How long do beauty products last?

Skincare and make-up don’t last for ever. Here’s how to know when your beautifying favourites are past their best
Photography: Stocksy

There’s nothing like spending time at home to inspire a serious Marie Kondo-style sort-out. And if you have decided to tackle your skincare and make-up products, you may have unearthed some treasures that haven’t been touched for a while. Read on to find out if that back-of-the-drawer find should be destined for the bin…

Read the labels

Did you know that, just like food, all beauty products have sell-by dates? On the back of the packaging of every product, you’ll find a little picture of a tub with a number inside it. This is known as the PAO (period-after-opening) symbol and indicates how long the product is good for once it has been opened (note: not from when it was bought). If you’re using the correct amount of product regularly, it should last the number of months stated on the label.

Look and sniff

Another key indicator that a product may have passed its best is how it looks and smells. Some products, like foundations, can separate over time. Lipsticks and cream blushers can get a slightly milky film on the surface, or dry out and crack. Creams like moisturisers and eye cream can slightly curdle, and skincare with active ingredients (things like your vitamin C serum or retinol night cream) can start to smell differently. If it doesn’t look or smell right, don’t use it!

Germs glorious germs

Products like mascara, liquid eyeliner and anything that touches your skin and then goes back into its packaging are a breeding site for germs. This is more true for make-up than skincare because generally with skin products, you apply them onto clean skin with clean hands. Make-up however is often touched up on the go or during the day when your skin and hands have been exposed to far more. So if you’ve suddenly rediscovered that amazing mascara you bought two years ago that you thought you’d lost, sorry but it’s best to put it straight in the bin (or recycle, if you can) and reorder immediately.

It’s all about the storage

Storing your products properly will help their longevity. It’s always best to keep any product – make-up or skincare – out of direct sunlight, as heat can break the ingredients down. So a bathroom cupboard wins over a sunlit dressing table every time.

How long should beauty products last?

Mascara – six months
Eyeshadow – nine to 36 months
Foundation – 12 months
Liquid Liner – six months
Moisturiser – six to 12 months
Serum – six to 12 months
Face mask – six to 12 months

Time to restock

If, after all that Marie Kondo action, you’re now in need of a top-up, here are some brilliant buys:

In need of a new mascara? Try No7 The Full 360 Ultra Mascara
Its curved brush and dense bristles create the ultimate lash lift.

Looking for a lippie? Try Huda Beauty Power Bullet Matte Lipstick Rose Collection
Nobody does a statement lip like Huda and this matte lipstick collection delivers a perfect finish without any of the drying effect.

Time for a new base? Try IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream Original SPF 50+
This is the kind of beauty multi-tasker we love. It delivers a medium coverage tint that can be built up or buffed out and a high-level SPF to protect the skin.

After a new liquid liner? Try Fenty Beauty Flyliner Longwear Liquid Eyeliner Cuz I’m Black
If creating the perfect eyeliner flick is your #lifegoal right now, this fine-nibbed felt-tip style liner will help you achieve it.

Ready for a moisturiser reboot? Try Ole Henriksen Let’s Get Luminous Brightening Vitamin C Essentials Set
This skincare trio contains a moisturiser combining powerful vitamin C with yuzu extract, a potent antioxidant which can help defend the skin against the impact of the external environment, this is one hard-working face cream.

Serum past its best? Try The Ordinary Buffet Serum (30ml)
A gorgeous silky serum that’s packed with plant oils to help rebuild and strengthen the skin. You can use it day or night on clean skin under your moisturiser.

Feel like a new face mask? Try Simple Protect & Glow Clay Mask (50ml)
Exceptionally satisfying to use, this clay based mask draws out impurities on the skin and only takes five minutes to get to work. It’s also combined with vitamin C and E to give skin a boost.