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) require certain products to print an expiration date. This is often the case for acne treatments, but also any skincare containing active ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Look out for these dates and never use or keep a product beyond it. 

    The Product: SPF

    The Shelf Life: Two Years

    Most sunscreens are designed to last at least two years, but it’s always worth checking the expiration date. That said, if you store your SPF in the heat, it will expire faster and should be replaced every few months instead, so always keep it in a cool area. It’s also key to keep checking for changes in texture, like clumping or pilling. The same thing goes for smell – if it starts to have an unusual scent, it may be contaminated.

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