What You Don’t Know About Cosmetics’ Expiration Dates

All cosmetics and skin care products have an expiration date, which means that many old containers hang around bathroom cupboards far longer than they should. While slathering oneself with expired moisturizer doesnít seem nearly as bad as drinking a glass of spoiled milk, the ingredients still get absorbed by your skin. Natural products have an even shorter shelf life than mainstream, drugstore products, which are full of preservatives.

Hereís the problem. According to the FDA, ďThere are no regulations or requirements under current United States law that require cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on the labels of cosmetic products.Ē If youíre lucky, a conscientious manufacturer might choose to put a date or a picture of a tiny jar with a number of months beside it, i.e. 12M or 24M. Products from the European Union must have an expiration date for anything lasting less than 30 months. (Iím not sure what happens after that magical date.)

Hereís a quick list, compiled from LifeHacker, with the usual expiration dates for products that contain preservatives. Organic Authority has a similar list for all-natural products.

3-7 weeks: loofahs and sponges
No one I know throws out a loofah after 3 weeks, but apparently all those water-filled holes are a playground for bacteria. Opt for a reusable washcloth instead, or a bar of soap.

3 months: mascara, liquid eyeliner
Always throw these out after an eye infection and avoid testers at cosmetic counters.

6 months-1 year: skin creams, moisturizers, sunscreen, anti-aging/anti-acne products, liquid foundation, liquid concealer
Products with a pump are less likely to introduce bacteria than open containers, which should be tossed in 6-9 months.

2 years: shampoo, conditioner, hair styling products, shaving cream, toothpaste, perfume, cologne, nail polish
Trust your sense of smell. Always store perfume and cologne away from sunlight.

3 years: deodorant, anti-perspirant, mouthwash, soap, powder-based makeup, lipsticks and glosses, eye and lip pencils (can last up to 5 years)
Keep your fingers clean when you dip into containers of gloss.

Thereís a bigger problem, however. Itís easy to talk about tossing expired cosmetics, but if you havenít detoxified your beauty routine and still use products that contain the Dirty Dozen (and countless other carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors, plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants), itís not safe simply to toss them into household garbage. David Suzukiís website suggests the following option for getting rid of toxic cosmetics:

The first step is donít buy any more chemical-laden cosmetics and stick to those deemed safe by the SkinDeep Cosmetics Database. Second, use up the products and recycle the containers. Third, if you donít want to keep using them, find out if your city considers cosmetics to be household hazardous waste. Fourth Ė this is more extreme, but I like it Ė consider mailing your expired product back to the manufacturer, asking them to dispose of it safely and urging them to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.

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article by Katherine Martinko


Sonia M

Thanks for sharing

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

When I was selling Avon, I'd tell all my customers that if the makeup cakes up, changes color, starts to smell, then no matter how long or short a time you've had it, it's time to go. Why risk the health of your skin or face?

Beverly C.
Beverly C3 years ago

...one little P.S.---today they say, "Very nice! Five days in a row! Thank you!" (I'm actually on my 45th day in a row >:( (not happy)

Beverly C.
Beverly C3 years ago

This was a very interesting article**...

**I shall miss articles like these when and if I decide to not get on this site any longer. I've had my Butterfly Credits miscounted by Care2 for just about the last time, since I'm on here EVERY day; seems like every time I get to 40 days, they start this "thanks for visiting, come back tomorrow to earn more credits" type bs and then award me ONE (1) day in a row AGAIN...written several times to no avail. I'm wondering if anyone else has this problem...I've asked they correct it every time it happens but.....well.....it is what it is, isn't it? *sigh*

Amanda M.
Amanda M4 years ago

The number of times I wear makeup in one YEAR can be counted on ONE HAND with fingers left over. That means that, according to the data, I'd be throwing out my makeup after wearing it only six to ten times PERIOD! I don't know about you, but I am NOT throwing away perfectly good base powder, lipstick, eye shadow, and blush (I don't wear mascara or foundation) and spending $30 or more that I don't have on something like that-that's like dropping a ton of money on a formal gown that you're only going to wear once. Lotion is another story-the good stuff costs a TON, and the main time I use it is in the winter to keep my hands from turning into hamburger from all the hand-washing I do in an attempt to prevent colds and noroviruses. I'll use it as long as I can!

Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion-who takes three years to go through that stuff?

Robyn Bashaw
Robyn Bashaw4 years ago

interesting. ty.

Kelly Colwell
Kelly Colwell4 years ago

This is so true. I have had mascara that was fine for a while but then about 6 months later it makes my eyes sting terribly when I use it... then it gets tossed. (I recycle cosmetics packaging... look up TerraCycle in Canada or US if you want to recycle cosmetics and toiletries, too.)

Also I had mould growing in a night creme that was a natural product, after about 6 months. It was in a jar, with no preservatives, and stored in a warm, moist environment. I learned from that, to keep natural products in the fridge or at least ALWAYS wash my hands before dipping in. Since then I haven't had anything go mouldy on me. (Also, don't buy so much! Use stuff up before getting new stuff, just because it's trendy!)

Christie C.
Christie C4 years ago

What's even more gross is that even though preserved products can kill germs that get in them, they don't remove the germs. So dead bacteria and other icky stuff is always in there, getting spread on your skin and elsewhere- gross.

In addition to using up body care products before they spoil, it is wise to avoid spoiling them in the first place by being clean around them, like washing your hands before using them and storing them properly.

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago

Magdalen B. has a good suggestion, and I liked the one in the final paragraph - mailing it back to company to dispose of while making a point about the toxicity might get a bit of attention. Other than that, I like Annie Bond's suggestions for using/making your own cosmetics which gives you control over the ingredients and eliminates packaging - a biggie~!

Linda W.
Linda W4 years ago

I think this article is over the top! While I am sure that cosmetics etc. do expire, I have never seen any strong research to back up the random expiry dates in this article. As it turns out, food expiry dates are pretty random too, but we obviously want to err on the side of caution with out of date food.
Frankly, I think it's pretty obvious when your natural creams etc. are out of date. They seperate and they smell different.
I think this article is just scare mongering and just feeds into what is already the general consumerism that increasingly emphasizes disposable goods.