This Is What Happens If You Use Expired Makeup

What happens if you use expired makeup? We asked a dermatologist for her expert take. Plus: top tips to detect expired beauty products and keep your makeup fresh. Skincare and makeup products can be very intentional purchases. We choose what we think will make us look and feel our best. Also, these products typically don’t come cheap. While we always purchase food with an expiration date in mind, we don’t often think the same way about our beauty products. But perhaps we should! After all, topical products can enter the body even beyond the skin’s surface. So, what happens if you use expired makeup? Alicia Zalka, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Surface Deep, clues us in.

What happens if you use expired makeup?

Dr. Zalka begins by saying that makeup and skincare products alike absolutely have an expiration date to heed.

Its Potency Can Change

“While some expired products lose potency with age, others get more concentrated and can potentially cause skin irritation,” she begins. For instance, she warns that while sunscreens may become less potent with time, a glycolic serum may become more acidic or harsh past its expiration date.

It Can Provoke Skin Sensitivities

Next, as Dr. Zalka continues, “Allergic reactions and skin sensitivity can be a result of using a product that has degraded over time or has been stored improperly, [as] makeup pigments may change or decompose with time.” On top of that, “They won’t provide the same flawless look you’ve grown accustomed to when the product was fresh.” She then shares that the products most likely to dry out and flake more over time and with repeated use include:

It Can Lead to Inflammation

Then, as a final caution, “You might find eye or lip inflammation if some makeup particles dislodge onto a delicate mucous membrane or skin surface.” For that reason, such products “should undergo the highest scrutiny for freshness, cleanliness, and quality.” Dr. Zalka concludes by saying that the eyes and lips are more delicate and porous. Because of that, they’re more susceptible to irritation by expired or unclean products. Woman applying makeup in the morning, making sure that it hasn't expired


Now that you know what happens when you use expired makeup and skincare products, how do you know when they’re past their prime to begin with?

Look for this kind of expiration date

First things first, Dr. Zalka says to be sure to check the product container. While you won’t find an expiration stamp identical to the one on your favorite yogurt, it’ll likely have something called a PAO mark. “This is a symbol that appears on the packaging that looks like a little jar, which refers to ‘period after opening,'” Dr. Zalka explains. “It’ll reveal a number with an ‘M’ that indicates how many months the product can be kept after you open it.” For example, a PAO mark reading “9M” indicates that the product has a shelf life of nine months after you break the seal open.

Use your senses for best judgment

Then, when in doubt, rely on your senses to determine if your makeup has expired. “Use your senses of touch, smell, and sight to determine if your product is still fresh and clean,” Dr. Zalka advises. “An old product will take on a new or unpleasant odor. Do the sniff test.” Also, expired makeup or foundation may separate and change color, which you should be able to feel on your skin.

Pay attention to the type of product

“Liquid foundations and liquid makeup of all kinds should be replaced every six months or sooner if a change is noted,” Dr. Zalka adds. “The content of these fluid products may more easily invite contaminants than powder or dry makeup.” Lastly, makeup and moisturizers packaged in jars or tubs with a large open surface will be ready to be replaced sooner than more airtight delivery systems, such as tubes and airless pump bottles. Young man applying foundation at his vanity, wondering what happens if you use expired makeup

5 Tips to Keep Your Beauty Products Fresh

Here are a few tips from Dr. Zalka on how to avoid using expired products. Plus: other best practices when it comes to buying and storing makeup and skincare products.

1. Avoid Extreme heat

Dr. Zalka tells us that unopened makeup and skincare products can typically last up to 18 months when kept in a cool, dry place. However, “If there’s high humidity or great temperature variations, all bets are off,” she warns. “For example, don’t expect your makeup to last the test of time if you leave it for days or months in your car during hot and muggy summer months.” The temperatures inside of car in the summer can reach well over 100 degrees. Essentially, the delicate balance of thoughtful ingredients in your favorite products (especially clean products) is chemically altered or broken down by the heat. This changes the composition of the entire formula, can compromise efficacy, and may even become toxic.

2. Don’t stockpile

Speaking of opting for clean skincare and makeup products, Dr. Zalka says it’s “excellent for avoiding chemicals, [but] this translates to shorter shelf life.” In light of this, she recommends buying these products only in small quantities. From there, you may want to replace them more often. Read: It may be tempting to stock up on certain products during a holiday sale or a special. However, aim to do so only if you know you’ll use them well within the expiration date.

3. Refrigerate Certain Products

To prolong the lifespan of certain products—including lipstick and face cream—your best bet may be to keep things cool. Dr. Zalka suggests storing certain products that only get occasional use in the refrigerator. Bonus: You can also invest in a skincare fridge to give your beauty products a dedicated home in your bathroom. Makeup and other face products in a skincare fridge to prolong its shelf life

4. Do an annual clean

“Once a year, it’s a great idea to do a clean sweep through your makeup bag, the bathroom shelf, or drawer to get rid of expired items,” Dr. Zalka shares. “But, unlike a carton of milk, a skincare item might not have a clear expiration date, nor will it turn ‘sour’ to let you know it’s time to pitch it.” (Be sure to follow the protocols outlined above to avoid the side effects of using expired makeup.)

5. Apply with Cleanliness in Mind

Finally, Dr. Zalka emphasizes being mindful about how you handle and apply your products. “Always use clean fingers or applicators to avoid introducing microbes into the product container,” she advises. Plus, dipping unwashed fingers that still have traces of another product into your cream or concealer can change the chemical composition and contaminate the product. The solution? “Periodically, wipe off the applicator tip or opening of your product tube or bottle with alcohol to keep it as clean as possible,” she shares.
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