Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Expired Make-up and Skincare Products – When to Replace Your Products January 5, 2011

It can be hard, even psychologically hard, to know when it is time to throw out your skincare and make-up products especially if you’ve invested a lot of money in their purchase.  But no matter how much money you’ve spent on a product sometimes it is just time to throw your products out since not doing so can actually put your health at risk.

With some products it is actually easy to determine when to throw them out because those products have expiration dates on them.  Products with expiration dates on them include sunscreens, some acne products, and prescription skincare products like Retin-A.  Once the expiration date has passed – throw out your product!  Yes, it might still work, but it won’t work as effectively.  Think about your sunscreen for instance.  If you could once stay outside for an hour without burning after you apply your sunscreen now you can only stay outside for 15 minutes or so without burning.  What’s the point?  Buy a new sunscreen.


Legislation Regarding Expiration Dates


It might surprise you, or not surprise you, to find out that there is no regulations governing expiration dates on cosmetic products.   According to the FDA:

There are no regulations or requirements under current United States law that require cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on the labels of cosmetic products. Manufacturers have the responsibility to determine shelf life for products, as part of their responsibility to substantiate product safety. FDA believes that failure to do so may cause a product to be adulterated or misbranded.

Voluntary shelf-life guidelines developed by the cosmetic industry vary, depending on the product and its intended use. For instance, a 1980 article by David Pope in Drug and Cosmetic Industry suggested a minimum shelf life of 18 to 24 months “to maximize cost efficiency in warehousing, distribution, and marketing.”

The 1984 text Cosmetic and Drug Preservation: Principles and Practice, edited by Jon J. Kabara, recommends testing product stability by evaluating samples at regular intervals for 3 years or longer, depending upon the product.

The European Union’s Cosmetic Directive, as amended in 1993, requires expiration dating only for products whose “minimum durability” is less than 30 months.


So where does that leave the consumer?  Lets breakdown the issue into two categories – skincare products and make-up.


Skincare Products


Throw out skincare products that have separated, have changed color, smell funny or have changed scent significantly, have changed texture dramatically, or just doesn’t feel right anymore when applied to the skin.  If the container holding your product has expanded than this is a sign that the product needs to be thrown away.  Finally, if you feel that your product has been exposed to bacteria consider chucking it. 

Also according to the FDA:

Among other cosmetics that are likely to have an unusually short shelf life are certain “all natural” products that may contain plant-derived substances conducive to microbial growth. It also is important for consumers and manufacturers to consider the increased risk of contamination in products that contain non-traditional preservatives, or no preservatives at all.

Furthermore, Paula Begoun points out:

As a rule, products that contain water as one of the first ingredients have the shortest shelf life after opening because water encourages the growth of bacteria and other microbes. Also susceptible to bacterial contamination are products that are mostly waxes with minimal water, but that also contain plant extracts. Think about how long produce lasts in your refrigerator—not very long! Products made up of almost no water (such as powders) last the longest, because almost nothing can grow in these kinds of products. Lastly, if your product is labeled “preservative-free” you should definitely take extra caution, because without some kind of preservative system bacteria can flourish easily.


Basically what it comes down to with skincare products and their expiration is that you need to make an intelligent guess and choice about when it throw them away.




The shelf life of make-up varies tremendously.  Eye make-up has a relatively short shelf life while mineral make-up foundation has a much longer one.  There are a few general rules of thumb about how long you can keep your make-up after you have started using it:

  • Mascara – Toss after 3 to 4 months
  • Eyeliner –  Toss after 3 to 6 months
  • Foundation – Toss after 6 to 12 months
  • Face powder, powder foundation – Toss after 2 years
  • Lipstick – Toss after about a year


 One more note – your make-up brushes also need TLC and once they start to fray or fall apart it is time to replace them, but with the right care make-up brushes can last you for years.



Tips for Keeping Your Make-up and Skincare Products Fresh


 Above all – Don’t share!  Let me once again quote the FDA:

Sharing makeup increases the risk of contamination. “Testers” commonly found at department store cosmetic counters are even more likely to become contaminated than the same products in an individual’s home. If you feel you must test a cosmetic before purchasing it, apply it with a new, unused applicator, such as a fresh cotton swab.

Keep your products out of direct sunlight, and wash your hands before using products.  Products kept in pumps are great since the pump keeps air from getting into the product and contaminating it. 

Toss eye make-up out after you’ve had an eye infection.  Don’t pump your mascara or add water to dried up mascara. Don’t add water to any skincare or make-up products at all. 

One last note, once again information from the FDA:

Consumers should be aware that expiration dates are simply “rules of thumb,” and that a product’s safety may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored. Cosmetics that have been improperly stored – for example, exposed to high temperatures or sunlight, or opened and examined by consumers prior to final sale – may deteriorate substantially before the expiration date. On the other hand, products stored under ideal conditions may be acceptable long after the expiration date has been reached.

So keep an eye on your products at all times, treat them well, and throw them out as needed.


Sources and Further Reading


One Response to “Expired Make-up and Skincare Products – When to Replace Your Products”

  1. Elaine Gurda Says:

    You have a lot of great information here and it is appreciated. I have been researching and testing anti aging products anf solutions for over 40 years. I agree with most of what you say but I am leery of botox and plastic surgery. I have managed to loo 15-30 years younger for many years, even though I am now past 70 years of age. No plastics, no botox and no injections of any kind!

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