Beauty Product Sell By Dates: How To Know When It’s Time To Chuck Your Makeup
Had the same stuff in your makeup bag for the past decade? Get clued up on cosmetics sell by dates, over at MTV.co.uk.
When you’re obsessed with all things makeup (or, let's be real, when you’re just too skint to treat yourself to new makeup), it’s all too easy to keep hanging on to beauty products that you’ve had since before the dawn of time.
Been rocking the very same bottle of foundation, tube of mascara or eyeshadow palette since your sixteenth birthday? You're not alone, but it’s time for a serious detox.
Believe it or not, makeup EXPIRES. Yup, like a packet of cheese or a fancy yoghurt, every single thing in your makeup bag has an actual sell by date, and it’s time to start paying attention to it.
Using past-it products is not only kinda gross and unhygeinic, but it’s bad news for your skin and can even lead to serious infections if you're unlucky. Here’s how to get clued up on what’s safe to stay in your makeup bag for another six months, and what needs to go into the bin PRONTO.
Here’s what you need to know
If you're concerned about the state of your makeup bag, the PAO symbol is your new bestie. Not heard of it before? The Period After Opening (or PAO) symbol is a tiny picture featured on most cosmetic products in the shape of an open jar or bottle.
It’ll probably include the letter ‘M’ which stands for month, along with a number which stands for how many months that product is good for. For example, if your lipstick says 6M, you should probably keep it away from your face after six months of it being opened and used.
But not everything in your stash will feature a PAO symbol, so here’s a handy guide for the rough time periods you should hold onto your fave products for.
Seeing as it’s mostly made of water, that handy bottle of michellar water you keep stashed on your bedside table could look good to go years after it's been opened, but that’s kinda the problem. Water is the first and main ingredient on the list, so bacteria growth and contamination will be quick to kick in. Generally most micellar waters come with a shelf life of around six months.
This one totally depends on the type of cleanser formula that you like to get scrubbing with, but most cleansers will be alright sitting on your shelf for up to a year.
They should all feature their individual PAO symbols, but keep an eye out for any lumps, discolouration or funky smells, and store your cleansing products away from hot temperatures if possible (ie. hot showers) to help maintain their condition for as long as poss.
6 months to 1 year
Just like cleansing waters, most toners are pretty much made from, yep you guessed it, water. This means that shelf life is shortened, but toner can last a little longer than micellar formulas as the extra, tingly ingredients will help to preserve the product.
It tends to be common sense with this one - if anything changes colour, texture or smell, it’s probably time to chuck it to avoid skin irritation.
Slapping on a moisturiser each night? You’ve probably got around a year before you need to update your stash of skincare.
However, anything that’s preservative-free or particularly packed full of natural ingredients might need changing sooner, as the lack of synthetic ingredients will mean bacteria pops up much quicker. Keep an eye on the PAO info on your moisturiser to know for sure.
Your foundation preferences will make a big difference to the PAO of your makeup bag. Anything liquid or cream will be good for between six to twelve months as they’re full of water, oils and hydrating agents which shorten that all-important shelf life.
Powder formulas are much more long lasting however, as the dry texture isn’t so prone to bacteria growth - you’ll have a long and healthy two year relationship with that bad boy.
Any good concealer will tell you it’s hydrating, creamy and blendable, but that perfect coverage and texture comes from a clever concoction of oils, butters and other hydrating ingredients.
Once your fave concealer starts to get a bit crusty, dry out or change texture, it’s got to go. Anything longer than a year and you’ll be making your spots a whole lot worse, rather than hiding them.
Blusher and bronzer
Along with your powder foundation and actual face powder, dry products like blush and bronzer are fine to stick around for a while - as long as you’re keeping them clean.
You’re in it with the long haul with this lot, so look after them by keeping your brushes clean and your powders away from air exposure. Lids should always be closed tightly, and ditch any with broken or missing lids just to be on the safe side.
