When Does Makeup Expire And For How Long Should You Keep Them?



In the spirit of Chinese New Year and the accompanying customary (and mundane) act of spring cleaning, I decided to start a new year on a clean slate by firstly, throwing out makeup products that have too ancient of a purchase date.

Actually, I cannot remember the date of purchase for ANY of my products. When I initially started on my little makeup escapade – that would later culminate into this crazy  obsession – I resolved to writing the date of purchase on each and every product. With constant contact, the ink  smudged – permanent ink or not – and sometimes it was really hard to find a spot to write on.

Then I changed to writing on white stickers but that made the product look really ugly. So I tried writing clear tape with permanent marker. That was the stupidest idea as the ink faded and all that was left was the clear tape. Maybe I used lousy tape, or lousy marker. Lol.

From then on, I simply relied on memory, which essentially means nothing at all since I have so many products it’s impossible to keep track. While the occasional clean-up to get rid of old products helps in ensuring you don’t use products for longer than you ought to, here are some ‘rules of thumb’ that we can all find useful in getting the most out of our products.

Period-After-Opening Symbol

You know that little jar with a number and an ‘M’? 6M means 6 months, and it indicates the recommended duration of use after you’ve first opened it.


Use The Look-Smell-Feel Approach

If the product doesn’t have a Period-After-Opening symbol, exercise the look-smell-free approach. It is high time to throw it out when there’s a change in color or texture, smells funny or different from before, or feels drier or oilier on the skin.


Mascara should be the easiest to gauge whether it has gone bad. Once it starts to dry up or flakes more than it did when it was at its prime, I toss it out. I once used a mascara for longer than was safe and it irritated my eyes so much I count my blessings for not getting any serious infection.

Then again, I honestly don’t follow the general rule of ‘throw out mascara after 3 months of opening’ rule. I mean, who throws out a mascara every 3 months!? That’s not only really wasteful and costly, I believe a mascara can function just as well even after 6 months. Just don’t go beyond a year. >.<”

It is best to exercise the look-smell-feel approach. If it smells funny or looks really weird in texture (maybe it became watery or looks murky), trust your instincts and give it up. And of course, if it causes any negative reaction, throw it away immediately.


Unopened eyeshadows can be kept for 3 to 5 years. Once opened, it is best to throw it out after 2 years. Bacteria loves moisture, so eyeshadows in cream form tend have a shorter life span. Switch up cream ones after 12 months.

Foundation And Concealer

Liquid foundations and concealers can be kept for six months to a year after opening. Powders and compacts can be kept for up to 2 years. It is probably easier to identity irregularities with liquid products than powder, in terms of smell, texture and lasting ability on the skin.

Eye Liner

Eye liner pencils last longer than gel and liquid liners. Generally, pencils can last 1 to 1.5 years; gels 9 months to a year; liquids 3 to 6 months.

Bun Bun's Makeup Tip Tip from Bun Bun: Pencil eyeliners stay fresh longer if kept sharpened.



Blush And Bronzer

Blushes and bronzers can last from 9 months to 2 years, depending on the nature of the product. As always, powders last longer than creams.

Lip Gloss And Lip Stick

Although there are preservatives in most lip products, they can turn rancid after some time. Keep them for a period of 18 months to two years. Lip glosses and lipsticks are rather easier to identify for signs of deterioration.

A change of smell (they tend to smell like crayon), a change in taste, the surface turning hard or rough, are all telltale signs that it’s time to say goodbye.

Nail Polish

Nail polishes generally last up to a year. It’s easy to see if a nail polish is nearing its expiry – the formula separates, application is tough, dries slower, etc.

Store Them In A Dry & Cool Place

How and where you store your makeup matters too. Don’t store your makeup in the bathroom. The steam after a shower and humidity can take a toll on the ingredients inside by melting and separating them.


These are really estimated time durations. I usually use my products for longer than what’s stated on the symbol, but not wayyyyy beyond. Combine the use of the Period-After-Symbol and look-smell-feel method, and be hard-hearted when it comes to clearing out your makeup.

