Cosmetics aren’t required by law to have expiration dates, but they do have a shelf life. Once opened, cosmetics can begin to go bad, growing bacteria and mold and becoming unsafe to use. According to the Food and Drug Administration, mascara and eyeliner have the shortest life, three to four months.
Here’s a guide to cosmetics’ shelf life from model and wellness author Dayle Haddon:
Liquid foundation, three to six months (cream foundation can last four to six months). Foundation in a bottle should last three to six months, but wide-mouthed jars can expose the product to more air and should be tossed sooner. You’ll know it’s time to buy a new bottle when the ingredients begin to settle or separate, the texture thickens or thins, or the smell changes.
Concealer, six to eight months.
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Powders, pressed powder, eye shadow, blush, one year.
Mascara, three months. Never keep it longer than that (air pushes bacteria back into the tube). Never “pump” your mascara.
Lip gloss and lipstick, one year.
Eye and lip pencils should last one year or more, but you should sharpen pencils at least once a week to prevent bacteria from being transferred to your eye area. If the material dries or crumbles, replace it.
Facial cleansers and moisturizers, six months; facial toners, one year.
Natural cosmetics, six months (“all-natural body washes,” etc.). Among other cosmetics that are likely to have an unusually short shelf life are “all-natural” products that contain plant-derived ingredients (which are conducive to bacterial growth) as well as products without preservatives.