Will my cosmetics expire?

Will my cosmetics expire?

When you’re trying to reduce your waste or like to get your money's worth, it is tempting to use up every drop of your cosmetics. However, if you take a close look at the cosmetics you're using, some are probably well out of date. But should you really be holding onto them? 

Know when to let go. It’s very likely microbes and bacteria have built up in them and causing you issues you’re probably trying to solve. 

How long do cosmetics last unopened?

Are you struggling to understand the shelf life of your makeup? Look for the ‘Period After Opening (PAO) symbol’ printed on the makeup (it looks like an open jar with a number followed by the letter M). The letter M stands for the Latin word for a month and the number refers to how many months. So, a “6M” with an open jar symbol means you should throw the product out 6 months after you've opened it. 

Generally, if stored in a cool, dry place, most unopened and completely sealed makeup should last for 2 to 3 years.

All preservatives in makeup break down over time, even if the product is unopened, so you should never keep any product for more than 3 years. Furthermore, natural cosmetics contain zero parabens or preservatives, averaging a shelf life of 12-18 months. At KiteNest we guarantee at least a 12-month shelf life. 

How long do cosmetics last once open? 

The expiry dates printed on makeup or its packaging are guidelines for after the product has been opened. However, it can be tricky to find out if the packaging has been removed or faded.

Typically, cosmetics containing water as one of their first ingredients have the shortest shelf life after opening. Water encourages the growth of bacteria and other microbes that can cause harm to your skin and health. We handwrite all expiry dates onto your products in a permanent marker pen, directly to the container to ensure you don’t lose them. 

How to tell if your cosmetic has expired? 

Smell your product. If anything smells off, toss it. Pay attention to your product - has it changed colour? Many concealer products will oxidize and turn a bit orange. Has the texture changed? Does it feel different when you touch it? Has its consistency changed? Has it got runnier? Lumpier? If the answer is yes to any of these, it is past its prime - it's time for it to go.

Expired makeup, in particular, may become dry or crumbly. Its colour pigments may have also faded and become heavily compacted and harder to remove. 

If your product is unopened, check the packaging. Has the packaging expanded or warped? Does it show signs of deterioration? If so, something has most likely gone wrong inside.

Why using expired cosmetics can do more harm than good

Once opened, many cosmetics carry harmful levels of microorganisms - including Staphylococcus corynebacterium and Moraxella - all common in bacterial skin infections. This build-up of bacteria can lead to:

  • acne
  • rashes
  • eye infections
  • sties
  • inflammation

Furthermore, the oil ingredients (the spreading agents) of items like concealer and foundation, will always rise to the top. So if you continue using it past its expiry date, you may be applying a higher concentration of potentially pore-clogging oil to your skin.

Another danger of using expired cosmetics is that active ingredients won’t perform optimally. So be especially careful with SPF and sunscreen expiration dates.

The best way of preventing waste and not ending up with lots of unused products is to shop in small batches as and when you need them. Regularly check your makeup bag and bathroom to see what items are running low rather than picking up products through impulsive purchases and sales.


Top Do’s and Dont’s to make your cosmetics last longer:


  • Wash your hands before applying products to your skin.
  • Regularly clean your makeup brushes.
  • Tighten/secure the cap/lid after each use.
  • Write the date of purchase in permanent ink on the package (this can be even more helpful than relying on the PAO date).
  • Abide by the expiration dates on sunscreens, acne products and prescription medications.
  • Clean any caps/lids with warm soapy water if you drop them on the floor.
  • Use a knife to scrape off the top layer of powders to help refresh your blush and keep it clean for further use.
  • Use a tissue soaked in rubbing alcohol to wipe down the top of concealer and other makeup sticks.


  • Share your cosmetics with others.
  • Store products in direct sunlight.
  • Reuse any eye makeup after an eye infection.
  • Add water or saliva to thin out or add moisture to dried out products.
  • Buy and use secondhand opened cosmetics.
  • Touch the mucus membrane of your eye with an eye brush wand.