As we embrace more natural skincare products, we’re also saying goodbye to a lot of the preservatives that help extend the shelf-lives of our creams and serums. So now we face the question: How long, exactly, before these products start to go bad and should be tossed?
Aside from sunscreen, cosmetics and skincare products aren’t required to put an expiration date on their packaging, which is why it’s important that consumers learn the various tricks to know when it’s time to throw a product away and get a new one.
Here, we’ve compiled 10 key tips to keep in mind as you’re evaluating your makeup cabinet, mined from sources as varied as our own reporting and The New York Times.
Products that are kept in hot, humid areas expire much more quickly than products kept in cool places. Unfortunately, the bathroom is not really the best area for keeping your cosmetics and face creams.
The more bacteria that enters your cosmetics and skincare, the less time that product has. To lengthen the lifespan of your cosmetics, always use a cotton swab or brush, instead of your finger to touch the product. SK-ii LXP Ultimate Revival Cream comes with an applicator, so you never have to apply their cream with your fingers.
When dealing with mascara and eye liner, it is better to be safe than sorry. Only hold on to those items for about three months before changing over. All-natural products can't be stored for a long time. Without preservatives, a product should only be kept for around a year, even if unopened.
Like food, makeup gives off physical signs of going bad. Look for the separating of a product (which often happens in nail polish) or a change in color. Also pay attention to the smell of a product. Once the smell has changed, it's time to toss it.
Liquid-based cosmetics, from foundation to lip gloss, can't be kept around for too long. Toss foundation and concealer after six months, and throw away lip gloss at around four months.
It's not just the beauty product itself that is at risk of expiring — it's the individual ingredient within the product. For example, the benzoyl peroxide in an acne gel expires three months after being opened, so that ingredient becomes inactive and is no longer able to do its job. Other popular ingredients like vitamin C, antioxidants, glycolic acids and retinols break down when exposed to sunlight and heat.
Beauty products that are powder-based, like powder blush and powder foundation, last a lot longer than their liquid counterparts. In fact, you can get 1 1/2 to 2 years wear out of them.
Cosmetics that come in jars have a much higher bacterial rate than products that come in airless containers with pumps. If you want to hold on to products longer, be sure to consider the container it comes in and whether it will be exposed to air every time you open it or not.
Many products on the market try to combine different types of formulas so they can target multiple problems at once (think anti-aging ingredients mixed with brightening ingredients). While this sounds like a great option, keeping these ingredients in the same container can actually cause them to cancel out one another, so they aren't effective for very long. Look for packaging that keeps the different formulas separated until the very last minute, like this bottle of Decléor Double Radiance Cream.
The longest lasting beauty product is perfume. You don't have to get rid of your signature fragrance for eight years, and you can make it last even longer by storing it in the fridge.