How to tell when your makeup has expired


Hands up who has never checked the expiry date of the contents of their makeup bag? Here’s how to know when products need to go

Do you hang on to old makeup just in case or can’t quite let go of your favourite lipstick or eyeshadow palette? The temptation to hang on to makeup products we love is real, but there is good reason to take stock and do a clear out every now and then.

Expired beauty products can cause skin infections, irritate the eyes as well as harbour nasty bacteria. While you can’t be expected to know or keep track of exactly when you purchased all the items on your dressing table or bathroom shelf, there are ways to tell when it’s time to discard products. Here, makeup artist Saffron Hughes shares the rule of thumb when it comes to discarding makeup and skincare tools.

Foundation – one year

After the seal has been broken, liquid foundation should last up to a year. Using an expired foundation can cause the product to oxidise, which will change the pigments. After oxidisation, the foundation may appear a shade or two darker (or more orange) on the skin. Skin infections, rashes, eczema flare ups and acne may also occur. So how do you tell if a foundation is past its use by date? For powder foundation, if the product dries out and crumbles, it has expired and should no longer be used. For liquids, the product won’t apply well anymore and will separate.

Mascara – three months

Three months may seem short, but with mascara the risk for bacterial infection is far greater than any other makeup product. The tubes can harbour bacteria, which can result in eye infections such as conjunctivitis, styes, or pink eye. As well as this, many people pump the mascara to try and get more product out of it. Not only is this a myth, but it will introduce more air into the tube, forcing in bacteria which can then become trapped. The inside of your mascara tube is the perfect habitat for bacteria to survive and reproduce, which is why it is essential to purchase a new mascara every three months. However, if your mascara dries out, clumps or changes in texture, replace it immediately.

Brow gel & eyeliner – six months

Anything that is dipped into a product, such as eyebrow or eyeliner gels, have a higher risk of bacterial contamination. If the colour changes, the gel dries out or it smells different, don’t take your chances as this can lead to eye infections or breakouts around your brows. Pencils last two years, which is much longer since they’re constantly being sharpened, and therefore the bacteria gets removed. With brow or eye makeup, ensure the cap is closed tightly to avoid your products drying out.

Lipstick – two years

Lipstick doesn’t hold much bacteria, so it can last up to 2 years. However, if left opened or taken to the bathroom frequently for top ups, bacteria can come into contact with your skin and lips. To avoid this, clean the top of your lipstick with a makeup wipe to prevent bacteria growth. If you are sick or have a cold sore, spray and sanitize the lipstick with alcohol after use before letting it dry. Liquid lipsticks hold a much shorter lifespan of one year, as dipping the wand in and out can lead to more frequent bacteria contamination. If you notice any changes to the lipsticks texture, smell or if it dries out, it’s time to throw it away.

Sunscreen – three years

Sunscreen should be part of your everyday regimen, and if you’re using it enough, you shouldn’t have to worry about the expiration date. Unfortunately, many of us forget to apply sunscreen daily and are left with old bottles lying around from previous purchases or holidays. If the bottle is unopened and kept in a cool area, sunscreen can last 3 years. However, if it has been opened or kept in a warm area, throw it out after one year. The easiest way to tell if your sunscreen has expired is to check if the formula has separated or if there are any changes to its colour. Remember that expired sunscreen has a significantly reduced SPF efficiency, so invest in a new bottle!

False eyelashes – four years

It’s easy to keep collecting lashes in different designs, styles and lengths. If you store them in a cool, dry place and do not open the lashes until you plan on using them, they can last up to four years. Once you wear your lashes, clean and dry them in between uses to prevent bacteria from growing. If they don’t stay on or if they have clumps of mascara attached, it is time to let them go. Otherwise, they can acquire dirt and debris which can cause eye infections. Note that the expiration date for your false eyelashes will be different to the expiration date for the lash adhesive, which typically has a maximum lifespan of three months.

Make up brushes – five years

Makeup brushes have a longer life span because we can wash them- something we should be doing once a week. This deep clean of brushes will help avoid a build-up of bacteria that could result in acne and skin irritation. You should aim to wash all other brushes every other week and if you wash as you go, it won’t become a chore. Always dry your brushes upside down, so the water does not seep into the brush and loosen the bristles over time. Pay attention to the makeup brush quality, and whether it is still efficient before deciding to part ways with your favourite tool.

Saffron Hughes is a makeup artist at