Makeup Expiration Dates – When Good Beauty Products Go Bad

I recently had an opportunity to go through the bathroom cupboard where I store all of my beauty products. I was so proud of all the good beauty buys I had made (all those shower gels I bought at 50% off during last year’s after Christmas sale). I also went through all of the mascaras, lip gloss and lipstick tubes I’ve accumulated over the years. I popped open one of the lipstick tubes and was surprised to find that it smelled like a crayon! Some of the moisturizers had evaporated leaving a sticky mess and the brushes in some of the partially used mascara tubes had gone clumpy. Much to my disappointment, these beauty products had lost their original appearance! I never think of makeup expiration dates when purchasing lip gloss or mascara. I just think they’re going to last forever, but it’s obvious they won’t.

Photo by andreakw

Photo by andreakw

Apparently, the ingredients in some formulas start to oxidize and degrade as soon as they come into contact with air, and the expiration date countdown begins.  Every time you put your finger in a jar or use it on or around your eyes you are transferring bacteria to the product. “One of the signs that a product has expired is biological growth (molds) appearing at the top of the product” says Scott Whittier, Chief Scientific Officer at Intelligent Beauty. He also suggests looking for these additional signs when trying to determine if a product has expired:
• Color change throughout the product or at the opening of the package
• Rancid or offensive odor
• Loss of original fragrance
• Separation of the product into oily and watery phases
• Abnormal appearance of bubbles in the product

The shelf life for eye-area cosmetics is more limited than for other products. According to the FDA, manufacturers usually recommend discarding mascara two to four months after purchase due to repeated microbial exposure during use and the risk of eye infections. The FDA also recommends that users not add water or saliva (Yuck!) to mascara that has dried up because that too will introduce bacteria to the product and eventually to your eyes.  Using contaminated products, such as facial moisturizers and foundation can lead to breakouts as well.
In order to maximize the shelf life of your beauty products, Whittier suggests keeping products cool and out of direct exposure to light. “Products should never be kept in the car where temperatures can be excessively high. Products claiming to be ‘natural’ or preservative free can be stored in the refrigerator to maintain freshness. Although this may make the product consistency change during application or dispensing from the container.” Again, according to our friends at the FDA, some natural beauty products tend to have shorter shelf lives due to plant derived substances that promote microbial growth. These types of products tend to have non-traditional preservatives or no preservatives at all but keeping them in the fridge will help.   


Keep in mind that expiration dates are “rules of thumb” and that products that are not stored properly can go bad long before the suggested expiration date. With that said, below is a guide as to when to toss certain beauty products after opening them.
1) Skin Care:  6 months
2) Mascara:  2 – 4 months
3) Lipstick and Lip Gloss:  2 years
4) Foundation:  6 months for liquids & 2 years for powders
5) Nail polish: 1-2 years
6) Fragrance: 2 years


For more information on how to tell if your beauty products are still good, watch this video.

Need to replace some of your outdated items? Visit – this is my favorite online beauty retailer.

Just curious, what is the oldest beauty product you have in your makeup bag and when did you first get it?

As Chief Scientific Officer at Intelligent Beauty, Scott Whittier brings 20-plus years of experience in chemistry, product development and marketing strategies. Scott oversees product formulation and testing for all Intelligent Beauty brands. Scott holds a degree in chemistry from Weber State University. Prior to joining IB, he was senior director of scientific marketing and lab operations at Milbar Labs. He also has served as senior director of technical operations at Zila Pharmaceutical and as senior director of global product development at Nu Skin International.


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One Response to “Makeup Expiration Dates – When Good Beauty Products Go Bad”

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