Alas, it is that time of year where we part ways with old friends that served us well – makeup and skincare, that is. Whether you're embarrassed by the state of your beauty bag, having a hard time finding the products you actually use, or in desperate need of space for new products, there’s a reason to justify cleaning it. So, when the weather begins to warm and you come out of hibernation to deep clean your home, don’t skip your cosmetics. Chances are, there are products you will a) never use again or, b) no longer work like they used to. As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. 

It is very possible that the products you continue to use everyday have outlived their shelf-life. Once a makeup product or skincare product expires, it loses its effectiveness and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. This means that with continual use, it could end up doing more hard than good. To keep your face fresh and clean and to avoid infection, keep reading to find out how to determine which products to keep and which to toss!

Makeup Purge

old, damaged makeup to be thrown out
Eventually, you must face your demons – or, the bottom of your makeup bag. Image courtesy of Maed. 


If you begin to notice a change in smell, color, or texture then it is time to say goodbye to your liquid foundation. As a general rule of thumb, foundations last around a year. But, if you easily break out you may want to consider switching out your foundation more frequently. 

Powder, Blush, Bronzer, Shadow

All powder products can have a life of up to two years if you treat them with care and use clean brushes. Consider your powder products a long-term investment. 


Telltale signs of an expired concealer are going to depend on the medium. If your concealer is liquid, look for separation in the liquid or a foul smell. For pan or stick concealers, look for cracks or tough, elastic-like texture. Overall, if your concealer used to be flawless but now goes on differently, it’s probably time for a replacement. 


The wand of mascara can attract bacteria more so than most other makeup products. To avoid eye irritation and err on the side of caution, switch out your mascara every two to three months. 


Good news is, your favorite lip shade can hang around for up to 8 months – which by then, you can have gone through multiples. If you’re bringing back your makeup look from a decade ago and want to know if your old lipstick is fair game, check to see if it’s gooey, rubbery, or difficult to apply. If it is, time to toss. Also, it goes without saying - but we’ll say it anyways - if your lipstick ever came into contact with a cold sore or other infection, chuck it. 


To cut to the chase, there is more hope for your pencil liners than your liquid liners. The liquid liners, much like mascara, become a breeding ground for bacteria. Liquid liners last for six months, but toss them sooner if they thicken or begin to smell like decaying roses. For a pencil liner, you can shave off bacteria by regularly sharpening them, but if they form a white film or oily substance, dump them. 

Expiration date guidelines for makeup
You got all of that? No? Consult this picture for reference! Image courtesy of Maed. 

Skincare Purge

Woman washing her face with a cleanser that is not expired
When you wash your face, you want your cleanser to do many things – clean, clear, even, smoothe, soften, tighten, brighten – but irritating your skin is not one of them. Image courtesy of Cosmopolitan

Oil-based cleansers

Oil cleansers, particularly those in a balm form, like the ones that claim to “melt away makeup,” can separate after being exposed to oxygen too long. That is because as you continually open and close the jar, you are exposing the product to air. Pump products, on the other hand, retain their freshness better because of their limited exposure. Like most products, lookout for changes in texture and smell, but if you’re using the product regularly you should have no problem. 

Water-based cleansers

Bacteria love water. This means we get six to eight months with our water-based cleaners before bacteria invade. However, if your cleanser contains an acid - glycolic, salicylic, etc. - then you may have more time with your cleaner since bacteria don’t thrive in acid. Just like with the oil-based cleansers, if you're cleansing regularly - which we hope you are - there should be no problem finishing the product before it’s due date. 

Moisturizers and Eye Creams

In general, these last around a year, but it all comes down to packaging. As we mentioned, jar packaging allows for quicker contamination because of the exposure provided by opening and closing a lid. Pumps and tubes on the other hand, are more sanitary and hygienic. If your favorite creams are in a jar, don’t give up hope. Storing them in the fridge will prolong their expiration date and create a cooling and depuffing effect during application. 


The bottom line is that you need to keep your eyes and nose alert for changes in your products. Use your best judgment, and chances are you’ll save yourself the trouble of irritating or damaging your skin. Always be on the lookout for:

  • Separation
  • Rotten smell
  • Color change
  • Black, green, or blue mold
  • Texture changes

However, you may be able to save yourself all of this trouble if your product comes with an expiration date. A word about expiration dates: check them. It’s actually possible for you to have an expired product on your hands the moment it makes its way into your home. You don’t want to spend a year using an expired product thinking it’s fresh, and if you're sold one, then you’re not getting your money’s worth. 

Products that don’t have an expiration date may have a POA, or “Period After Opening” symbol. These are found on the back and the bottom of your product and look like a tiny jar. Inside the jar there will be a number and a letter, for instance “12M” which would translate to 12 months. This means that in lab testing, the brand determined the product to be good up until 12 months of use. This information is particularly helpful and informative, but only if you can remember when you purchased it. If not, you’re going to have to rely on your senses. 

Expiration date and POA of beauty products (skincare + makeup)
In case you have never looked for one before, this image depicts exactly what a POA looks like – as well as an expiration date. Image courtesy of Picky Blog

At the end of the day, parting ways with your beloved products is no easy task, but the risk of damaging your face outweighs the reward of keeping your full beauty collection. It can be hard to remember exact dates and deadlines so just try to be cautious of the products you use, use this cheat sheet as reference, and treat your skin with care. Most importantly, happy spring cleaning!