What’s the Deal with Expired Makeup?

Using expired makeup is gross, yet we are all guilty of doing it at some point or another. And unfortunately, all makeup is not created equal. Some items like mascara will last only 3 to 6 months, and others like powder eyeshadows are fine for years. But what happens to your skin when you take that risk? And how do you know if your makeup is beyond its time?

You might think that just because nothing smells weird that it is fine, but that is not always the case. After a beauty product expires, some ingredients are just less potent, but others can cause acne, rashes, or worse. So staying on top of the freshness of your makeup is just as important as the food you eat.

The first step to protecting yourself from old makeup happens at the time of purchase. You may think your mascara or foundation is fresh as you just picked it up. But whether you shop at Sephora, Bloomingdale’s or your local pharmacy, that makeup could have been sitting around for ages. And those who stock the shelves are not always on top of clearing out old products. In fact, there have been recent sightings or separating, and even moldy makeup at popular drugstores. So keep your eyes peeled, because this is not just old, it is archaic.

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Photo via Youtube

If your makeup looks just fine and is yet to be open, you might think it is perfectly safe to use, but just like canned goods everything has an expiration date. How do you figure out what it is?

Almost every product from luxury to Wet n Wild has a batch code printed somewhere on the container. This code shows when the product was manufactured. Websites like checkfresh.com and checkcosmetic.net show examples of where you can find these codes on your products. From there you choose the brand and type in the code. The website will then let you know when that product was made.

For instance, about 2 months ago I purchased a bronzer from The Body Shop. I typed the code into CheckFresh and received this:

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Photo via CheckFresh

This tells me is that the bronzer was manufactured in September of 2017. That seems about right. And most powders can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years. So I am good to go with this bronzer. But with that being said, once it is opened that time is no longer relevant. Printed on the packaging of many products is a symbol of an open container with a number of months in it.

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Photo via This Is Insider

That symbol means that the product is good for 24 months after it has been opened. Once a beauty product is exposed to the air it can start to breed bacteria, so the time is cut down.

Most new products you buy should have been manufactured well within or under 3 to 5 years. But sometimes retailers fall short of this. For instance, I bought a foundation on Amazon and it was manufactured almost 4 years ago. That makes it expired. I have also checked the codes of some products in clearance sections at stores like TJ Maxx and online purchases from major department stores, and have had disturbing results. This is most likely to happen when buying things that are on sale or discounted, but sometimes even full price items are old. So it is always good to check.

Now this is not a foolproof method as some brands recycle their batch codes and the websites have not been updated to reflect it. So if you purchase a mascara that was just launched and the batch code reveals it was manufactured 5 years ago, that is a recycled code. So along with the prior method, keep your common sense at the forefront for situations like this. But when you come across a deal that seems too good to be true, it very well maybe. Always check if you are shopping from clearance or during a major sale. You might be surprised at what you find out.

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Photo via Lips So Facto

There are hundreds of charts online to guide you through what expired means for each type of beauty product. And for the most part, you can trust them. Products like mascara can only be stretched as far as 6 months. And it is important to stay on top of this when it comes to products you use around your eye area, as you could get a serious infection. Eyeliners actually last longer by sharpening them, as you are removing the top layer. Then, most powders last much longer, because they have less of a chance of growing bacteria. Liquid and cream products tend not to be good after a year or so, and as they go directly on the skin, they can cause serious reactions if used after their recommended shelf life.

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Photo via Grage Mood

Always use your common sense. Cleaning up your eyeshadow palette with an alcohol spray, can help you save it for 5 years. But if it were a foundation or cream blush not only would it begin to smell, but the color would be off as well. Old lipsticks can actually start to grow fuzz on them, and if any of your products start to smell or change color, it is time to toss them, no exceptions.

It can be frustrating to get rid of makeup and beauty products, because you invest in them and may even have an emotional connection to certain items. But your health is the most important. And if you can’t seem to put your health above your love for beauty, remember that using old makeup can cause severe allergic reactions, rashes, and acne.

If you want to avoid letting products go bad under your watch stay on top of it. Every couple of months go through your beauty collection and shuffle things around. Move things you haven’t used in a while to the front, so they get some face time. Explore the option of buying new items only when you use an old one up, so you don’t have too many things on hand at once. You can also donate anything that has not been used to women’s shelters. Project Beauty Share was started precisely for this reason, to donate to women in need. You can check out their website for more information on what is acceptable and where you can donate your items. Or you offer products you didn’t like to friends and family, as long as it is sanitary.

Sadly makeup does not last forever, but you can make the best of the time you have with your favorite beauty products. Just be sure to say goodbye to them when the time is right.


Cover photo via The Loop