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When Beauty Expires

Share This article - Just about everything has an expiration date on it if it’s consumable, right? Why then can’t cosmetics and toiletries have a time limit, considering we put those in our hair and on our skin? We know it’s somewhat consumable since we absorb it through our largest organ - our skin.

Bacteria Buildup

According to the FDA, cosmetics aren’t required by law to have expiration dates, so you can’t just look at the label to know when a product has retired. However, some companies are labeling dates on their products for us consumers who would rather not have more bacteria on our skin than necessary.

Be aware that expiration dates are simply a guide to go by and that a product’s safety may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored. For instance, cosmetics exposed to high temperatures or sunlight, or opened and examined by consumers prior to purchase may substantially deteriorate before the expiration date.

Makeup preservatives should kill common bacteria (personally, I stay away from preservatives unless they are plant based), but as studies show, a little bacteria is in makeup before we buy it. Once you open your new product, airborne bacteria swarms in. You add to the bacteria by touching the product with unclean hands. Then, to top it off, you use an unclean applicator. Know that aging cosmetics lose their power to fight the bacteria no matter how gentle and clean you are when using it.

So the question is how long can we keep our little hopes in the bottle, and can we extend the shelf life of them to protect ourselves from infections, like pink eye and skin breakouts?

The answer is in this guideline. Let me help you clean out your makeup bag and medicine cabinet.

Color Makeup

Liquid foundation lasts three to six months. Cream foundation can last four to six months. Foundation in a pump dispenser will last a little longer, because it is less exposed to air than jar foundation. If it has a higher percentage of pigment, such as mineral makeup, then you have about a year. Here’s a tip: Use a disposable applicator and use the front of your hand as a palette.

Concealer has a shelf life of six to eight months.

Powders, including eye shadows and blush, last a year.

Mascara lasts for three months. Hint: Never pump your mascara; air just pushes back into the tube. Clean your wand with tissue every couple of days. It helps prevent clumping.

Lip gloss and lipstick have a shelf life of one year.

Eye and lip pencils will stay fresh over a year with continued use of sharpening; you’ll know when it has gone bad if it crumbles.

Skincare and Body Washes

Facial cleansers and moisturizers can keep for about six months, unless these products have acids in them like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and beta hydroxyl acid. Then they will have a longer shelf life. Try putting eye cream in the fridge. It feels great on tired eyes. Plus, it keeps it out of the heat.

Facial toner should be thrown away after one year, but if it has vitamin C in it, the nutrients can lose potency before a year.

Natural body washes last for six months.

Brushes should be washed regularly, as often as once a week with mild soap and warm water, or use a spray brush cleaner ( You can use alcohol; it’s a little harsh, but it works for emergencies. Makeup sponges need to be cleaned after every use. Toss within a month or when sponges show wear and tear.

Another risk for infection can be from sharing makeup, which increases the risk for contamination. Speaking of sharing, how about testers located at department store cosmetic counters? I used to work at a popular cosmetic counter 15 years ago and procedures have not changed much. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the cosmetic counter when people constantly stick their hands in the makeup and try it on without asking for help. Please be careful at the counters and make sure pencils are sharpened and tools are used when makeup is applied.

These guidelines are to help keep you safe and give you confidence when purchasing products and preserving them. Like the old saying goes, when in doubt, throw it out, especially if there’s no date.


Medical College of Wisconsin

Tips for Safe Keeping and Use of Cosmetics

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition


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About The Author


Shelly Ballestero is a licensed esthetician, make-up artist, beauty editor of Lifestyle Magazine, and author. Shelly has studied under Emmy Award winner Eve Pearl, head make-up artist for ABC's The View. In addition, Shelly is one of the make-up experts for Jane Iredale cosmetics and participates in the International Esthetics, Cosmetics & Spa conference. Shelly and her husband, Angelo, a worship pastor, live in Windermere, Florida, with their two children. (Photo of Shelly courtesy of Katie Meehan,