Like a reliable BFF, your eyebrow pencil could be by your side for up to two years. That’s longer than most relationships, so nurture that special bond by keeping it sharpened (to remove top layer bacteria), and guarded by a cap that closes tightly to prevent air exposure.
Any fans of eyebrow gel need to be a lot more careful however, as all that dipping in and out with the wand can mean HELLA bacteria growth.
Hands up if you’re guilty of building an eyeshadow collection over the past decade, with absolutely no intention of binning of old products? Agh. Powder eyeshadows are technically good for around two years, so keep an eye(shadow) out for any changes in colour of your favourite shades, any dodgy looking waxy build ups on the surface or any change in smell - and be ruthless.
It might be painful to chuck out that MAC eyeshadow that you paid a small fortune for a few years ago, but remember - these things are going near your actual eyeballs, so it’s serious business.
4 to 6 months
Oh mascara. How we love you and your ability to turn us into a fluttery lash dream, but this bad boy is the one you need to be the most aware of. Even the motion of applying mascara shortens the product’s shelf life.
Pumping the wand in and out of the tube means you’re forcing air straight into the tube, drying out the formula and turning the whole thing into one big, bacteria fest. Rather than pumping, you need to be slowly sliding your mascara wand into the tube and using a circular motion inside (ooh-err) to pick up the product.
Anything that looks dry or strangely textured/coloured/scented needs to go in the bin ASAP otherwise it’s eye infections a-go-go, and that’s never a cute look.
6 months to 1 year
If you’re a liquid liner kinda guy or gal, you’ve got between four to six months before you need to shell out for a new one, as it’s super susceptible to bacteria contamination and you don’t want that going near your water line. Pencil liners are a bit more long lasting with around two years of shelf life, but only if you look after them properly with regular sharpening and a tight-fitting cap.
Oh, and any eye infections mean that you need to have a TOTAL clear out and repurchase of eye products, otherwise you’ll only be spreading the infection over and over. It’ll be pricey, but it’s worth it to look after your peepers.
Of all the makeup products hiding in your stash, we’re betting that there’s a lipstick in there who you’ve been having a life long affair with. When you find the one colour that just works, it’s a love that never goes away - but only if you’re looking after them well.
You’ve got around two years worth of kisses with a lipstick, providing you never leave it sat without a lid on. Using a lip brush can also prolong a lippie’s life as it minimises contact between your skin, lips and the product itself. Using the occasional makeup wipe to remove the top layer of bacteria growth is also a handy trick.
Lipgloss and liquid lipsticks
Those strict instructions about NEVER pumping your mascara wand apply to lipgloss and liquid lipsticks too, as you’ll only be shoving a load of bacteria-infested air straight into the tube.
Slow application and circular motions inside the tube are the golden rules, and keep a sensible eye out for changes in colour, scent or texture of your favourite formula if you want to keep things looking kissable.
Currently doing guilty-looking, shifty eyes at the realisation you’ve had the same lip balm in your handbag for the past bajillion years? Agh, anything older then a year needs to go straight in the bin.
If you like a lip balm in a pot or a jar, try to wash your hands before you stick your finger in, otherwise you’re going to be turning it into a literal jar of germs. Nice.
Y’know when you’re just about to do your nails in that dreamy shade you loved so much last summer, and you find that it’s turned into one big, gloopy mess? That’s the product telling you it’s time to let go.
Once a varnish is opened for the first time, certain ingredients can start to evaporate to leave behind a thick, separated mess. For the sake of a few quid, it’s probably best to just buy a new one.
8 to 10 years
Perfumes don’t come cheap, and luckily they can stick around for quite some time. Fragrances that are well stored can be kept for years - even up to a decade - as long as they’re out of the way of heat and bright light, with lids that fasten securely between spritzes.
To make them last as long as poss, store them somewhere dark, and keep an eye out for any discolouration or a stale edge to their scent. A gone off perfume is pretty easy to spot.
Words by Lucy Wood
Now that you're all clued up on the good stuff, it seems like a pretty great time to check out some truly mental period myths. HOORAY.