How closely do you follow makeup expiry dates? What products do you usually go beyond the recommended usage period?



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About Bun Bun

Hello! My name is Juli and Bun Bun is my alter-ego. I blog to share my love for makeup, how to apply it, and what works or what doesn’t work, all from an Asian perspective.

My first makeup product was a shimmery light blue lipstick which I proudly wore all over my eyelids and lips. It cost $2.50, felt like $250, and made me feel like a million bucks.

Throughout this blog you will see Bun Bun in different poses.

Instead of using numbers (3/5, 4/5) or alphabets (B+, A+) to rate products, I put Bun Bun in different positions and expressions to represent the rating given to the product after a review.

In Bun-O-Meter, the first on the list would mean a 5/5 rating and the last one a 1/5 rating.

You can always refer to the sidebar any time you don’t understand what Bun Bun’s pose means.

I hope you enjoy reading my makeup and beauty posts as much as I did writing them.

Talk to you soon! =)


Juli & Bun Bun

  • chelseaaasj

    Do the lipsticks smell like crayon when they’ve gone bad or before they’ve gone bad?? Cos my L’oreal ones fresh out of the package smells so much like crayon that I can’t use it ._.

    • BunBunMakeupTips

      @chelseaaasj Lipsticks typically have a change in smell when they’ve gone bad, and it could be strong or just very subtle. I also had experience where a new lipstick smelt so bad I couldn’t bear bringing it near my lips at all. I didn’t throw it out immediately since it was a new purchase, but I didn’t use it at all and after a while out in the trash it went.

  • BAMBIx

    I have used over-6-month mascara before, it irritated my eyes so badly! LOL.
    Normally I don’t use any liquid makeups except eyeliners, mascara (that I’ve never used it up before 6 months as I’m so lazy with mascara routine LOL) and lip products since I mainly use mineral makeup (in the unscented powdery form) anyways. That’s really hard to measure the expiry by using look-smell-feel approach haha.
    Thanks for your bunbun tips! I think I must have my pencil eyeliner, and eyebrow pencil sharpened all the time. I’m a bad girl who is so lazy of taking care of  this little thing LOL.

    • BunBunMakeupTips

      @BAMBIx Poor you! I use mascara wayyyy beyond 6 months all the time but never got any irritation. I see, so you’re a pencil kind of girl. =)

  • Jassybee

    I’ve always wanted to know how long collectors keep their makeup because I’m a sentimental sucker! But honestly do you abide by the expiration date given on the product? What about those really precious & expensive ones? Do you toss them out too? Wouldn’t it be too much of a heartache? Oh, you should do a post about skin care -anything at all! 

    • BunBunMakeupTips

      @Jassybee Do I abide by the expiration date given? NO. Hahaha! Really, not at all. Other than wearing my daily contact lenses for only one day, I really don’t follow the rules for other products much, or at all. But of course, once it smells or looks funny, I won’t hesitate to throw it out, especially if I can’t remember the last time I used it. Cheap or expensive regardless, I treat them the same.
      Like my skin care routine? Been thinking of that too. What type of skin do you have? =)

  • polkadotkaleidoscope

    Nail polish can last quite a fair bit as the separation of formula issue can be easily resolved with a vigorous shake of the nail polish, and as for application and consistency problems, nail polish thinners are brilliant for sorting that out. Scrangie has more on this issue so you can check that out if you’d like!

    • BunBunMakeupTips

      @polkadotkaleidoscope Yup, there are also products on the market that you can dip into nail polishes, mascaras, etc to make them ‘workable’ again. I’ve heard there’s one from Inglot that’s so good it’s always sold out. Thanks for sharing!

  • KittyxScream

    Someone told me once (and i saw online too) that to “fix” liquid eyeliners you just have to put some eye drops like Visine into the eyeliner, shake it a bit and ta-da! back on track! 😀

  • apoorvajain

    I am getting married in December and liked some makeup products at Amazon. Can i purchase them and keep them packed? will it affect the expiry date?

  • cass_i

    Just a tip: when you write on tape, just put another layer of tape on top to keep the ink protected – or write directly on the product and cover with tape.