How I learned the hard way about monitoring beauty use-by dates

Keeping to the beauty use-by date might not be your top concern, but I found out the hard way that I should pay attention to when my skincare is out of date.


The very last thing you want to put directly on to your skin is bacteria, right? Of course. You'd never wipe your kitchen cloth on your face directly after you cleaned your counters, but using out of date beauty products could be as detrimental to your skin.

But of course, being the completely non-organised person I am, I found that out the hard way. I recently used a long, long out of date mascara primer on my eyes. It smelled okay, it looked okay, I couldn't remember when I got it.

I applied it and moments later my eyes were streaming. Minutes later they were stinging, and after six or seven face washes, a bottle of eye drops and a cold compress, my eyes started to calm down. My eye make-up, however, never recovered and I was exceptionally late to the place I was going.

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Beauty use-by dates are important

On every perishable beauty product you buy, there'll be a PAO (period after opening) symbol, which is basically a little jar with '3m' '6m' or '12m' in it. Occasionally there'll be a higher number. These are the guidelines for how long you should use it after opening, so three, six or 12 months.

beauty use-by

I never, ever keep track of how long something has been opened, so what I've taken to doing since eye-gate, and particularly with skincare, is when I open it, I stick a label and write the last date it should be used on it. If I open a 6-month use product on January 1, I'll put July 1 on it, to remind me I should stop using it then.

Expiry date guide

What are the expiries on your most common beauty products? Here's a non-exhaustive list, and these are best estimations. As a general rule, anything that has dried up or gone smelly, discoloured or crusty should absolutely not be used, regardless of the date.

    • Cleanser, toner and moisturiser = 12 months
    • Micellar water = 6 months
    • Cream eyeshadow = 6 months
    • Powder eyeshadow = 24 months
    • Liquid foundation and concealer = 12 months
    • Powder foundation = 24 months
    • Liquid eyeliner = 6 months
    • Powder blushes and powders = 24 months
    • Brow pencil (if regularly pared) = 24 months
    • Mascara = 3 to 6 months max
    • Eyeliner pencil = 12 months
    • Lipstick = 24 months
    • Perfume = up to 10 years
    • Nail polish = 24 months
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Photography by Unsplash.


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