How concerned are you with expiration dates?

I avoid keeping liquid/cream products like eyeshadows, blushes, etc. these days and pass them on shortly after reviewing since they definitely don’t have the same shelf life/stability as powder-based products–it’s just so rare that I get to return back to products, so there’s no reason to keep them at all. For powder products, I’m more apt to keep things I love or if I think they are core to a brand’s offerings as I feel comfortable using powder products well past any “expiration” date listed.

— Christine


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Z Avatar

Here’s the thing about expiration dates that people don’t know/forget. They’re put there so the company can’t be sued if you use it past the “expiration/use by date” and it caused irritation or went off or what have you. Who benefits you throwing out an eyeshadow palette after a year and buying the replacement?

Milk has a “sell by” date, that is NOT an expiration date (despite my aunt’s deep held belief that it is), it’s the last day to sell that item so the consumer can use it within the reasonable amount of time before it *does* go off (usually a few days or a week? It’s been a while since I checked milk suggestion specifically).

EXCLUDING THE COMPANIES THAT HAVE IGNORANTLY DECIDED THAT PRESERVATIVES ARE HARMFUL AND BACTERIA AND MOLD AREN’T…..Our current preservatives work *very* well when the starting product hasn’t been contaminated to begin with. Over time and air exposure – mold spores exist everywhere, btw – they break down, but I bet if you’ve developed clean habits (ie -not sticking dirty fingers in jars), it takes a very long time before your products to become truly contaminated beyond the point of use.

Having gone through that….now formulas might degrade over time, powders might become drier, liquids thicker and stickier…but I can tell you with 100% certainty that my second run original Naked eyeshadow palette is still 100% usable and sometimes I do reach for it. I’ve thrown out 10 year old lipsticks not because they molded, but because their fragrance wasn’t good to begin with and it changed a little – which is definitely something to be aware of and an indicator that, yeah, it’s time to chuck it. I have twenty year old loose pigments that you will never pry from my hands. Stuff just can’t (it’s super fucking hard) live in powder, man, it’s a crappy environment for bacteria.

Makeup that HAS molded in my collection were lipsticks that were handmade from an indie company that bought in to the clean beauty fear-mongering and didn’t use real preservatives (a drop of rosemary extract is…..maaaaaybe not enough, you guys). They molded within two years. They would have made me very ill to use.

At the end of my soapbox story…I don’t concern myself with expiration dates. Especially when the product hasn’t been opened (like backups). What I DO concern myself with is what we all concern ourselves with – has the fragrance changed? Is it visually different? Does it smell now? Can I see mold? If I’m questioning whether something has gone off, it probably hasn’t, those things you just know when you see them.

Ana Maria Avatar

The comment you shared is quite valid.
In the end companies have to cover themselves from careless users… like someone storing their makeup and skincare in a moldy humid bathroom in direct sunlight. Or someone not washing hands before putting their fingers in a cream eyeshadow or a jar moisturizer.

Personally even if I am very careful with expiration dates, I do it because I just want my food, makeup and skincare to be in best quality. I know raw nuts will not spoil in my pantry in the next 3 months, but I still keep them in the freezer to be best quality possible. I know that a 4 months mascara won’t give me necessarily an eye infection, but the risk increases with time and I know I have sensitive eyes so I won’t take my chances.

I wish brands would invest more in consumer education on how to store products in best shape for longer, but your point is valid, they make more money when people throw things away and buy new ones.

Agona Avatar

Like food in my fridge/pantry, I go by the smell/texture/taste (lippies) test! Your senses are accurate. …although, it does make me wonder if cheese (especially blues) tasted funky to the first people who made it?

Ana Maria Avatar

I truly believe that blue cheese and other funky moldy or fermented foods were just a matter of someone saying “I’m not going to waste that even if it’s spoiled.” 😅 And we all know someone like that.

I love blue cheese. 😁

Cameron Avatar

I am only concerned with expiry dates on mascara, liquid, and cream products. I am allergic to some kinds of mold so I am very careful with those kinds of products. If it even smells a bit off, I toss it. Better safe than sorry.

Expiry dates on things like nail polish make no sense to me. Unless it’s so gloopy that you can’t spread it around, that stuff pretty much is indestructible. Same thing with powder products. I have a setting powder that has a 6 month PAO. The only ingredient is silica. Did the rocks expire in the ground before they ground it up? That literally makes no sense. Some of the dates are so ridiculous it seems like they want you to toss perfectly good product just so you can buy it again.

Luciana Oliveira Avatar

I agree. But although I am more concerned with cream and liquid products, I trust my senses the most: the smell, the texture, the taste and the aspect of the product say a lot.

