Beauty Products Expiration Date 101

Hello hello ~ sorry I took a longer than expected hiatus from the blog, I’m back!  Blogging is a bit like dieting, it takes determination and persistence to maintain a blog while juggling a full-time job…so I applaud those who are doing the same b/c I haven’t been very good at keeping up with mine 😛 Anyway, one of my new year’s resolutions is to post more frequently and consistently so here we go.


Top row (Left to right): Missha cushion blush (old, similar), Lancome Definicil Waterproof MascaraGiorgio Armani Luminous Silk FoundationLaneige Firming Sleeping MaskMissha M Signature Real Complete BB Cream SPF25 PA+++Jo Malone Nectar, Blossom & Honey Cologne
Bottom row (L to R): Kiehl’s Precision Lifting & Pore-Tightening ConcentrateMake Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalilzer PrimerUrban Decay ‘Naked Smoky’ Palette

A topic that many people have asked me about is the expiration date of beauty products.  Whenever I see my mom or friends hoard makeup from many years ago because they “haven’t gone through them yet”, I URGE them to throw those away.  Just like food, beauty products do go bad; this category includes makeup, fragrance, nail-care, skincare, and haircare products.  The last thing you want is to wear expired products that give you a rash (speaking from experience).

Unlike food though, the expiration date of beauty products isn’t always clearly labeled or the shelf life isn’t exactly public knowledge.  Having worked in the beauty industry and spoken with industry insiders, I’d like to share some general rules around expiration date of beauty products and how to best preserve them:

  1. Unopened cosmetic products generally have shelf lives of 3 years, IF you get them from a legitimate source. By legitimate I mean, department stores (e.g. Nordstrom), Sephora, Ulta, or the company’s website. If you get them from a secondary channel (i.e. eBay), then this rule doesn’t apply.

Left: Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalilzer Primer has a shelf life of 12 months / Right: Urban Decay ‘All Nighter’ Makeup Setting Spray has a shelf life of 6 months

2. On the packaging of the product, it tells you how long the product is good for (circled in red in pictures above), and the clock starts when you OPEN the product. Therefore, don’t open a jar of face cream just to smell it (do that at the store!)

Left: Korean face mask that’s MANUFACTURED (제조) on 5-9-2016 / Right: my Missha M Signature Real Complete BB Cream is good UNTIL (까지) 3-24-2019

3. In the case of K-beauty products, they usually tell you either when the product is manufactured or expires. Not everyone can read Korean (myself included) so I had to do a bit of googling. If it product says “제조” it means when the product was manufactured (left picture above).  If the packaging says “까지” it means when the product is good until, i.e. expiration date (right picture above). Keep in mind rule #2 still applies here — if you open your product and the little label says 12 months, the product is good up until the earlier of 12 months from the date of opening or the expiration date.

4. Solid / powder products have longer shelf lives than liquid products. Water and moisture attract bacteria much more easily than dry products, similar to that dry food lasts longer than liquid food. After opening, powders generally have shelf life from 12-24 months whereas that is typically 12 months for liquid products.


Kiehl’s Precision Lifting & Pore-Tightening Concentrate on the left is stored in a pump bottle whereas Laneige Firming Sleeping Mask on the right is stored in an open-top container  

5. Products in pump bottles typically preserve better than those in open-top containers. Every time you open a product, you’re letting in bacteria into the container, which is why products in pump bottles tend to preserve better because they’re enclosed and minimize bacterial exposure.  When using a product stored in open-top container, make sure you reach for your favorite face cream with CLEAN hands or use an applicator (this is a bigger hassle as you have to clean the applicator every day). Here is a hack to better preserve your products with open-top containers: scoop out what you need in the next 3 months into a smaller container. As mentioned, every time you open the jar you’re letting in more bacteria, and you don’t want to do that to a large jar.

6. Do not ever share mascara – doesn’t matter if it’s your family or BFF, if neither of you wants an eye infection, don’t share your mascara!! Mascara goes bad the fastest (6 months) because it contains liquid and picks up your eye bacteria whenever you apply it.

7. Keep your products away from heat, moisture, and sunlight. These three things make your products go bad faster (think about how food spoils faster under hot/humid weather). Ideally, you should keep your products in a 45-55F room and somewhere dry with shade. Yep, this means not in the bathroom since all the hot steam from the shower creates heat and moisture! If you preserve your products well, you might be able to extend its shelf life for 1-2 more months, but don’t go over 2 months.


Here is a mini challenge for you: if you have products that have been sitting around for more than 3 years, it’s time to toss them and try alternatives that have hit the market. Trust me, this is very therapeutic 😀 Hope I was able to demystify your questions about how long to keep your beloved beauty products for.  This post was intended to cover the basics so if you have more specific questions, comment below!


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