Does Makeup Expire? Here’s How to Tell If Your Products Have Gone Bad

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly

Like the food in your fridge, the makeup in your bathroom goes bad after a while. We know, it’s a sad thing to think about. Even though a swipe of old lipstick doesn’t warrant a trip to the hospital like food poisoning does, expired makeup can wreak havoc in its own way.

If you’re not careful, using expired makeup products, like old mascara, can cause acne, skin irritation, allergic reactions, eye infections, and more. Though it can be tedious, there are ways to check if your makeup has gone bad and it’s time to throw it away. Fortunately, in most cases, the expiration dates on your makeup products depend on the first day you use them, not the purchase date, but there are caveats to this rule. (For example, you should always listen to the date of expiration printed on the packaging for actives and sunscreens to ensure you’re getting adequate protection.)

Once you get in the habit of regularly decluttering your makeup, it’ll be easier to keep your collection in order. To learn more about how to tell if your makeup is expired and tricks for reading expiration dates, keep reading.

Additional reporting by Jessica Harrington

How to Read Expiration Dates on Makeup

If you’re wondering what the expiration date on a makeup product looks like, here’s a simple breakdown. Regardless of what store you purchase your favorite products from, all makeup should be stamped with an image of an open jar, then a number followed by the letter “M.” This is the “period after opening” (PAO) sign that lets consumers know how many months after opening until the product expires.

Using a Cosmetics Calculator

Another way to tell if your makeup has expired is to use a cosmetics calculator. This will help you determine the manufacture date of cosmetics by the batch code or lot number. There are websites out there, like, that allow you to look up your products by filling out just a few questions, putting your mind at ease on whether or not your makeup has expired.

How to Tell If Makeup Is Expired

Still not completely sure if your product has gone bad? Here are some red flags regarding old makeup. If a product is beginning to develop a seriously funky odor, it’s time for it to go. Make sure the caps on all your products are secured after use, and store makeup in a cool, dry place. The FDA stresses that “a product’s safety may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored.”

This does go both ways, though. Storing makeup in desirable environments, like lipstick in the refrigerator, can keep them fresh after the expiration date. Something else to keep in mind: don’t “pump” your mascara wand in and out of the tube. All you’re doing is forcing air in, causing the product to break down faster. Pencil eyeliners and lip liners last longer when sharpened regularly. If you have trouble remembering exactly how old a product is, use a permanent marker to write the date that you opened it on the bottom of its case for easy reference.

What Happens to Makeup When It Expires?

Unlike food, the signs of makeup expiring may not be obvious. For example, nail polishes are no longer good when they begin to separate. For makeup tools like sponges and brushes that don’t exactly have expiration dates, it can be even harder to tell when they’ve gone bad. Makeup sponges should be cleaned daily, but it’s best to toss them after two weeks of use. Makeup brushes should be cleaned once a week.

To ensure you don’t use your makeup past its expiration date, many experts recommend writing the date you opened the product on the packaging in permanent marker. Then, keep this chart on hand and count from the day you broke the seal to tell if it’s still good:

Product When to toss
Powder (including blush, bronzer, and shadow) 2 years
Cream shadow and blush 12-18 months
Oil-free foundation 1 year
Cream compact foundation 18 months
Concealer 12-18 months
Lipstick and lip liner 1 year
Lip gloss 18-24 months
Pencil eyeliner 2 years
Liquid or gel eyeliner 3 months
Mascara 3 months

Jessica Harrington is the senior beauty editor at POPSUGAR, where she writes about hair, makeup, skin care, piercings, tattoos, and more. As a New York City-based writer and editor with a degree in journalism and over eight years of industry experience, she loves to interview industry experts, keep up with the latest trends, and test new products.

Maria Del Russo was a former assistant editor for POPSUGAR Beauty.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly

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