Makeup By Marla: Makeup Expiry Inquiry

With the welcome arrival of Spring, now is a good time to think about Spring cleaning… and that includes our makeup drawer. It is a perfect time to purge what is no longer useful or fresh in preparation for the beautiful and exciting new makeup launches that are beginning to pop up everywhere ( I will be keeping you in the loop ahead of some of these launches… of that, you can be sure J)

So, when are your cosmetic products ready for the makeup mortuary?

If cosmetics are not disposed of in a timely fashion, they risk gathering bacteria or changing composition, affecting the product’s efficacy and, more importantly, could pose a health risk. Here are some parameters for when to say Bye Bye, Beauty!


Check The Label:

Many people are unaware, but most makeup products have a suggested expiry date based on product production dates and recommended time-of-use after opening. This is usually indicated right on the packaging itself. This standard marking is often small and easy to miss. It usually can be found on the back paper label on many palettes or the side or bottom of paper boxes of mascaras, lipsticks, and eyeliners. The expiry symbol, called a PAO (period after opening), looks like a small jar of cosmetics with a flipped open cap and a digit followed by “M” in the middle. ( e.g., 3M, 6M, 12M, 24M). The number will indicate how long it is suggested that you continue to use this product after it is first opened due to risks related to oxidization and microbiological and chemical changes. A good trick that keeps me on track is that I label most of my products with miniature stickers on which I jot down the date I opened them.

Liquid Eyeliner:

Different opinions are documented as to the shelf life of liquid eyeliner. Some say they should be kept for 2 to 3 months; others say 6 to 12. In my opinion, it all depends on how well you clean your liner brush between each use. Remember always to be wary of changes in product composition and smell. When in doubt, throw it out! Liquids such as liner and mascara that come in close contact with the eyes are something you should never take chances with!


I never use mascaras past the 6-month point and have been known to mostly toss them between the advised 2 to the 3-month mark. Better than risking an eye infection or even worse! With mascara, remember never to pump the mascara as it allows for the introduction of air into your mascara tube. Also, never add water to mascara to dilute it. I have read on the internet that it is not uncommon for people to use saliva for this purpose! Eww! Yes, no lie! I nearly gagged! Only use a bit of saline solution if you need to dilute your mascara or place the tube in warm water to bring the mascara back to life under the three-mark shelf life.

Mascara is one of the most dangerous breeding grounds for bacteria in makeup, and I am most careful with it. Be vigilant if the mascara begins to clump up or has any odor. If you are in doubt, get rid of it immediately! Some people even go as far as to use disposable wands to make each mascara application as hygienic as possible. When it comes to mascara, I don’t find this excessive. Any precautionary measure one can come up with is good practice.

Pencil Eyeliner:

Pencil eyeliners usually last safely for 1 to 2 years. If they lose their creamy consistency, I always become wary of pencil eyeliner (including eyebrow pencils and lip liners). If I notice that my pencil liners become dry and the tip breaks off soon after I sharpen it, this is usually the point where we part ways! Remember that regular and frequent sharpening also helps keep your pencils clean and combats the accumulation of bacteria!

Concealers, Foundations, and Face Powders:

Liquid concealers remain good for a year. Like most liquid makeup, its expiry time is shortened because it has a water base that can breed bacteria. These items last better if stored in a cool, dry place free from direct sunlight—powder concealer, like most powders, lasts up to 2 years. Liquid foundation has a shelf life of 6 to 12 months, while powder foundations last anywhere from 18 months to 2 years. Face powders usually can last up to 2 years.


Cream eyeshadow can last from 3 to 6 months or 12 to 18 months, depending on how creamy and wet the formula’s consistency is. Powder Shadow, due to not having a water base, can last up to 2 years. Powder shadows need to be discarded if they become flaky or hardpan. Remember, it is important to routinely clean your makeup brushes if you want to maximize your products’ shelf life.


Cream blush can last up to 1 year, while powders are good for up to 2 years.


Lip gloss generally lasts from 12 to 18 months. You should discard a mask if it becomes sticky or smells. After each use, I routinely clean the tip of my lip gloss brushes, sponge, or doe-foot applicators with a tissue before setting them back into the tube. This ensures my glosses remain as hygienic as possible. Lipsticks last anywhere from 1 to 2 years. Discard them should their fragrance change or they become difficult and patchy. Lipsticks tend to get a distinct unsavory odor when they expire. As said earlier, lip liners can last anywhere from 1 to 2 years.

Beauty blenders, Sponges, and Brushes:

If washed regularly, Beauty blenders can last up to 3 months. Most wedge makeup sponges are good for several uses and should be discarded afterward. Brushes need cleaning at the very least every week. Meetings respond well when cleansed using mild baby shampoo or bar soap.


Nonmetal nail files should be discarded after 2 or 3 months. Nail polish has a long shelf life of up to 2 years. Always check that the polish consistency remains smooth and not clumpy. Should this happen, give it the heave-ho!

A Marla Thing:

I like to be super cautious about cleansing false lashes between use. I regularly deep clean lashes by letting them soak in micellar water, submerging them in saline solution for a half-hour, and then letting them air dry. This pseudo-sterilization procedure also adds the benefit of keeping my lashes fresh and lush.

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