Has Your Make-Up Expired?

It can wreak havoc on your face


This morning I found a beloved lipstick I lost a while ago.  I punched the air, flicked off the lid and dropped it like an apple homing a worm. It was covered with what seemed to be miniscule moisture balls. It had gone off. 

Preservatives in products only last for so long. They naturally break down over time and the way you store your cosmetics will have an effect on how quickly this happens. Even simple things like sneezing in the same room as your open compact can have an effect. Sounds far-fetched, but it's true.


When we sneeze, we feel the immediate droplets, but what we don't see is the gaseous phase that can travel up to 200 times further. If it lands on your cosmetics, the bacterial spores multiply and... well, you get the (gross) picture.


Follow this simple timeline and these tips to get the most out of your make-up.

How long it should last

The expiry date of your product usually depends on when you open it. This is known as the PAO date (Period After Opening) and can be found on most cosmetic and skincare product packaging. It looks like an open container and has a number followed by an ‘M’ written on it. This stands for how many months your product will be fresh after opening. 

Generally this is what you’ll find:

Liquid Foundation/Concealer 12 – 18 months (a water-based foundation will last up to 12 months, while oil-based will last slightly longer – 18 months – due to its natural preservative system)

Powders (blush, bronzer, foundation) 24 months

Fragrance 3 – 5 years

Lipstick 12 – 18 months

Pencil or Kohl eyeliner – 12 months

Mascara – 3 months

Liquid eyeliner – 3 months

Cream blush and multiple sticks – 12 months

Eyeshadow – 24 months

Nail polish – 24 months

How to make it last longer

Foundation: Keep your fingers away from the neck of the bottle. Instead, drip the formula onto the back of your hand and apply from there.

Lipstick: The water content not only means they dry out over time, it also makes them potential mini reservoirs of bacteria. Keep them in the butter container of your fridge. It’s the perfect temperature for them.

Pencils: Keep your liners away from your steamy bathroom. 

Mascara: Don’t pump the wand. This pushes air into the container, which will dry it out faster. Remember, don't add water in the hope of thinning it out. This will only dilute the preservatives, making it expire even faster.

Liquid eyeliner: If it’s a pen, store it with the nib facing down so it doesn't dry out.

Powder blush/bronzer: Make sure your brush is always clean before you put it into the powder. Doing this limits the amount of oil that comes in contact with it. Also, always close the compact or twist the lid shut after use to avoid oxidation.

Nail polish: Try to regularly wipe the rim of the bottle with nail polish remover. Build up around the top can make it harder to close properly, which will let air in and dry your nail polish out.

Perfume: It might look pretty on your windowsill but the UV rays from the sun will break down the preservatives in your scent, making the chemical bonds dissipate. Keep them in a dark, cool, dry space. 

Look out for these ‘off’ signs

Separation or changes in texture are dead giveaways.

If your product gets really sticky or gloopy, it's gone.

The rim of your powder shouldn't harden. If it has, too much oil has come in contact with it.

Like food, if it smells bad, it is bad.

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