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Is your make-up out of date? Use our guide to make-up expiry dates

Georgina Smith / 12 July 2016 ( 21 November 2019 )

It's easy to forget the expiry dates of your make-up and beauty products.

Eye shadow, lipstick, powder, foundation can all go out of date before you think

I, for one, have been very guilty in the past of using foundations, mascaras and creams well beyond what's recommended by the manufacturers. But it's important to pay a little more attention because out-of-date make-up can harbour all sorts of bacteria after a while.

How do I check the expiry date of my make-up?

Rather than show an exact date by which a product should be used, manufacturers will often state how long it should be used after opening. They do this by using the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol. It's that little picture of what looks like a tub with a lid coming off it; in it will be a number followed by an M. This shows the number of months you should use the product after opening it. For instance, 6M means you should stop using the product after six months.

Losing track

The only problem with PAO dates is that, if, like me, you have absolutely no idea when you bought your last bottle of foundation, you'll have equally limited knowledge of when to discard it. And because each type of product has its own PAO specification, and you use it at different rates, it's very easy to lose track, even if you make a mental note.

Typical expiry dates for common make-up products

To give you an idea of what lasts for how long, we've compiled a list of some common make-up and beauty products with their typical PAOs. You may find it surprising to see how quickly some items go out of date.


Moisturiser typically lasts for around one year, though some ingredients may deteriorate over time and become less effective. For instance, if you use a retinol night or eye cream, if it's exposed for too long to air and sunlight, the retinol will break down.

Does your moisturiser work?


If you use a liquid foundation, it will usually have a PAO life of six months to a year. That's because it has a high water or oil content, which offers a nice and cosy home for bacteria after a certain amount of time. Powder foundation will last longer because of the lower moisture content, so you can expect it to usually last for up to two years. To make sure foundation lasts as long as possible, don't forget to keep your make-up brushes clean.

How to make the most of make up brushes


Mascara has one of the shortest lives in the make-up world. With an average PAO of four to six months, mascara is particularly prone to becoming unusable. Replace your mascara if it starts to dry out and never add water – you'll only create a lovely little haven for undesirables. And if you ever have an eye infection, replace your mascara immediately to avoid reinfection.


If you don't run out of your favourite colour beforehand, you'll usually get two years out of it before you have to say goodbye.

Our tips for luscious lips

Nail polish:

Nail polish also has a relatively long life. Most bottles of nail polish will have a PAO date of two years. Though, once opened they're very susceptible to drying out or thickening so much they become unusable. You can buy products to thin out any nail varnish that has thickened too much, but don’t be tempted to add nail varnish remover, unless  you desperately need that colour there and then – in the short term it will thin it and make it usable again, but the remover will destroy the varnish beyond repair within a short space of time.


Your favourite scent can last for a very long time – anywhere from eight to ten years if stored correctly. You'll get more life out of your favourite scent if you make sure you always keep the lid on to avoid exposure to air, and if you keep it away from sunlight. Ideally, keep the bottle at a constant temperature. And whilst storing it in the fridge may seem like a good idea, it may actually break down the compounds quicker.

Keeping tabs on your make-up

Why not keep a fine-tipped permanent marker in your make-up bag or drawer? You can then mark each bottle or item as you open it. It's also helpful to know you can contact the manufacturer with the product's batch code to find out the date the product was made and what the recommended shelf life might be.

Alternatively, visit and use the cosmetic check calculator. Here you may be able to find out the manufacture date of your make-up online. They also have many useful tips for keeping your make-up and beauty products as fresh as possible.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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