A complete guide to make-up expiration dates and how often you should replace your products

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Hanna Ibraheem
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Different foundation textures and make-up brushes

It can be difficult throwing away your favourite beauty products but it’s also very important. Here, we run through everything you need to know about make-up expiration dates.

When was the last time you wore that red lipstick you refused to throw away? Or the blusher that reminds you of your favourite holiday? In fact, when was the last time you decluttered your make-up collection at all? Cosmetics all have an expiry date and it’s important to replace them regularly to avoid breakouts, infections and skin irritation.

One of the easiest ways to tell is looking at a product’s period-after-opening symbol, also known as a PAO symbol. This graphic symbol acts as a guideline how long your beauty product will last after you’ve opened it.

On the symbol, you’ll see the letter ‘m’, which stands for months, along with a number. So, if a product says ‘6m’, that means you should stop using it after six months.

PAO symbols for cosmetics
PAO symbols tell you how long a product lasts after it is opened.

If you haven’t used something in ages and you’re unsure when you opened it (but still hesitate to chuck it away), you can check the manufacture date for an indication of when it was made. Visit, select the beauty brand and enter the batch code. It will then tell you a rough estimate of when the product was created to give you a better idea of how old it is.

Of course, there are always signs, too. Look out for changes to texture and colour, as well as any bad smells. If this happens, you should throw away the product immediately.

Here, we run through how long your cosmetics are meant to last, as well as ways to help prevent them from expiring early.

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A guide to make-up expiration dates

  • Liquid and cream foundations: six to 12 months

    Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Foundation and MAC Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 Foundation
    How long do liquid foundations last?

    It depends on the type of foundation you use. Liquids and creams last anywhere between six to 12 months once the seal is broken. Most foundations are packaged in bottles with pumps, which helps to prevent bacterial contamination. If your foundation bottle doesn’t have a pump, dispense the formula onto the back of your hand before using your make-up brush or sponge. If your foundation changes in colour or begins to separate, throw it away.

  • Concealers: one year

    bareMinerals Original Liquid Mineral Concealer
    How long do concealers last?

    Just like foundation, concealer can last for up to a year. To help the longevity of your concealer, avoid touching the applicator with your fingers. If you’re using your concealer to cover up blemishes, you should clean the applicator before putting it back into the tube.

  • Blush, foundation and setting powders: two years

    Fenty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Powder Foundation, Bobbi Brown Blush and Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder
    How long do blush, foundation and setting powders last?

    Thanks to their dry formulas, powder products usually have the longest shelf life. Powder can last up to two years. However, as you place your make-up brush or sponge directly into the pan, it’s important to clean your tools frequently. You should also wipe the top layer of your powder every so often to keep it fresh and get rid of any bacteria.

  • Lipsticks: one to two years

    Huda Beauty Power Bullet Matte Lipstick
    How long do lipsticks last?

    Lipsticks can last anywhere between one to two years. They’re best kept in a cool, dry place and will last longer if you opt for a lip brush over applying the lipstick bullet directly to your lips. However, if you prefer the latter, regularly clean the bullet to prevent bacterial growth.

  • Mascaras: three to six months

    Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara
    How long do mascaras last?

    OK, this may come as a shock but mascaras typically have a shelf life of three months – up to six months, if you’re lucky. It’s important to replace your mascara to avoid eye infections. Watch out for a change in texture or smell and avoid pumping your wand into the tube repeatedly. This traps air in the mascara tube and increases the risk of bacterial contamination.

  • Brow, lip and eye pencils: one year

    NARS lip pencil, Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz Eyebrow Pencil and IT Cosmetics No-Tug Waterproof Gel Liner
    How long do lip, brow and eyeliner pencils last?

    Lip and brow pencils can last for up to one year, if you’re regularly sharpening them. Unlike other eye products, eyeliner pencils can also last up to a year but it’s important to sharpen them, keep the cap firmly closed and store them in a cool, dry place.

  • Eyeshadows: six months to two years

    Urban Decay Naked Wild West Eyeshadow Palette
    How long do eyeshadows last?

    Powder eyeshadows can last up to two years but look out for any signs of discolouration. Ideally, you would replace them every six months as they are used around your eye area. As for cream formulas, these are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Make sure you clean the surface of the eyeshadow regularly and keep your tools clean.

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