Your Make-Up Has An Expiry Date & Ignoring It Could Have Implications For Your Skin

by Lauren Sharkey
Studio Firma/Stocksy

One of the biggest quandaries in life is weighing up potential health benefits with financial ones. This is especially true when thinking about make-up. That stuff is expensive, but continuing to use it way beyond its expiry date could have huge implications for your skin. So exactly how long does make-up last and what are the signs that your make-up bag needs a total revamp?

Luckily, a lot of the cosmetics you own detail exactly how long they will last for. A symbol that looks a bit like a jar with its lid off should be visible somewhere on the bottle or pot. Known as the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol, it depicts a number followed by the letter "M". The number in front signifies the number of months your product will last for after being opened. So 6M equals six months, 24M means two years, and so on.

If you can't see the symbol or you've had the item in question for so long that it's worn off, several experts have given a rough expiry guide to help. "The consistency of the product is going to change over time," dermatologist Dr. Hadley King told Women's Health. "They're going to dry out, get clumpy, and not apply as smoothly. That's true for everything from mascara to lipstick and foundation."


Let's start with the face stuff. Products like foundation and primer can last for up to two years, states Superdrug, and should be thrown away as soon as you notice a smell or change in colour or a separation of ingredients. Powder-based cosmetics are also particularly long-lasting. The likes of blushers and certain cosmetics will last for a couple of years and should be chucked as soon as they become hard or chalky.

Creamy products, however, should be inspected regularly for any odd appearance or smell. According to Byrdie, the moisture-filled consistency is a breeding ground for bacteria, meaning most cream-based products will only last for six months.

Concealer can last for up to a year as long as you don't let spots come into direct contact with the product. Instead, put the concealer onto the back of your hand and use it on your face from there.

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Mascara and liquid eyeliner has the shortest shelf life. The pumping action that everyone does to try and make the most of the product left inside actually introduces bacteria into the tube. So these kinds of cosmetics should be replaced every three months or so or as soon as you start to notice dryness and a clumpy feel.

Surprisingly, lipsticks can last much longer. Up to two years if you keep them in a cool and dry environment. To increase their lifespan, simply wipe off the top layer with a make-up wipe before every use. This will say bye bye to any bacteria.

Just like with lipsticks, most of the contents of your make-up bag can last significantly longer if you look after them. This involves keeping your fingers well away from the inside of bottles and using a brush or sponge instead. Doing this will prevent excess bacteria from making its way into the product. Of course, you'll need to regularly wash any brushes and sponges to stop the same thing happening. (Although some experts recommend cleaning make-up utensils every time you use them, once a week should be sufficient if done thoroughly.)

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So what happens if you do use expired make-up? Well, celebrity make-up artist Gita Bass explained to Shape that "using old make-up can cause irritation, breakouts, sties, and eye infections." And according to Women's Health, you could also end up with swollen lips and even blisters on the skin.

It's probably time we started treating make-up like food. Although using gone off cosmetics may not make you seriously ill, the side effects are nasty enough to warrant a trip to the bin and a little spend out every now and then.