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. Typically, this information comes in the form of a tiny, open-pot graphic with a number inside of it. The number refers to months, and only applies when the makeup is used and stored as instructed. 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. Most importantly, it’s also worth throwing away any recently used eye products if you develop an eye infection like a stye or conjunctivitis. This helps to limit the risk of reinfection.

Foundation and liquid concealers

12 months is the recommended time 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 pump applicators. The less direct contact your makeup has with your skin, the better.

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. To maximise the life of your powder products, use clean application tools each time and keep lids firmly closed when not in use. Signs that your powders might have seen better days include the development of a waxy or chalky film, strange smells, or colour changes.


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. This is providing you use and store 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 a safe, alcohol-based cleaner.

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