You may not see an expiry date on your favourite makeup products, but most of them should be tossed out within 3 months to a year

By Ingrie Williams

The truth about makeup expiry dates

Leave it to the chic Europeans to take some of the guesswork out of when to chuck your concealer. While makeup expiry dates are not mandatory in Canada or the U.S., most beauty products that are also sold in Europe have the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol: an open jar and monthly designation indicating when to toss it. Since the PAO doesn’t appear on everything, we consulted Lynnette DaltonJames of M.A.C. Cosmetics and Dr. Jason Rivers, a clinical professor at the University of British Columbia.

Bidding adieu to a barely used, safe-looking $25 eyeshadow might sound silly, but “tossing products is mainly a health issue,” says Rivers. “You should be most careful with water-based products, such as mascara, because of the risk of bacterial contamination, which can lead to infection.” Symptoms include redness, pain, swelling, pus, pimples or pink eye. DaltonJames recommends being especially vigilant about eye products.

How you handle your makeup in general can also affect its shelf life. “If you take care of your products, using them for just a few extra months beyond the expiry date will most likely be safe,” says Rivers. A public education bulletin from Health Canada recommends that you keep your cosmetics germ-free by:

  • Washing your hands before applying.
  • Not sharing makeup.
  • Not adding water or saliva to dilute makeup.
  • Keeping cosmetics in a dry area, away from direct heat or sunlight.

If you’re still unsure about a product, here are some warning signs that will tell you if it has expired:

  • The product’s smell has changed.
  • It has been exposed to prolonged heat.
  • There is an obvious colour or textural change.
  • Mould is evident.

Toss It Out

  • Mascara — 3 months. (Some say 6 months, but many cosmetics experts, including DaltonJames, recommend 3 months.)
  • Liquid Foundation and Concealer — 6 to 12 months.
  • Cream Blush and Eyeshadow — 6 to 12 months.
  • Powder Blush and Eyeshadow — 1 year.
  • Eyeliner and Lipliner Pencils — Up to 2 years.
  • Liquid Eyeliner — 6 months or less.
  • Lipstick — 1 year.
  • Moisturizers and Skin Care — 1 to 2 years.

Best Health Magazine, Spring 2008

Average: 3 (4 votes)