Understanding Makeup Expiration Dates

Do you know when it’s time to throw away a tube of mascara? Or part ways with your favourite eyeshadow palette? If not, continue reading to find out how you know when it’s time to let go.

EU law dictates that the labelling on cosmetics products must tell you how long the product is safe to use after opening, providing they have been stored and used correctly. Typically, this information comes in the form of a tiny graphic that looks like an open pot with a number inside of it; for example, ’12m’ equals 12 months. So what can we expect to see on the items in our makeup bags and are there any other tell-tale signs that your makeup is ready to be tossed?


Most mascara labelling will indicate that the item can be used for 3-6 months after opening. Being liquid based, however, means that this can vary wildly depending on use. Bacteria loves wet environments, which is why the shelf life is so short. If you use your mascara every day, it would be wise to start thinking about replacing it after 3 months. Also, keep an eye out for other signs that it’s time for a replacement: drying out or developing any smells equals time for a new mascara. Importantly, it’s also worth throwing away any recently used eye products if you develop an eye infection like a stye or conjunctivitis, so that you limit the risk of becoming reinfected.

Foundation and Liquid Concealers

12 months is the recommended time frame for keeping foundations and liquid concealers after opening. Signs that it’s time to change them sooner include drying out, odours developing or oils rising to the top of the product. As well as being potentially unsafe to use, changes in the consistency and appearance of these items can lead to poor application, including streaking and uneven colour payoff. To make your foundations and concealers last longer, look out for products with pumps and make sure that you avoid bacteria contamination by using clean brushes and sponges each time.

Powders: setting, blusher, bronzer, eyeshadow and foundation

Powder based makeup products have shelf lives of up to 24 months because the dry consistency makes it harder for bacteria to thrive. You can help to make your powder products last this long by ensuring that you use clean application tools and by keeping lids firmly closed. Signs that your powders might have seen better days include developing a waxy or chalky film, starting to smell strange or beginning to change colour.


Whilst lipsticks contain water and other moisturising ingredients, it’s not unusual for them to have shelf lives of up to 24 months after opening, providing you store and use them with care. Watch out for changes in texture, colour, or smell and always keep the lids on when not in use. To freshen up your lipsticks between uses, give them a once over with a wet wipe or another safe, alcohol based cleaner.

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