Your Complete Guide to Understanding the Expiry Dates of Beauty Products

Did you know that cosmetic products come with an expiry date? In this article, we’ll go through the basics of shelf life and expiry dates of beauty products.

Difference Between Shelf Life, Expiry Date, and Period After Opening

Terms such as shelf life, expiry date, and the period after opening are often used interchangeably. However, there’s a vast difference in what they mean.

Production Date

Production date is the date when your product was manufactured. More precisely, it is the date when the batch of cosmetics was produced. Manufacturers can either print this date or omit it from the packaging.

Expiry Date 

This is the date after which your cosmetic product will be expired and should not be used anymore. This date is usually printed directly on product package in the form month/year or day/month/year, for example: Exp. 09/21 means that you can use the makeup only till September, 2021; Exp. 15/06/2021 means that makeup can be used only before 15 of June, 2021.

Note that if the shelf life of the cosmetic product is more than 30 months (e.g. 3 years), the expiry date will probably not be printed. But this doesn’t mean that you can use the product during whole 3 years or more.



Period After Opening 

This is the time in months when the product will remain in usable condition after you have used the product for the first time. Instead of words, a symbol of an open jar of cream is typically used and the time in months is either written alongside it or inside it.

Thus, if the symbol shows a period of 6M, it means you can use the product for upto six months after opening it.


Shelf Life 

The term "shelf life" might seem interchangeable with drug's "expiration date." The shelf life generally relates to a drug's quality over a specified period of time, howeve the expiration date relates to both quality and safety of a medication at a specific point in time.

For further clarity regarding these terms, have a look at the visual below.




What Happens If You Use an Expired Beauty Product?

Reactions to using expired cosmetic products largely depend on the expired product and the time since it has expired. Thus, in some cases, there could be no reaction, whereas in other cases, there could be an extremely adverse side effect. For instance, if you use an expired eyeliner, you could get a very serious eye infection if mold and bacteria have grown inside the tube.

On the contrary, if you use an expired powdered makeup product, you may not observe a significant impact. However, in case you don’t notice an adverse reaction, it doesn’t imply that that the product is working properly, neither does it mean that there aren’t excessive microorganisms in the product that could lead to harm.

If you use expired cosmetics that are also drugs, such as products that contain sun protection elements or acne medication, there’s no surety that the product will function as advertised. Hence, you may not receive any benefit of the active ingredient such as acne treatment or sun protection, and you could even experience skin irritation.

Tips to Track Your Beauty Product’s Expiration

It’s quite easy to lose track of the expiry dates, particularly because the date is calculated from the time it’s opened. However, it’s not that difficult to monitor the expiration of your beauty products. You only need two things to track the expiration dates of a cosmetic product including a market and a masking tape.

Before you throw away the packaging and start using the product, check the symbols to calculate the expiry date, write it down on a piece of tape, and stick it onto the product.

This way, you’ll be able to keep using your cosmetic products before they expire and can keep track of products that have to be replaced more regularly such as eyeliners and mascaras. 

Last Few Words

While it might be tempting to use a product after it has reached its expiry date, it’s highly recommended to avoid this practice. It may not seem practical to throw away half-used tubes of makeup, but always keep in mind that the cost of using an expired beauty product is much higher than the cost of throwing it away. So, always keep a track of the expiry dates of beauty products and avoid using them after it has been reached.


Anderson, E., & Li, J. (2020, April 27). Expiring Products – Cosmetics. From Michigan State University:

Shelf Life and Expiration Dates. (n.d.). From Cosmetics Info:

Dealer, Special to The Plain. “Shelf Life vs. Expiration Date on Medication: NetWellness.” Cleveland, 24 Apr. 2013,quorum sensing


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