Using a product after its prime might not seem like a big deal, but expired beauty products are less effective and can even cause health issues like infections and irritation. So we consulted a range of beauty experts to get the scoop on the actual shelf life of your favorite beauty products.
In an ideal world, all beauty products would be labeled with a “sell-by” date and instructions for how long to use them after opening. Unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet, and with so many variations of products and formulas, it’s not always easy to define a clear shelf life.
“Expiration dates are tricky when it comes to cosmetics because it entirely depends on the product. When in doubt, check the item in question for a round jar printed with a number (that represents the number of months to use once open). That’s always a safe indicator for when something needs to be tossed,” said makeup artist Austin Evans, a part of Tomlinson Management Group.
Keep in mind that certain product consistencies tend to last longer than others.
“In general, liquids and creams expire fastest, while powders tend to last much longer,” Evans explained. “The more wet a product is (take mascara or liquid eyeliner, for example), the easier it will facilitate bacteria growth. Your eye shadows, on the other hand, can stick around for quite a while.”
How to know if your product is expired
Most beauty products don’t actually spell out a hard and fast expiration date, so it’s a good idea to learn to spot clues for when a product is past its prime.
“The major warning signs are smell and product separation. If it smells a bit ‘off’ or the oil from the product is sitting on top the rest of the product, it’s a big warning sign,” Brown said.
Subtle changes in color, texture or scent are big giveaways that your product might be expired, and if you notice any discoloration or separation, it’s time to throw it away. Skin irritation and a change in a product’s efficacy are also sure bets that a product has seen better days.
Certain products have telltale signs that they’re going bad, according to Evans. “When a lipstick or mascara goes bad, you’ll know because the fragrance it came with will have faded to something less pleasant.
Mascaras usually have a faint citrus smell when you open a brand new tube, but fast forward a couple months and that smell is usually long gone, a pretty good indicator that it’s time for a new one,” he said.
If it smells a bit ‘off’ or the oil from the product is sitting on top the rest of the product, it’s a big warning sign.