What happens when your beauty products expire?

Let’s be honest here, do you really keep track of the number of skincare, haircare, and makeup products you have lying around the house all the time? Moreover, are you sure none of your products have passed their expiry date? Hold on – before you go running to your beauty stock, let’s go over what actually happens when your products expire and what to do before this happens and when it happens.


Beauty stack with skincare makeup haircare and other beauty products


Do products really expire?

First off, none of our beauty potions, lotions, or powders are supposed to be immortal. The very fact that they come into contact with our skin means they need to have some level of recognition for our bodies to accommodate their use. Most ingredients in all our skincare, haircare, and cosmetics have a lifeline. A lot of these products also have water in them and bacteria, fungi, and all sorts of germs can and will thrive in water. As soon as you take out the safety seal in your products, the timer starts. 

Some products can also degrade even when the packaging hasn’t even been opened yet. This is because the materials used in the packaging of these products also have their own limited lifetimes. Plastics have some level of moisture absorption too. Although it takes a while for this to happen, there is still that chance. Heat, humidity, and product handling can also affect how long your products can stay fresh. Dents and creases in the packaging can create tiny holes that let in germs and bacteria. So yes, your products can definitely expire even when they’re left unopened.

Check the Packaging

Packaging is very important when it comes to our beloved products. Each formulation has a specific requirement for packaging depending on its ingredients and the manner the product needs to be used. Your mascara packaging needs to be totally different from your lotion from the way it seals after opening and the shape and form it comes in to best dispel the product for use. They are either creamy or gel-like substances but you use your mascara wand directly in contact with your eyes and your lotion is obviously applied in a very different way. Also, because mascara directly touches your lids and lashes, they have a significantly shorter lifespan than your lotions.

It is a requirement for all beauty products to state their manufacturing, best before, and expiry dates in their packaging. This is the company’s responsibility to ensure that their customers get to use their products safely and in their best form. The consumers in turn are responsible for checking these labels before they purchase and use the products they buy. Before you make your purchase or before you use your product, it’s smart to check your labels first.

If you don’t see an actual expiry date on the product, another label you can look for is that little illustration of a can with a number and the letters “M” or “Y” or the words months and years after. This is the amount of time the product can be used after packaging is opened. Once that time is up, it is best to stop using it and discard the product.


Testing various beauty products

Can you use a product once it’s expired?

The best answer is no. Some products won’t really harm you even when they’re past the expiry date. There are products that simply lose their efficacy once they’ve expired. However, only through experts and testing will you actually know if the products are still safe to use. Germs and microbes are not visible to the naked eye so even if there are no visible signs, it may not be safe to use the item any longer.

Your favorite skincare may be your worst enemy if germs and bacteria start infiltrating your lotions, serums, and masks. When you use your foundation for example, the product gets exposed as you open the packaging and access its contents. Remember, these are teeny tiny microbes and even if you’re the most careful person, there is still some level of exposure. The labels that suggest a use by date after opening was determined by tests that anticipate the amount of exposure the products get through use.

For products that aren’t technically harmful to use after expiry, it is still not the best choice to use them. Sunscreens for example – after its best by date, your sunscreen loses its ability to protect you against sun damage. This is counterproductive and a dangerous risk especially if you will be under the sun for long amounts of time.

Here’s a list of the approximate shelf life of beauty products once they’re opened:


Mascara : 3 months

Pencil eyeliner : 1 year (if they can be sharpened)

Cream or gel eyeliner : 2 to 3 months

Eyeshadow : 1 to 2 years

Lipstick : 6 months

Blush and bronzer : 1 to 2 years

Foundation and concealer : 6 months to 2 years


Moisturizer : 6 months to 1 year

Eye cream : 6 months to 1 year

Face oil : 1 year

Vitamin C serum : 3 to 6 months

Signs That the Product Has Expired

Sometimes you can’t also trust your labels because of other external factors like crude packaging, wrong storage, and product misuse. There are other ways you can tell if your product is no longer at its best.

One thing you can check is appearance. Any change in color is a sign that the product is somehow losing its freshness and possibly its efficacy. In vitamin C serums, this is very easy to spot as the color starts to brown once the vitamin C oxidizes. This does not always mean that the product is no longer effective but it is on its way there. You must also watch out for signs that fungi and bacteria have taken over your product. Spots and any stringy growths are obviously a big no no and it is best to toss out the products once you see any unfamiliar colors or specks on them.

You can also try smelling the products. A funky scent is an easy giveaway for any changes in the formulation. This is also a good thing to check if you don’t see any visible changes in the product.

There are products that have strong fragrances in them so it sometimes masks any degradation in the product so it’s not always easy to tell just by the scent. So if you can’t tell visually or by smelling it, the easiest sign to throw out your products is if it feels and performs differently from before. If it starts making you itchy or if the product stings when it’s not supposed to do that, say goodbye! 

We are all guilty of loving some products a little bit too much but it is never a good choice to risk your safety just to be able to keep a product. Don’t mind the cost or the memories that come with it. At the end of the day, you can always replace these products. Health and safety should always come first!

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