How to Know When to Throw Away Your Old Skin Products: Expert Tips

Beauty products are like the carbon daters of fashion, as it unravels. You have your bold, emo-era colors and your muted, naked look all-natural hues. You can tell when you’ve been suckered into putting down your hard-earned money on fancy fashionable fribbles by the way they look and smell.

Does that bronzer look more like rust? Is that brown-based lipstick look as if it’s been through an egg separator? Is it me or does that foundation smell funky? Is that mold on my sheer shimmer blush or is it like the hidden gem in a chocolate-filled hard candy? If any of these sound familiar, then you have to face the facts: you need to make a serious commitment to your trashcan.

Beauty products and cosmetics have a relatively long shelf life. Manufacturers in the US are not required to put an expiration date on cosmetics because they don’t degrade the same way food and medicines do, which starts from the date they are manufactured.


Beauty products typically start going bad on the day they are opened and exposed to the air. In other words, beauty product expiration dates depend on when we excitedly open them, usually in the mall bathroom to see if they really do make us look like a young (or mature) Jennifer Lopez sans the butt. It doesn’t, in most cases, but oh well!

Cosmetics are not meant to last forever. According to Dr. Jessica Wu, a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor for dermatology at the University of Southern California, beauty product formulations are only meant to be used for a limited period.

Cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson states that any unopened, sealed product can last up to two years if it is kept at room temperature.

The thing is, most women don’t think about their cosmetics expiration date at all. They believe that they will last forever—or at least until they run out. The sad fact is most of these harbingers of beauty seldom get used to the last drop because—well, we move on to the next best thing, or we forget, or it doesn’t work as well as we thought it would.

And yet, we don’t throw them out. Call it prudence. Call it hoarding. Call it a compulsive need to have a drawer-full of gewgaws we might use it at some point when we’re feeling nostalgic or rebellious. Call it whatever you want. The bottom line is, we don’t throw them out.

Well... you really should!

​How to Know When to Throw Away Your Old Skin Products

Sad as it may sound, you really should get rid of your old cosmetics, and some not very old ones, too. Cosmetics and beauty product do go bad even if they don’t have expiry dates, and some that are still good still have to go for very good reasons. Here are some signs that you have to go Terminator on them:

1. They smell bad.

Most cosmetics are a chemical mix, even the “organic” or “all-natural” ones (In fact, these have shorter shelf lives because they don’t have preservatives), and they oxidize. This means that they react to the air and ambient temperature and at some point they actually start to decompose. That’s right, they rot. If that happens, it may do dire things to your skin like make it irritated or red, or even burn.

2. They change color.

It’s the chemistry again, or it could be simple gravity. When your foundation starts to separate, shaking it up may help for a while but you will notice that it doesn’t spread as evenly as it used to. This also happens to nail color, and other liquid cosmetics. Powder-based products will also begin to look darker in some areas.

3. They cause infections.

Cosmetics can be excellent media for bacteria, so if you develop cold sores after using a certain lipstick or a sty from your favorite eyeliner, it could mean you have a whole zoo going on in your makeup bag. Some can harbor really bad-ass infections such as strep that can actually eat your flesh, so pay attention!

4. They feel different.

If your lip gloss doesn’t slide on, or your eyelashes look clumpy instead of sultry, then it is time to bid adieu. And this isn’t just for makeup, either. When you apply your face cream or skin product and it feels different from before, you should start thinking about how long do face creams last or how long do skin products last. These are crucial concerns because it could mean it is no longer effectively moisturizing your skin or taking care of those fine lines. In other words, you are wasting your time and probably doing more harm than good to your skin.

How Long Do Beauty Products Last Then?

Since beauty products and cosmetics don’t have expiry dates (except sunscreen, so you got a lucky break there), the only way to tell if it is time to ditch is to keep track. Note down the day that you opened them the first time on the bottle or case and count down from there. Here are some general guidelines by experts on how long typical beauty products should be kept on the shelf and in your life.


Average Expiration

1. Mascara

2 to 3 months

2. Gel or liquid eyeliners

3 months

3. Eye shadow

6 months to 1 year

4. Liquid foundation

6 months to 1 year

5. Cream blush

6 months to 1 year

6. Facial serums

6 months to 1 year

7. Face creams

6 months to 1 year

8. Eye pencils

1 year

9. Powder foundation

1 to 2 years

10. Powder blush

1 to 2 years

11. Lipstick and lip gloss

 6 months to 2 years

12. Nail polish

1 to 2 years

These are conservative estimates. Some experts are more generous, but these are safer to follow. You can keep your products a couple of months longer than recommended if you follow the following tips:

  • Don’t share your products.
  • Keep the products firmly capped or covered.
  • Keep applicators and sponges clean and dry thoroughly
  • Replace applicators and brushes every 6 months; sponges after 1 month
  • Keep them in a cool, dry place.


Of course, we are presuming here that you did take note of when you opened it but that isn’t very likely. At any rate, you can just have to use your eyes, nose and commonsense to decide if you really should keep—or worse use—that jar of face cream that seems just about ready to get up and walk away!

I hope this article has given you some clear pointers and ways to tell if it's time to give those old products up once and for all. While you're tossing out the old stuff, consider checking out ​the Sage's own personal culling of the 11 Best Skin Firming Lotion Products out there today! It will certainly give you something new to play with after all the spring cleaning.

Firm your skin with products that aren't going bad with the help of your beloved Skin Tightening Sage!

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