We are all guilty of leaving certain beauty products at the back of our drawers for years before using them again.

But fashion and beauty experts at UK-based PublicDesire.com have revealed that leaving cosmetics untouched for too long can cause damage to our faces – including irritation and infection, particularly with products used on the eye.


With this in mind, the retailer has revealed how long the most popular products last, advising that checking expiry dates on cosmetics and regularly refreshing make-up bags are essential.

The symbol to look out for on the product is the outline of an open jar. This includes the letter ‘m’, which means month, and a number before it, which stands for the number of months you should keep it once opened.

A spokesperson for PublicDesire.com said: ‘Makeup products don’t last forever, and creamy products in particular only have a shelf life of around six months.

‘So, it’s very likely that the majority of makeup wearers in the UK are regularly using products that passed their expiry date months, if not years ago. ‎


‘Whilst it doesn’t harm you to use some out-of-date makeup products, some provide moisture which bacteria thrives on, and mascara and eyeliner can cause eye irritations or infections.’

So how long does your make up last?

Lipstick (18 months – two years)

Look after your lipsticks well and they can last up to two years. It’s important to remember to never leave them without a lid on and clean with a wipe occasionally to remove the top layer of bacteria growth.


Lip Gloss (One year)

In a similar way to mascara, pumping the wand in the tube is also bad for lip-gloss. If your gloss is discoloured, or different in texture and thickness, it’s probably best to throw it away.

Foundation (One year)

Liquids and cream foundations only last between 6-12 months, as they contain water, oils and other hydrating agents, which decrease the shelf life and increase bacteria.

Powders can last up to two years, as it’s harder for bacteria to grow in products that are solid.

It’s important to note that the ingredients in the foundation determine the germ growth.


Always read the back of the label and make a note of when your foundation is due to expire. Wash your makeup tools regularly and also wash your hands before you apply.

Makeup sponges (Wash after use, then throw away after one month)

Blending sponges should be replaced ideally every month and washed with cleanser after every use.

It is important to replace these, and the signs you need to throw it away can include any deformities on the sponge, skin breaks outs, and discolouring.

Powder/Blush/Bronzer/Eye Shadow (18 months – two years)

Although most powders, blushes and bronzers have a shelf life of 18 months to two years, your powders should be fine even after they reach their expiration date.


Powders can become hard and have poor application after their expiration date, but you can minimise the bacterial contamination by lightly cleaning the product regularly and avoiding leaving the product exposed to air.

Throw away powders with broken lids and check for mould and any unusual smells.

Fragrances (8-10 years)

Although fragrances have a shelf life of 8-10 years, they can last for much longer if you store them correctly.

Avoid heated rooms, strong lights and always keep the lid securely on between usages.

The best place to keep your fragrances is a dark cupboard but regularly check for discolouration.


Mascara (Four to six months)

Because it can come in contact with your eyes, it is important to discard mascara after it has been opened for three months.

This is to prevent bacteria from causing eye irritations or infections. Most mascara tubes are labelled with a shelf life of 4-6 months, so it is important to know this.

It is also recommended to avoid pumping your mascara, as this pushes air into the tube, which can dry out the mascara and cause bacterial contamination. When placing your wand into the tube, swirl it around in a circular motion to prevent air bubbles.

Throw away your mascara if it’s dried out, or has a different texture, colour or scent. Also, NEVER add water.


Cream Blush/Cream Eye Shadow (Six months)

Creamy makeup products will only last around six months due to them providing more moisture for bacteria to thrive on.

Keep an eye on creamy products for mould, smell or separation, and throw away if they look funny.

Eyeliner (Six months-one year)

Liquid eyeliner lasts around four to six months as it’s a product that is fairly susceptible to bacteria.

Pencil eyeliners can last up to two years but the cap should be kept tightly closed. (The same rules also apply for lip pencils as well.)


If you’ve had an eye infection, always throw away eyeliners that you’ve previously used, as this could increase the risk of getting another infection.

Nail polish (One year)

Nail polish is one product that does go out of date. Once you open a polish, the product can evaporate which causes it to thicken and separate.

Always remember to keep the lid securely fastened as this can make the product expire quicker.


Concealer (12-18 months)

If your concealer is dried out, has a change in texture, becomes cakey/lumpy or smells different, throw it out immediately.

Not only will the concealer be making your spots worse but it will also prevent you from getting a perfectly blended makeup look.