How to know when makeup expires: a guide to makeup and skincare expiry dates

When to bin your broken blusher or languishing lipsticks

(Image credit: Getty)

It's always a sad day when you run out of a favourite lipstick or hit pan on a blusher, only to discover it has been discontinued. But many of us are harbouring old makeup and skincare products that are home to bacteria and cause breakouts and irritation.

If you’re a fan of designer makeup, your collection will be worth a lot, so when do you decide to bin an old blusher or languishing lipstick? 

What to look out for

Rather than guessing, you could look at the symbols on your products. For example, you often see a little tub symbol that says something like 6M or 12M on creams and skincare, which means you should use that product within 6 months or 12 months after opening. Of course, you might find a best before date on it too, which can be helpful.

If you can’t find any help on the packaging, simply sniff your skincare. If something smells funny, rancid or just unexpected, it’s probably safe to assume it’s past its best. Similarly, if your cream has changed colour, or the texture of your lipstick is off, it’s worth binning it (or even better recycling it).

Here’s a quick to help you keep your collection in shape and your face spot-free.

When to bin products 

Skincare products: Creams and potions for the skin vary in their expiry dates but generally last between six months and a year, so checking symbols and applying common sense tests to them is a great idea. It’s especially important to pay close attention to products such as sun cream, which lose their efficacy over time and can result in skin damage if they are too old.

Liquid foundation: Typically, foundation stays fresh for between one and two years. Warning signs that yours may be off include a change in colour or formula. Foundation will separate when it’s old, meaning that you could accidently apply too much oil to your face, clog pores and cause spots if you’re eking out an old bottle. 

Mascara: It’s really important to make sure your mascara isn’t old to prevent bacteria and contaminants getting into your eyes and causing infections. This means that mascara has a short life of just three months, as every time you use it and dip the wand back in the tube, anything collected on the lashes, including bacteria, is stored in the tube. Gross.

Warning signs that yours is too old includes an odd smell, clumping or a lot of flaking, perhaps suggesting the liquid is even drying out. To make yours last longer and minimise bacteria getting inside, try not to ‘pump’ the wand, which traps air.

Eyeliner: Similarly, using old eyeliners can lead to infections and sore eyes. Liquid liner and pencils pick up bacteria easily and as your eye area is so sensitive, it’s best to replace them every 6 months or so. Sharpening pencils regularly is a good way to keep them fresher and cleaner. Sometimes they develop a white film when they are too old, making them hard to use.

Powder products: Face powder, solid blushes and eyeshadows can last between three and five years, offering you more bang for your buck than cream products. This is because bacteria find it more difficult to thrive in a dry environment, but you can help them last longer. For example, scraping off the top layer, or making sure you use a dry brush that’s separate from your foundation application can help. Warning signs that powder products are past their best include dry and chalky formulas and any strange greasy build-ups in the pan.

Cream products: How you apply cream products plays a big role in how long you can keep them. For example, those in sticks can last for up to two years, while pots that you stick your fingers into last for less than a year. Expired liquid products can cause irritation, exacerbate rosacea and clog pores, causing spots, so it’s worth investing in new creams every so often.

Lipstick: It’s so easy to collect lipsticks due to their appealing packaging and variety of fun colours that can change up your look with one swipe. However, you might be surprised to learn they typically last less than two years. This is because lipstick typically contains natural and hydrating ingredients that can dry out but also harbour bacteria, spreading cold sores, for example. This can be super frustrating if you have a favourite colour that’s been discontinued, but it’s better to kiss goodbye than risk sore lips.

New products to add to your collection

Makeup expiry dates

(Image credit: Hourglass)

Luxe powder palettes

As we’ve discovered, powder products last longer than cream ones, so if you’re looking to invest in luxurious new makeup, they offer the best bang for your buck. We love Charlotte Tilbury’s brilliantly curated eyeshadow palettes, while Hourglass offers a beautiful palette containing some of its best-selling Ambient Lighting powders, bronzer and blushes to give your face a healthy glow all year round. The best thing is that with so many ‘essentials’ in one place, it’s easier to keep an eye on expiry dates.

Makeup expiry dates

(Image credit: CeraVe)

Great-value moisturiser

When it comes to essential creams like sun cream and moisturiser, great value options allow you to slather them on with abandon instead of being tempted to skimp on expensive cream. Cereve offers moisturisers to suit a variety of skin types in big bottles for a small amount of money, and many experts say they are as effective as some of the (much more) pricey brands. Whatever your skin needs, moisturiser is one place where you should keep your stash up-to-date.

Makeup expiry dates

(Image credit: NYX)

A new lipstick

We bet you have plenty of old lipsticks in your collection. When having a clear-out, why not identify the colour you have worn most and that makes you feel (and look) great and treat yourself to a new one to replace the bunch you have ditched. Maybe you want one luxe lipstick by the likes of Chanel or YSL in a favourite colour, or perhaps you like to wear lots of colours, in which case more affordable products might be just the ticket. Nyx’s Shine Loud lip gloss is a favourite online, due to its smudge-proof, waterproof and mask-proof formula, fashionable glossy finish and a vast array of colour options.

If you’re looking for more inspiration for new products to add to your collection, check out our guide to great beauty products beloved by TikTok influencers. Happy shopping!

Sarah Griffiths

A journalist with 10 years experience, Sarah specialises in Science and Technology, writing for the BBC, national papers and consumer magazines, including T3, of course. Sarah has reviewed a range of products for T3, from children’s electric toothbrushes to water bottles and photo printing services. There's nothing she can't become an expert in!