Should you use your beauty products after the expiry date?


First, a confession: I’ve not always been all that rigorous about heeding beauty expiry dates. Only last week, I went to Third Space for a cardio session, flinging some make-up in a bag, amongst which was a MAC Face and Body Foundation that had been languishing in a drawer for quite a few years (but handily came in a small plastic bottle making it ideal for my gym bag). It had curdled and was clearly no longer fit for purpose, so I didn’t even attempt to put it on my face for fear of what the repercussions might be.

While I’m a little cavalier about keeping make-up in my stash for a bit longer than I ought to despite knowing the rules, I have always been a stickler for abiding by the open life of other products (suncream, for example) making sure I use it within the year. My research, however, has made it abundantly clear that you can’t pick and choose which products you decide to be careful about; they all pose a risk if left open for too long.

In fact, you might have seen the horror stories on TikTok: skincare causing burns, dried mascaras flaking into eyeballs. Turns out that lippy you had from 2012 really is a bit off, and worse yet, might cause irrevocable damage. And yet, so many companies are swerving true transparency and avoiding clearly labelling their products with an expiry date. And even if there is an expiry date on there (as there was on my MAC foundation), do you really pay attention to what it says? I called some experts to weigh in, and they only served to back the idea that you absolutely must get rid of products within the timeframe denoted on the packaging.

In reality, once opened, a liquid product really only has one or two years of life in it, make-up artist Sonia Deveney tells me. Mascaras, even less: “I replace my mascara every two to three months, for hygiene purposes.” Powder you can maybe eke three years out of, though you should check the individual product for the symbol that looks like an open pot with a number of months on it for a definitive date.

The same rules count for skincare. Pam Marshall, clinical aesthetician and co-founder of Mortar & Milk, says that they really impact the efficacy and safety: “Essentially those dates are important for stability, and every single product on the market goes through trials to guarantee that it’ll be stable for a certain length of time, so they are important” she says.

Ignore expiry dates at your peril; anything from spots to more serious infections may be the result. Time for a good clear out of my — and I suspect your — beauty cupboard.