When in Doubt, Toss it Out: The Shelf Life of Cosmetics

Few things in life make me happier than an organized makeup drawer. So it’s weird that 75% of the time, mine is a disaster.

Besides clutter, my biggest challenge is knowing when to throw things out.

My frustration with the state of my stash boiled over recently, when I used a past-its-prime tinted sunscreen that made my face itch all day and, frankly, smelled a little funky.

When I got home — and after I scrubbed my face — I dumped the entire contents of my makeup and skin care collection on the floor and picked through every piece. With the help of this handy cosmetic shelf life chart,  I filled two small grocery bags with expired (or questionable) products.

I’m not going to lie: it hurt a little. It’s hard to say goodbye to the NARS ‘orgasm’ blush you dropped 30 bucks on and haven’t made a dent in over the last four years. But research shows that, after a while, cosmetics become a hotbed of microorganisms and bacteria that can exacerbate acne and lead to skin and eye infections. Ain’t nobody got time for that; throw it away!

Here are a few tips I picked up about keeping your cosmetics (and in turn, your skin) so fresh and so clean:

  • I store all my makeup and skin care in a tall vintage chest of drawers in our small master bathroom. They’re a great vertical storage solution if you’re short on space, and have the added benefit of protecting your products from sunlight and moisture, which can breakdown pigments and encourage bacterial growth. I love this mirrored chest of drawers from One Kings Lane.
  • I recently learned about the PAO, or ‘Period After Opening’ symbol, printed on the back of some cosmetics. It’s used on all products sold in Europe, but isn’t included on everything stateside. It’s a symbol of an open jar with a number inside, which represents the shelf life of the product after opening. For example, 6M means pitch it 6 months after opening; 12M, 12 months, etc.
  • Since it’s easy to lose track of time, I started writing the opening date on the back or bottom of my products with a Sharpie. This way, there’s no question about freshness.

Popular Posts

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 7.19.15
    Oxton Yan said:

    Since I have a very sensitive skin, I do this every 6 months or so! All my skincare and beauty products are labeled with the date I first opened them.
    Also, because my bathroom isn’t big, I store my skincare in another room far away from the humidity and the heat. Those two are detrimental and I don’t want to lose money

  2. 7.14.15

    Reblogged this on beautynbling.

  3. 7.7.15
    shay Lyn said:

    Reblogged this on No Luxe Lost.

  4. 7.7.15
  5. 7.7.15
    Hillary said:

    I have to remind myself that it’s OK to throw things away! Great post! -H

  6. 7.6.15
    miafshaw said:

    Reblogged this on miafshaw.

  7. 7.5.15
    Carolina E. said:

    That is really good advice !!

  8. 7.4.15
    someone said:

    Reblogged this on thelivingbeginner and commented:
    beauty isn’t the eyeliner you wear, or the mascara you destroy your eyelashes with, or the blush you use to define your cheek bones.
    beauty is the way your eye is has is own color, its the way your eyelashes flutter like one of a kind, its the way your face is like your finger print.

  9. 7.1.15

    Such a great advice. A lot of times I forgot to check on the time shelf of my makeup and this serves as a reminder for me. Thanks!


  10. 7.1.15

    great post and so true

  11. 7.1.15

    Good advice. It does hurt to spring clean my cosmetics bag, especially since I don’t use makeup like I used to. Saving stuff for a rainy day, or a special date night leads to some funky batches of blush and eye shadow. 😝

  12. 7.1.15
    Erin E. said:

    I do my best to have only one type of makeup/beauty product at a time, which is SO DIFFICULT but forces me to use one product until it’s gone, and that’s usually long before the suggested throw-out date.

    That being said, I’ve had the same Bobbi Brown bronzer and blush for going on 3 years now, and it probably IS time to replace those. Le sigh.

  13. 7.1.15
    Baheya said:

    Reblogged this on An Artist at Heart.

  14. 7.1.15

    Such helpful information! I should write the dates on my cosmetics as well! thanks for the tip:)

  15. 7.1.15

    I’m not keeping anything older than 12 months no matter what it is! If it’s makeup which usually lasts up to 12M anyways I either throw it away or gift it! Or I’ll do a blog sale – now that I have a blog! LOL
    Btw I will have a blog sale in about two weeks so if you want you might have a look!
    Lots of xx, Annie | Annie’s Beauty

  16. 7.1.15
    Shikha04 said:

    That was such a useful info. you shared with us. Thanks. I too need to sort out my cosmetics now.

  17. 7.1.15
    ladibekky said:

    Reblogged this on Rebecca's Blog!!.

  18. 6.30.15

    Thanks for the PSA! I have so many high end splurges like Dior/Lancome to throw out, and I’m just putting it off :(

  19. 6.30.15

    Your PAO point is so interesting. I wonder why it’s not included on all of our products stateside! Guess I’m going to have to go digging. (Sigh.)

  20. 6.30.15

    I just found out about this and have been putting off going through my cosmetics drawer. Most of the things I am putting off throwing away aren’t even things that I use that often. It’s just painful (especially when you’re a broke college student like me) to throw away “good” things. As someone who has struggled with acne before, I know how important it is to keep bacteria off your face, but it doesn’t make throwing things out any easier! Thanks for the post!

  21. 6.30.15
    MLG said:

    Reblogged this on Mel Raising Hell.

  22. 6.30.15
    j9767 said:

    An easy, accessible, and organized makeup counter is crucial for me. I swear if I cannot find something or had an open concealer spill over everything my entire day is ruined. Good advice, every woman can relate to!

  23. 6.30.15

    It’s so crazy that some of the products have such a short shelf life. I understand why they are but maybe companies shouldnt make huge palettes of blushes and highlighters if they expire in 2 years and the average person with more than 2-3 options is going to even make a dent. Unless you are a makeup artist or on a “hit pan” mission most of my powder products I never finish unless it’s a face powder or my favorite crease color eyeshadow :( such a sad day when you have to throw them away.

    • 7.19.15
      Oxton Yan said:

      They do it on purpose! They want you to to keep on buying these even if you are halfway through. We should fight for smaller sizes 😉

  24. 6.30.15
    Zovesta said:

    *sob* No… no!! I’ve been trying to avoid that chart because I have too much makeup that needs to be pitched. =( No point fighting it, I guess… thanks for the PSA.

  25. 6.30.15

    Great post and so true. I noticed that my skin got a lot better after I started paying more attention to the shelf life of my makeup products and not using things that were old/expired/etc. Makes the biggest difference ever!

  26. 6.30.15

    This is great advice, I found the same thing recently when my foundation looked a different color then it use to. ( luckily it was drugstore)