How old is too old? Makeup edition

I currently own far too much makeup for someone who doesn’t wear makeup daily: 13 highlighters, 6 blushes, 4 eyeshadow palettes, 9 lipsticks, I could go on. Whether I have bought these products or been gifted them, I barely believe I’ll get through them all in a lifetime. But it’s okay because I do have a lifetime, right?

No I don’t!

If you look up close at the back of most cosmetic products, You’ll see a small image of an open jar and lid with a number inside it. This number indicates the number of months the product is safe to use on opening. Have a look at your products and notice that mascara is only good for 6 months, lipgloss for 18, foundation for 12 and blush for a surprising 36 months!

As someone who doesn’t like to create unnecessary waste in the environment , I’m pretty horrified at throwing away these seemingly usable products because they’re no longer ‘safe’. I’m also pretty sentimental about my makeup and associate many products with fond memories. So how legitimate is this warning?

Sentimental but not so sanitary?  Pomo Mama via Flickr

The truth is, All cosmetics will expire, but at different rates and can in some cases become dangerous on application. All ingredients will degrade over time even in ideal conditions. But on consumer use, ingredients are exposed to factors that will increase that rate.

I’ll be bac-teria -Arnold Schwarzenegger

The most dangerous exposure for cosmetics is to microorganisms (bacteria, yeast and mould) which can be transferred to your products. These microorganisms can cause anything from dermatitis and pink eye (conjunctivitis), to serious streptococcus or staphylococcus infections.

These microorganisms grow best in temperatures from 30-37°C, so makeup should be stored in a cool place. These high temperatures will also degrade the preservatives in your cosmetics specifically designed to prevent the growth of these microorganisms.

Microorganisms require water, air and nutrients to grow in any medium, including your makeup. Water is needed to collect food, transport nutrients and flush out waste. This means liquid products composed of mostly water are much less persistent than dry products, which is why powder products often have a much longer shelf life.

Air is required for the conversion of food to energy (ATP) through aerobic respiration. Making jarred products and bullet lipsticks likely to expire quickly due to their air exposure. To avoid excessive air exposure, use products with an airless pump, don’t leave products open and screw your product lids tight.

Nutrients and food are required for microorganisms as they are a source of energy and provide the building blocks for cell materials. Most of the ingredients in your products including alcohols, fatty acids, sterols, proteins, vitamins and botanical extracts act as a source of food for these organisms so unfortunately little can be done to avoid these factors.


Maybe she’s infected with it, Maybe it’s Streptococcus Albaraa Mehdar via Flick


Not all hope is lost, You can be Glam safely!

So if you’re buying new makeup, consider buying products that contain considerable preservatives (Sorry Lush!), liquid products in volumes that can be used quite quickly, plenty of pressed powders and anything that is packaged in a jar or an airless pump.

However, If you’re looking at the products that you’ve held onto for far too long, consider how you’ve stored them, investigate the texture, colour and smell. Major changes to any of these factors, irritation to the skin when applied or the sight of mould or bloom are red flags that the product is expired. If not, Be sure to sanitise the product using rubbing alcohol and remember to wash your brushes frequently so as not to contaminate fresh products.

6 Responses to “How old is too old? Makeup edition”

  1. nsobrien says:

    Thankyou @Liuyup! I’m glad to hear it, hopefully checking these expiry dates will save our skin in the long run!

  2. nsobrien says:

    It might be more based on opinion than scientific fact but I agree @Sreya Lodh! Expiry for makeup is pretty subjective and the people who put these dates on products assume you’ll do the worst thing possible, as long as you know what you’ve exposed your products to, you probably have the best estimate for how long to hold onto them!

  3. liuyup says:

    That’s a really useful article!
    As a girl who always purchases cosmetics, I really can not make sure how long time have I stored those do not use frequently! And I think I really need to check them if they are too old to use.

  4. Sreya Lodh says:

    A great and informative read! Unfortunately, I’ve known for the little symbol on the back of my products for a while and I still live in denial. As long as I screw my lids tight and shove my makeup bag under my bathroom sink where it’s cold and dry, I should be fine right? 😛

  5. nsobrien says:

    Interesting @Weiyu Lin!, I’d hazard a guess that hand creams are maybe under less strict regulation compared to facial cosmetics, as infection may be less likely due to less entry points for bacteria to enter the body, or less noticeable/embarrassing for a consumer?
    Thanks for reading and relating to the struggle!

  6. Weiyu Lin says:

    I’m exactly the kind of person who bought several lipsticks but wear makeup less and less. Seems I’d better get rid of those stand there for decades😜 This is actually the first time I know what that open jar and the number mean. I checked stuff in my bag and surprisingly my hand cream lasts 24 months but the pressed powder expires in 12 months. From my understanding power should stays longer since it’s dry. Perhpas the hand cream contains more preservatives?