Wednesday, 27 February 2019 21:17

Expiration Education

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While few would drink a glass of expired milk or eat that container of unidentifiable leftovers lurking at the back of the refrigerator, many individuals – professionals and clients alike – use skin care and beauty products far past their prime. Whether this is caused by penny pinching or ignorance, using products beyond their shelf life can lead to less efficacy and potential for bacteria growth. And, in some cases, using expired products could even be dangerous, as in the case of expired sunscreen, which leaves the skin vulnerable to ultraviolet damage. To stay safe and get the most out of products purchased, professionals should always follow expiration dates on product labels and teach clients to do the same. For quick reference, below are some pointers for best practices when it comes to shelf life.


Products that are unopened typically last longer than opened products which have been exposed to light, air, bacteria, and so forth. Once opened, follow the directions on the label, throwing the product away once it has reached its Period After Opening (PAO) date, which usually looks like a jar symbol with a number followed by an “M.” For example, 12M means the product should be used within 12 months of being opened.


Discard a product immediately if:

  • it appears discolored
  • smells unusual
  • becomes runny, lumpy, or otherwise changes consistency


To reduce contamination and potential for bacteria growth:

  • use applicators, spatulas, or products with pumps when possible
  • wash hands before use
  • keep products away from sunlight, air, humidity, and heat
  • use a permanent marker to write the date the product was opened
  • do not share products with others
  • do not add water to a product to change its consistency or texture
  • do not store products in the refrigerator (they are made to withstand average temperature fluctuations, not long-term heat or cold)


Because of lack of regulations, many products do not list expiration dates. In general, use the following as a guide for maximum shelf life.

Three to Six Months

  • Mascara
  • Eyeliner

Six Months to One Year

  • Moisturizers
  • Serums
  • Toners
  • Liquid, stick, or cream concealers and foundations

One Year

  • Lip balm
  • Cleansers
  • Alpha and beta hydroxy acid exfoliants
  • Eye and skin creams
  • Antiaging and antiacne products

One to Two Years

  • Sunscreen

Two to Three Years

  • Powder-based makeup (blush, bronzer, eye shadow)
  • Lipstick, lip gloss, and lip pencils (six to 12 months, if used daily)

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