The obvious answer is that a product expires when it no longer works. But when it comes to moisturizers, how does one really know? And how old does a shampoo bottle have to be before it stops cleaning the hair? Products lose their effectiveness slowly over time and of course, this depends on the conditions under which the products are stored. Products stored on a window sill exposed to the heat of the sun become less effective sooner than the same product stored in a cool dark cabinet. There are many people who will find a ten year old hair product in a bathroom vanity, decide to use the product because it “looks fine” and find it still works. 

A product may also be deemed expired when it is no longer pleasing to the user. If the color of the product changes, like if the thickness of the product changes. A product is also considered expired if it becomes contaminated, overgrown with bacteria, mold or fungus. Although this may be obvious at times, a green accumulation of a foul smelling substance on the rim of a jar for example, oftentimes, the consumer has no way of knowing when a product is contaminated. 

So when does a cosmetic expire? Nobody knows for sure. But here are some basic product expiration guidelines. After these time periods, replace your over-the-counter cosmetics.

  • 3 months - eye makeup (especially liquid eye liner & mascara)
  • 6 months - “Anti-aging” Moisturizers (especially those with Vitamin C) 
  • 9 - 12 months - Cream color cosmetics, lip gloss
  • 12 months - cream blush & foundations, powder color cosmetics, including eye shadow
  • 24 months - shampoos, conditioners, body wash, moisturizers, eyeliner pencils, lipstick, powdered blush
  • > 24 months - Products that appear pure (no odor, physically looks good - use at your own risk) 
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