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Beauty Experts Share Signs For When Your Favourite Makeup Has Gone Bad

Even if you’re not a professional makeup artist, makeup bags tend to fill up with old products. Many people who wear makeup own a tube of lipstick that’s only been used once or an eyeshadow palette they’ve had for an indeterminate amount of time. While holding onto old makeup is normal, these products have a shelf life.


In a perfect world, our favorite makeup products would last forever and save us the constant trips to makeup outlets of brands such as Sephora. But the truth is, regardless of whether they’re brand new or on their last leg, beauty products do go bad. Even worse, they can cause skin and health problems if not disposed of at the proper time. The exact time it takes for makeup to expire depends on the specific cosmetic, how it’s stored, and whether or not it’s sealed or open. All makeup expires eventually, usually within two years of purchase and sometimes as little as three months for items such as eye makeup. 

How to tell when your makeup has expired

Sergei Bobylev / Getty Images | The longer you have a particular item, the more important it is to pay attention to any physical changes you might notice


Surprisingly, U.S. labeling regulations don’t mandate an expiration date on most cosmetics, making it trickier to determine their lifespan. However, there are a few telltale signs that your makeup’s gone bad. In general, the easiest way to tell if a product has properly served its time is by observing visual and olfactory changes. If a product separates, changes color or texture, or smells off, odds are that it’s well past its expiration date.


The expiration dates you see printed on makeup or the packaging are guidelines for after the product has been opened. It can be hard to find out when sealed and unopened makeup expires since it’s not stamped on the packaging. Generally, if properly stored in a cool, dry place, most unopened and completely sealed makeup should last for 2 to 3 years.

Dexailo/ Shutterstock | There’s a secret expiration date on your makeup that you probably didn’t know existed


There are different ways to look for expiration signs on different products; 

Liquid foundation 

Have you ever browsed the makeup section at the dollar store and seen those bottles of foundation that have changed color? That’s definitely a telling sign of makeup expiration as well as changes in the texture and smell of the formula. Most water-based foundations last up to a year, while oil-based foundations last up to 18 months. If your water-based foundation has dried up after a few months, try adding some drops of an alcohol-free toner to get the creamy texture back. 


Liza Clark/ Pinterest | Since most concealers are liquid or cream, experts recommend keeping it for up to 24 months at the maximum


Concealers are meant to conceal and disguise but they can’t hide the signs of expired makeup! Look for changes in color and texture when you check out your concealer for any signs of expiration. Most concealers last a year or more depending on whether they are of the liquid or stick variety. Stick concealers should last up to two years, whereas liquids are good for one year. 

The bottom line

It’s not uncommon to use the same makeup for years, especially if it’s something you only use a tiny bit each time, like blush or eyeliner. However, you should heed all makeup expiration dates to avoid infection and skin irritation.


Expired products also will not perform optimally. To find the expiration, look for the PAO symbol stamped on the product or its packaging, indicating how many months you have until it expires.

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