You know that feeling when the stars align and you find that perfect shade of red lipstick or a skin treatment that actually banishes your blemishes? How about that other feeling when your perfect shade or product gets discontinued? But even if you stockpile backups before your holy-grail item leaves the shelves, you may not have that long before your unopened makeup goes bad. While that may sound like bad news for all of us beauty hoarders, the upside is that there's not really a hard-and-fast rule for when makeup, skin-care, and hair-care expire. Plus, you have some control over how fast your products go bad.
To find out some more about how to store your backup products and general expiration guidelines, I emailed with Jordana Mattioli, NYC-based esthetician, and Amanda Hume, founder and owner of VERT Beauty Salon. According to Mattioli, the FDA doesn't actually require beauty-product labels to disclose how long a product will be good for, and most labels only instruct how long to keep a product after it has been opened anyway. Because unregulated beauty labels don't really help us with our hoarding habits, both experts agree it's kind of up to your storage practices and senses to determine how long that untouched, limited-edition palette will last.
To ensure your backup products last as long as possible, both Mattioli and Hume recommend storing your products in a cool, dark place whether that's in a cabinet or even in the fridge. While this will help ingredients from deteriorating as quickly, how long your products will last also depends on what they're made of.
"Most beauty products have safe preservatives to ensure they don't allow germs to grow easily, but a lot of natural and organic products don't," says Mattioli. So if you're trying to keep a backup or two of your favorite all-natural product, keep in mind that these will have a shorter shelf-life.
But how can you tell if a product has turned? According to both Mattioli and Hume, you should trust your eyes and your nose to decide. If the color or texture has changed, you see signs of separation, or the smell has changed, it's safer to just toss your backup. If you still need some guidelines though, here's generally how long Mattioli and Hume say unopened makeup, skin-care, and hair-care products should last before you need to use them:
According to Hume, a general rule to keep in mind for makeup is that powder and pencil products will last longer than creamy formulas as oils will turn faster. Here's how long different types of makeup should last, unopened:
Mascara: six months
Eye liner: one to two years
Lipstick: two years
Lip gloss: one year
Powders: one to two years
Cream and liquid products: six months to one year
Skin care can have a variety of active ingredients, and how long products last will depend on these types of ingredients. Here's how long you can expect your backup skin-care to last:
Cleansers: two years
Acids and retinoids: one year
Serums: nine months to one year
Moisturizers and eye creams: nine months to one year
Sunscreens: one year
Hair products, at least, are pretty straight-forward. Here's how long hair care is likely to last, unopened:
Shampoos and conditioners: two years
Styling products: two years
My takeaway? Since my unopened, backup products may not actually last forever, I might as well just enjoy them now rather than try to save them for later. After all, there will always be new beauty products to fall in love with.