How Do I Know When My Cosmetics Products Will Expire?


Cosmetic products have an undeniable appeal to consumers, especially for beauty addicts. Every time there is a cosmetic counter; it seems as if “hoarding” beauty products are irresistible. While we may not use all of the makeup and skincare products we have bought, the collection proves enough even to be just a pleasant sight. We have our favorites, and sometimes, there are days when we want to try a product we have pushed back on our own makeup counters at home. After all the time it has been with us, do we really know if these beauty products are still safe to apply on ourselves?

Get to Know the PAO Symbol


PAO stands for Period After Opening, which is the version of the expiration date for cosmetics. Notice that this period is unlike the expiration dates you see in food products and other commodities in the market, which a use-by-date structure. The PAO indicates how long you can use makeup products after you have opened them. It is a guideline that tells you when you should already be letting go of your cosmetics.

The PAO’s format includes a number and the letter M. This designates the lifespan of the cosmetic product in months. For example, if the PAO shows 6M, it means that product only remains usable 6 months after opening it.

Often, lifespan information will be indicated on the makeup product unless it falls into one of the following situations (source):

  • the product lasts 30 months or less and already has a best before the date indicated
  • samples and other products intended for single use only
  • those packaged in a way that it will not have exposure to external elements
  • long lasting products that cannot affect safety even if it declines as time passes by

When Do Your Makeup Products Expire


Now that you know how to identify the lifespan of your cosmetics, here is a guide to the expiration dates of each of the beauty products you own:

3 to 7 weeks

Loofas and sponges

3 months

Liquid eyeliner and mascara

6 months to 1 year

Moisturizers, anti-aging products, skin cream, liquid foundation, sunscreen, liquid concealer, and anti-acne products

2 years

Hairstyling products, shampoo, conditioner, cologne and fragrances, nail polish, toothpaste, and shaving cream

3 years

Mouthwash, powder makeup, deodorant and antiperspirant, eye pencil, lip pencil, lipstick, and lip gloss

How to Identify If Your Makeup is Already Past Its PAO

Aside from the obvious PAO indicated on the packaging, there are other telltale signs that your makeup is already expired. If you are reluctant to dispose of your treasured beauty products just because the packaging says it is past its lifespan, here are some of the signs that say there is no other way but to dump them:



A foul-smelling mascara is an indication that bacteria has already made the product’s tube a breeding ground. It should smell gassy, which indicates that if you put it on, you will just get a multitude of infections for your eyes. If it does not smell gassy to you, just smell or observe anything that seems off.

Liquid Foundation

Without opening the foundation, you can immediately tell if it is already expired due to discoloration. If you want to observe better, you can have a feel of the product. You will notice a change in its texture as well as smell.


Expired concealers exhibit similar signs to the expired foundation: discoloration and foul smell.


Lipstick is one of the cosmetic products that can be tricky to identify once expired. One of the most effective signs that it should not be used anymore is its dried up appearance and change in texture. If you try putting it on your lips, you will observe that it has already lost its creaminess and may not even go on your skin as you apply it. However, some lipsticks have less creamy formulations and so assessing if it is expired based on creaminess may not be a good idea. For this type of lipstick, smelling is a better way to determine if it should go straight to the bin; if it smells stale, then it is your cue to do so.


Expired eyeliners have a white spot on the tip of the liner, which cannot be removed even if the pencil is sharpened. For liquid liners, expiration is indicated by clumping and drying up.


If you see a dull gray film over the blush, this means that it is already expired. A change in texture is also a good indicator.

Eye Shadow

Smell your eyeshadow and look for any change from its original color to show that it has already gone bad.

What to Do to Extend the Life of Your Cosmetics


Even though the PAO tells you how long the cosmetic products remains usable after opening, it could still go bad even before the indicated time due to improper use and storage. In order to preserve and extend the life of your makeup, make sure that you practice proper hygiene as well as care and maintenance of the products. Wash your hands, face, and any part of your body you will put the product on before you apply it. Store it in the right place. Some makeup products should be stored in specific conditions in order to prevent bacteria from accumulating on it. Regularly wash your makeup brushes and sponges so that you do not transfer bacteria from once source to another. Putting some effort in keeping your makeup and makeup tools clean will help you preserve the lifespan of your cosmetics.

Reminders About Cosmetic Expiry

Here are some things to keep in mind about the lifespan of your cosmetics:

  • Always look at the product stamp to find the PAO. Trust this guideline. It was put there for a purpose.
  • If you are hinting that something is off with any of your makeup stashes regarding color, texture, scent, or any other characteristic, you probably are right. Trust your instincts.
  • Most makeup products expire within a year of opening.
  • Your cosmetic products can expire earlier than expected if not used and stored properly.
  • Eye makeup tends to expire faster than other cosmetic products.
  • Using expired makeup may lead to serious infections.
  • All products deteriorate in some way whether it is in safety, quality, or both. So trust that there is a time to let go of your makeup products and buy new ones.

Do you have questions about cosmetic products and their expiration dates? If you do, just comment below.