Do You REALLY Need to Toss Beauty Products When They Expire?

Just like food, beauty products come with an expiration date—however because these don't get consumed and don't always visibly spoil, do they really go bad?

Expired Makeup

(via Unsplash)

This is a loaded question, but the short answer is yes. While you do need to toss your beauty products when they expire, not every product is created equal.

First, let's break down the difference between shelf-life and period after opening. Most products have about a two-year shelf-life, which means they're safe for two years from the date they're manufactured. The period after opening (listed with a number on the little open can symbol on the back of your products) is the amount of time it's been tested and is safe to use after the product is opened. Twelve months is a pretty standard period after opening for more stable products like face oils or products with robust preservative systems.

Beauty brands are required to go through stability and compatibility tests prior to going to market to determine the period after opening. They test the formula and packaging in aggravated climate—super hot, freezing, etc.—which is how they then determine the amount of months the product is safe to use after opening.

For cleaner, more natural formulas, you might notice the period after opening is shorter, like 6-8 months, and formulas that have parabens are a much longer period after opening because they're super stable. Your products are only guaranteed to be fresh and safe when opened for this amount of time.

What really happens to your products when they expire? Well, it depends on the item, but the most common issue is bacterial growth, especially for mascaras, eye creams and face masks. You should never use any products that touch your eyes or are for skincare post-expiration date.

This also applies to any products you put your hands into, including eye creams, face creams or face masks, because putting your hands into these products introduces outside germs. Sunscreen and all active skincare products (things with retinol, vitamin C, etc.) should also never be used post-expiration because they will not be as effective and can spoil.

However, there are some things that you can squeeze a little extra time out of. When it comes to powder makeup product—eyeshadows and bronzers, for example—as long as you properly clean your makeup brushes, you won't do much harm if said products are expired by a few months. Lipstick is another that you can hang onto for a little longer, but pay attention to the smell and texture—if it smells off, toss it! The best products are safe products. If you can't remember when you got something, it's probably best to toss it.


For more skincare 411, THIS is the moisturizer you should use, based on your skin type.