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Makeup Shelf Life: How Long Should You Keep Your Beauty Products?

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You know that product that’s been hanging around in your makeup bag for longer than you care to remember? The one you know you should probably throw away but swear you’re going to start using “soon”? We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but odds are it needs to be thrown out. As much as we hate trashing products we spent good money on, the reality is that holding onto them is just not worth the risk. From infections to allergic reactions, the possible repercussions aren’t pretty. Here’s what you need to know.

The Basics

Photo credit: Giphy

You’ve no doubt seen this set of basic guidelines for the length of time you can safely keep and use makeup once it’s been opened. It’s a great starting point, but there are some other considerations to bear in mind when deciding whether or not to ditch your products.

  • Liquid foundation: 6 months
  • Cream foundation: 12 to 18 months
  • Face powder: 2 years
  • Concealer: 1 year
  • Cream blush: 12 to 18 months
  • Powder blush: 2 years
  • Mascara: 3 months
  • Liquid eyeliner: 3 months
  • Pencil eyeliner: 1 year
  • Cream/gel liner: 2 months
  • Powder eyeshadow: 2 years
  • Cream eyeshadow: 6 to 18 months
  • Brow pencil: 1 year
  • Lipstick, lipliner and lipgloss: 1 year

Expiration Dates and Beyond

Photo credit: The Play Studio

Beyond these universal guidelines, most makeup comes with shelf life guidelines right on the packaging. Keep an eye out for an expiry date (look for “exp.” followed by a date) or the more commonly used PAO (period of time after opening) symbol. This will look like a small pot or jar symbol along with the amount of time the product can safely be used once it’s been opened.

What the Packaging Doesn’t Tell You

Photo credit: Elle

Here’s the dirt: there are a few key factors that will affect how long you can keep makeup, regardless of guidelines. Mascara that’s dry? Doesn’t matter if it’s three weeks after opening or three months, get rid of it. It can cause nasty styes, infections and irritation. In fact, any makeup that goes on or around your eye is necessarily going to have a shorter shelf life as it’s more likely to pick up bacteria. So respect the guidelines for these products no matter what.

Additionally, storing makeup properly can sometimes as much as double its shelf life, so be sure to keep makeup away from high temperatures, moisture and sunlight. And for those who favour natural products, remember that fewer preservatives means a shorter shelf life—remember to carefully check those expiry dates.

Some Final Tips

Photo credit: Giphy

Use your judgement when it comes to getting rid of makeup. Makeup that smells funny, separates, changes colour or seems off in any way is better off discarded, no matter how well you’ve stored it or how far away the expiry date might be. The best way to achieve a flawless makeup application? Steering clear of redness, infections and irritation is a start. So do everyone—from your clients to yourself—a favour, and ditch old makeup before it becomes a problem.

Top photo credit: BuzzFeed

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