Does Makeup Expire?

Just like most other products that go on or in the human body, makeup is perishable. Over time, the ingredients can begin to break down, the moisture content can change, and all kinds of contaminants can be introduced. Any time you’re applying a product on your skin and around sensitive areas, it’s especially important to know when it's time to replace your favorite eyeliner or that go-to lipstick.

How to Tell When Makeup Is Past Its Prime

It’s not always easy to see whether something is still safe or effective. Things like expiration dates exist to protect consumers from buying and using harmful or poor-quality products.

To check the status of your makeup:

  1. Look for an expiration date or shelf life estimate. All makeup products—or at least their packaging—should have a PAO (period after opening) icon that looks like a small open jar. The number followed by the letter “M” on the jar indicates how many months the product should last after opening (12M = 12 months).
  2. Consider when you first purchased the product, as well as when you opened it. If you can’t find an expiration date, think back to when you got it and when you first opened it. If you can estimate how long it’s been in use, you can at least make an informed judgment.
  3. Inspect the texture, color, and smell. Is the texture what it’s supposed to be? Has the color changed at all? Does it have an off smell? Has it started to separate? Any of these could be a sign of breakdown or spoilage.
  4. If you have to test it, do a swatch. Apply a small amount to the back of your (clean) hand. If there’s any irritation, wash it off and let the product go.
  5. If you notice itching, irritation or infection, ditch it. Even if it seems fine or is brand new, it could be contaminated. Toss it and avoid further problems.

Does It Really Matter?

“But…” we know what’s coming, “there’s so much product left! Is using expired makeup really a big deal?” It’s a totally understandable question, and products can indeed last much longer than expected. Unopened makeup lasts much longer than opened makeup, for example. The further you stretch it, however, the more you start to gamble.

Will expired lip gloss make your lips fall off? Almost certainly not, but some expired products can cause adverse reactions. Various liquid products, for example, can easily irritate skin as they break down into their component ingredients. Contamination with bacteria could cause infections or breakouts.

Even without adverse reactions, using expired makeup can affect the quality of your work. Invisible changes to the formula can impact things like application, blendability, and staying power. If you’re doing makeup for clients, it’s best to use makeup that you know is still good.

The bottom line: although expiration dates are more of a guideline than a hard rule, they do matter. If you’re concerned about waste, read on for tips on optimizing shelf life. Many brands also have eco-friendly packaging, taking the guilt out of the toss. For instance, Scott Barnes always keeps Mother Earth top-of-mind by creating product packaging with sustainable materials. .All Scott Barnes’ packaging, for example, is made from easily recyclable, sustainable cardboard.

Know When It’s Time to Toss Different Products

In addition to checking the makeup expiration date before you use it, it’s a good idea to have a rough idea of how long each product might last. Unopened, your makeup can last for years without any problems. This changes once it’s exposed to air, fingers, and tools.

Here are approximate shelf lives of different products after opening:

  • Foundation and concealer: 12-18 months (cream generally lasts longer than liquid, both last longer with good hygiene)
  • Contour: 1-2 years for powder, 12-18 months for cream
  • Setting powder: 1-2 years
  • Bronzer & highlighter: 1-2 years for powder, 12-18 months for cream, 6-12 months for liquid
  • Blush: 1-2 years for powder, 12-18 months for cream, 6-12 months for liquid
  • Eyeshadow: 12-18 months, but can be replaced as often as every 3-6 months if you’re worried about contamination around the eyes
  • Eyeliner: 1 year for pencil, 3-6 months for liquid
  • Mascara: 3-6 months
  • Lipstick: 18-24 months
  • Lip gloss: 12-18 months

How to Maximize Your Makeup’s Shelf Life

To get the most out of your beauty products:

  • Keep your makeup in appropriate storage and in a cool, dry This will help prevent problems like melting, clumping or microbial growth.
  • Practice good hygiene to prevent contamination. Clean your tools after every use and use fresh or disposable tools with different clients. Always have clean hands and avoid touching the products directly with your fingers.
  • Use separate disposable applicators to extend the life of lip glosses, mascaras, and other wand-equipped products.
  • If you notice any film or debris on your makeup, gently wipe it clean before using or storing it.
  • Invest in high-quality products with preservative ingredients that are formulated to last. A cheap product that goes bad quickly can nickel-and-dime you over time.
  • Check expiration dates before you buy and only purchase as much as you’ll be able to use in that time. This prevents waste and saves you money.

Find Long-Lasting Makeup and More at Scott Barnes

Ready to replace your old, expired makeup with something more reliable? All of the luxurious products and tools developed by celebrity makeup artist Scott Barnes are designed to give peak results over a long lifespan. Shop Scott’s collections today for elevated, cruelty-free, gluten-free, eco-friendly makeup that truly lasts.