How to Tell If Your Makeup Is Expired

October 30, 2023
Ariel Wodarcyk
By: Ariel Wodarcyk | by L'Oréal
Picture of a mascara tube and mascara swatched on a white background

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end — and this includes your makeup. While it’s tempting to want to hang onto your favorite beauty buys until the very last drop, all products have a shelf life. 

Whether it’s your favorite mascara or a limited-edition eyeshadow palette, makeup is designed to last for a predetermined amount of time before it can start to lose efficacy and become a breeding ground for bacteria. (Many beauty products actually have specific expiration or “best-by” dates listed on their packaging or labels.)

To keep your makeup routine fresh and to avoid potential infections and irritation, keep reading for our comprehensive guide to makeup expiration dates

How Long Does Makeup Typically Last?

“Makeup expires differently based on the product type, ingredients and formulation,” says May Cintron, makeup artist and founder of TUHLZ. “For this reason, not all foundations expire within the same amount of time. This also applies to other makeup products as well as skincare.” To get a clearer look on when your products expire, Cintron recommends looking at your product’s packaging for an expiration symbol, also known as a PAO symbol. 

“It’s normally a small opened container with a number on it with the letter M,” says Cintron. “This number signifies how many months the product should be consumed after being opened. Mascaras typically last four to six months, eyeliner [and] lip liner 12 months, powder two years, but it may vary; that's why I recommend checking the PAO symbol. Using the product beyond this point is not recommended and considered expired.”

How to Tell If Your Makeup Is Expired

The quickest way to tell if your makeup is by taking a look at the PAO symbol — but if the writing on the packaging has started to fade or peel off, there are other telltale signs that your beauty products are expired. “If you notice any changes in consistency or smell or if you had any type of infection around the eye, it is also a good idea to throw the product away,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick. In addition to consistency and smell, it’s also smart to dispose of the product if you notice a change in its color. 

Is It OK to Use Expired Makeup?

We understand the urge to get every last drop of that lip gloss, foundation or limited-edition eyeshadow palette, but for the health of your skin, it’s important to avoid using any beauty product past its expiration date. “Using expired makeup may lead to skin irritation which may appear as red, dry or flaky skin, clogged pores and breakouts, styes or skin infection,” says Dr. Garshick. As she mentioned above, it’s also key to dispose of any products you may have used on or around a skin infection or stye, to avoid recontaminating your skin and eyes. 

When Do Makeup Products Expire?

Again, these are general guidelines — the best way to check if your makeup product is expired is by looking at the PAO symbol, as well as identifying any changes in the smell, color and/or consistency of the product. 

Eye Makeup

“For eyeliner and mascara, it is recommended to swap out every three to six months,” says Dr. Garshick. “For eyeliner pencils, since they are able to be resharpened, it may be okay to use for one year.” As for eyeshadow, you can generally use powder formulas for up to two years, while cream formulas (especially those you apply with your fingers) tend to have a shorter shelf life. 

“In general, it is important to be especially cautious with products that directly touch the eyes or skin, as these may be more likely to cause an irritation or an infection due to the potential transfer of microorganisms,” explains Dr. Garshick. Once again, checking the PAO symbol is key to avoiding the use of expired makeup products. 

Need to refresh your eye makeup collection? We’re fans of the Maybelline New York The Falsies Surreal Mascara, which has a mega-plush, volumizing formula. It’s available in drugstores, so it’s not as costly of a purchase to make every three to six months. And if you’re still clinging to your OG Urban Decay Naked palettes, might we suggest you make the switch to the new Naked Minis? Each palette has a cohesive, versatile color story that makes it easy to create natural and smoky looks alike. The Naked Foxy Mini Eyeshadow Palette, complete with an array of olive-toned neutrals, is one of our favorites. 

Maybelline New York The Falsies Surreal Mascara

Foundation and Concealer

As for complexion products, most will last you for up to a year, though Cintron notes that most powder formulas can last you for up to two years. If your skin is sensitive or prone to blemishes, it’s especially important to keep up-to-date on your complexion products. Cleaning the makeup brushes you use to apply these products is also key for keeping any skin type at a lowered risk of irritation.

The longevity of concealer also depends on the consistency. Liquid concealers should be tossed after one year, but powder concealers are typically safe to use for up to two years. To figure out which texture will work best for your skin’s type and needs, check out our concealer guide

The NYX Professional Makeup Bare With Me Blur Tint Foundation is our latest go-to for matte, filtered-looking skin that stays that way all day. As for concealer, we’ve been loving the full coverage level finish we can achieve with the Tower 28 Swipe Serum Concealer

NYX Professional Makeup Bare With Me Blur Tint Foundation

Blush and Bronzer

Similar to powder foundations, powder blushes and bronzers can last for up to two years, while cream products may only last up to one year. Again, it’s key to use clean makeup brushes (or clean fingertips, if you’re using a cream or liquid product) to apply, as well as to look for changes in the product’s smell, color and consistency. 

If you’re looking for a new blush, we recommend the L'Oréal Paris Infallible 24H Fresh Wear Soft Matte Blush, a long-wearing powder formula that packs an impressive punch of pigment with just one swipe of your brush (you don’t worry about overdoing it, though — the powder is soft and easy to blend). 

Lip Glosses, Lip Liners and Lipsticks

Cintron and Dr. Garshick both note that lip liners and lipsticks will generally last for up to a year — the same goes for lip glosses. Again, check the product’s consistency, smell and color to see if anything looks off before application. 

If you can’t remember when you last bought a tube of lipstick — or you just want a color refresh — we recommend the Valentino Beauty Rosso Valentino Refillable Lipstick

Nail Polish 

If you notice a change in color, a funky smell or a thicker texture, it’s time to part ways with your polish. In general, nail polish should last you up to two years — some even have expiration dates on the back of the bottle. Some separation is to be expected, though. Give the bottle a good shake and you should be good to go.

For more tips on how to find out if your nail polish is expired, plus ways to revive your favorite old nail polish (nail polishes are less likely to cause irritation if used past their expiration date), check out this guide with advice from pro nail artists. Plus, don’t miss Essie’s latest line of 80% plant-based nail polishes to switch up your collection.

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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