With beauty brands launching new products every where you look, it’s hard to fight the temptation of buying a new lipstick or eyeliner every time you go (window) shopping.
And over time, it’s only natural for you to have amassed a large amount of beauty products. Before you know it, you can hardly keep track of when you bought what, let alone when to throw what out.
Before you start lining your eyes with an eye pencil you found at the bottom of your favourite handbag last season, or start moisturising your skin with a face cream that resurfaced while you were clearing out an old travel kit, here’s what you need to know about the lifespan of your skincare and makeup products:
If a moisturiser that you forgot about for months have changed in colour, texture and scent, these are all signs that they should be thrown out. If you look at the packaging of most beauty products, they come with a label which might read “6M”, “9M” or “12M” which reflects the amount of time that they stay fresh and viable once opened.
So if a product’s label reads “6M”, it means that once you’ve opened it, you should finish using it in six months and toss it after.
Beyond the fact that products might start to degrade and not be as effective as they were meant to be if you use them past this date, there’s also the risk that these products might be contaminated.
In that case, you’re wasting all that effort it takes to layer on multiple products, and perhaps even risk the possibility of getting an allergic reaction or inflammation should the products really be contaminated.
Plus, any product that hasn’t been closed tightly, i.e. has been exposed to the air (and more importantly, the moisture in our air), should be tossed. This is especially so for products that have a high water content because, as we all know it, moisture provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. On the other hand, products that are in powder form tend to be able to last longer than those in a liquid form.
Another thing to look out for is if the products you have are “paraben-free”. Often used as a preservative to prolong the freshness of the product, parabens have racked up a bad rep for itself amongst the clean beauty advocates as they have the potential to cause skin irritation for some people.
As such, many beauty companies have jumped on the clean beauty bandwagon, eliminating parabens from their formulas, which can affect how long their products can stay fresh.
So if you support the clean beauty movement, be sure to keep track of your beauty products so as to make sure you use them up before they start getting contaminated.
That said, here’s a rough guide of how long you should be using certain beauty products before you toss them out:
Cleansers and exfoliators: As a general rule of thumb, cleansers and exfoliators should be kept for no longer than one year once opened. Even if you might be switching between a few cleansers, depending on your skin condition, finishing a bottle or tube of cleanser/exfoliator within a year shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Toners: Generally able to last between 12 to 24 months, toners can be kept fresh as long as they are kept in a cool place (i.e. not in your bathroom). However, if it starts to smell funny or the colour and texture changes, it could be a sign that it’s time for it to go.
Facial serums and moisturisers: Due to their high water content, facial serums are most likely to degrade about six months after opening. And because they contain high concentrations of active ingredients, it might be the easiest to notice when your serums have lost their efficacy. The same thing goes for moisturisers, and especially so if yours comes in a jar or tub instead of a pump format.
Frequent dipping of your fingers into the same jar can cause contamination more easily so it’s best to make sure you toss out face creams that have been sitting around for longer than you can remember. If you prefer facial oils, they can usually be kept for up to 12 months.
Face masks (cream or gel): Since the formulation of cream or gel face masks are similar to that of serums and moisturisers, they also start to degrade after about six months.
Eye creams: When it comes to products that you apply near your eye area, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Since eye creams also usually formulated with high water content, they should be tossed after about six months.
It should be a problem to finish your pricey eye cream by then though, as most eye creams come in 15ml or 20ml sizes, which should last about three to four months.
Mascaras: If you use your mascara tube every day, you’re introducing bacteria into the tube each time you insert the wand to get more product on the brush. Plus, since it’s water-based, mascara formula is a great place for bacteria to multiply and thrive. Usually, the texture of the product hints at whether it’s still fresh as the more it’s exposed to air, the more likely it will dry up: so if your mascara is clumpy and has already formed into a paste, it’s a sign that you should toss that out. Alternatively, the rule of thumb when it comes to mascaras is three to six months.
Eyeliners: For liquid or gel eyeliners, the lifespan would be similar to that of mascaras, about three to six months. For pencil eyeliners, as the content of water is not as high, you will need to toss them out approximately after 18 to 24 months.
Foundations, concealers, blushers, highlighters and bronzers (cream, liquid, stick): If you like using these face products in a cream, liquid or stick format, be prepared to toss them out every six to 12 months. As they are made with high water content, the likelihood of them harbouring bacteria is higher.
And if you dip your fingers into them for application, that also increases the exposure to bacteria. Alternatively, if you’re using these products in a powder format, you can keep using them for up to three years, unless the texture, scent and colour has changed.
Lipsticks, lip glosses, lip lacquers and lip pencils: Since the moisture content is relatively low, these products usually last between two to three years.
This article was first published in December 2018.