Toss it or keep it?

A Guide to Cosmetic Shelf Life


Admit it, you have kept one beauty product for too long you can’t even remember when and where you bought it. I too, before I became a makeup artist, have been guilty of this horrendous crime.

So, how long should you really keep using your cosmetics? Does the manufacturing and expiry date matter when the products seems “still okay” to use? What if there are no indications on the product?

Some may think that the manufacturing date and expiration date is the best way to tell how long you can keep the item. Well, the truth is, expiration dates only tell you how long a product can last if remained unopened. Once you open a beauty product, its shelf life will be ticking away. Some ingredients in makeup starts degrading and oxidizing upon exposure to air and let’s not forget the bacteria you are introducing every time you dip your tools in it. If you can’t find an expiration date, you can go by batch code and contact the brand to check. One helpful website for you to check, although they only have limited brands, is the Cosmetic Calculator.

downloadSo if you opened it, how do you know how long you can keep it? Thankfully, we have the PAO (Period After Opening) stamp on most of the cosmetics. I have been well-educated regarding this label ever since I started working at Luxola as we get so much complains that products changes consistency and smell even if they are not yet beyond the expiry date. The label will tell you how long a product is good for once opened. It is often printed on the back of the product with a picture of an opened jar, a number and a letter. More often, it goes by months. So if you see 3M it is good for 3 months and 6M for 6 months and so on..

So what do you do when you can’t find one? We go by general rule.

Mascara: 3M (Anything you introduce near the eye area should expire sooner than the rest of your makeup items)

Liquid or Cream Eyeliner: 3M

Foundations & Concealers: 12M


Lipstick/gloss/pencils: 6-12 M


Beauty creams and serums: 6-12M


Powder-based products: 12-30M


Eye Pencils: 24M


Perfumes: 24-36M

You can help somehow lengthen the shelf life of your products by keeping them in a cool and dark place, avoiding direct sunlight. Keep them tight closed after every use. Avoid double dipping. Make sure your tools are clean or might as well use a clean spatula and mixing palette when picking up products. For pencils, always sharpen them every use.

How do these information help you? If you love hoarding makeup (I mean, who doesn’t?) and budgeting at the same time, you might as well think twice before picking up a product. Just ask if you are able to finish a lipstick, a beauty cream etc. before it goes bad? Or maybe you received loads of makeup as a gift but you still have some favorites that you are using, it is better to keep them unopened until you are ready to use them.

I understand how makeup can be very painful to throw away since you spent so much on them. But trust me, tossing it out when you know it is done, saves you more than just you money but also your beauty and health.