Lucie Avatar

I’m not overly concerned about expiration dates with a few exceptions. I won’t take a chance on products that contain SPF and risk the SPF having degraded and losing efficacy. Mascara I try to dump in a reasonable timeframe after opening (though I’m guilty of using a mascara far longer than one really should). Also, with the push to “clean” products the lack of preservatives if I buy them make me far more inclined to adhere to expiration dates. Honestly, I’m sort of annoyed by the vilification of preservatives. They have their place.

But otherwise, powder is essentially a forever product for me and everything else I just go by any changes in sight/smell/texture, though I am more likely to pay a little bit closer attention to expiration dates on a liquid/gel/cream product in a pot that gets exposed to air and my fingers/brushes than a product with a pump or squeeze tube.

Ana Maria Avatar

Personally I take expiration dates into account with due diligence. I track in a spreadsheet each makeup, skincare and body are I own, with the open date date, expiration date and the 3 years mark from manufacturing date (I use the checkcosmetic website for that). I try my best to finish items before expiration date or 3 years from manufacturing.
To some products I am more cautious than the regular expiration dates. I open one mascara at a time and throw it after 3 months. I rarely keep actives like retinol and vitamin C beyond 9-12 months from opening even if theoretically I could keep them longer (I use them up on my hands and body); more than that and I don’t feel them as effective.
I know some say powders last ages, but I have a small makeup collection and I use everything constantly… I personally feel that around 2-3 years even eyeshadows and blushes start performing worse, the pigmentation changes.

To each their own… I also keep ghee and ketchup in the fridge, I won’t judge anyone keeping them in the pantry. 😅

Agona Avatar

Whoa, I just realized—and I have no idea why—that I keep ghee in the pantry but ketchup in the fridge. I go through the ghee much faster though!

Aspasia Avatar

I’m not really concerned about expiration dates. I buy mostly powder-based products except for concealer, foundation, eyeliner pencils, and mascara. I treat my makeup collection respectfully by not sharing my makeup, leaving it in the hot car, or other ways that can make it go bad quickly. That said, I did purchase a creamy powder eyeshadow a few years before the pandemic and it dried up over the last few months. Made me sad because it was a beautiful, metallic lavender shade. Also, one of my liquid eyeliners I received in one of my Ipsy boxes during the past two years dried up while it was stored on my shelf. Now I know only to buy one liquid eyeliner at a time, lol.

Genevieve Avatar

I don’t have any cream products (eyeshadows, blushes etc), so I am not too worried about the expiration dates. However, I do get rid of my mascaras every 4 months or so and regularly destash my lipsticks. Anything that looks or smells off – goes.
That’s why I am trying to use up my Naked 1 palette because I have had it for awhile (much, much later than most) and I am conscious of its use by date. It’s still in good nick.

Nina Avatar

I use makeup up long before the suggested dates. I use the same 8 or 9 products daily so there is no way a date would ever apply to me. I’m a minimalist, that’s how we live. Zero excess. Waste not, want not.

Pauline Avatar

Hardly at all. Expiration dates are mostly made up for liability reasons, and there’s little to no clear criteria for defining them, even for food (there’s a great 99% invisible episode on this). I rarely if ever use up a product and I’m not throwing it away unless there’s something wrong with it, I’m more cautious with eye products like mascara and primer, but even so it’s not the date that I’m focused on.

Mariella Avatar

Unless something has quite clearly gone bad – smell, texture change, drying out, “stuff” growing on the surface…(years ago, this happened with an Estee Lauder e/s palette – something had actually leaked “under” the mirror and the whole thing smelled really foul in just a few months), I keep it. Even with sunscreens, the expiry/best before date doesn’t mean it’s useless after that date; it just means it starts to lose its efficacy so I’ll use those up to, but quickly if I can. I’ve only ever had 2 lipsticks go bad…one was the MAC Craving that used to travel in my purse and I think being exposed to temp changes when I locked my purse in my car at school is what caused it (strangely, it never melted but just took on that rancid smell) and the other was also from MAC – Brick-o-La. But I’ve never had another lipstick, MAC or otherwise, go “bad”.

I have to laugh sometimes, reading “12 months” on an eyeshadow. WHO can finish an eyeshadow in 12 months?

Moxie Avatar

I have lip products that have an expiration date of 2016. The company that made them isn’t even around any more. They smell, look and perform just fine.

Adrienne Avatar

I’m not concerned about the expiration date if it’s a powder product, based on my experience and that of others. I have had some issues with eyeshadows that are too old causing my eyes to itch – not the eyelid skin, but my eyes themselves. Google says it’s allergic conjunctivitis. So I am wary of shadows that are more than about 5 years old, but I will still use them. If they bother me at all, they go. For lipsticks, I toss them only if their scent or texture has changed. I’ve noticed that my powder blushes can be used forever; no problems at all. Liquid foundation and skin care items I’ll get rid of after a couple years; it seems like they get icky fast.

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