Here's the rule of thumb: texture, colour, scent.
1. Note the state of these three factors when you purchase a product.
2. Keep the date of purchase written on the bottom if you're forgetful.
3. Never hesitate to check when the product was manufactured using the databases on Check Fresh or Check Cosmetics.
|Batch/Lot code for Check Cosmetics type sites, EXP for sun protection and general "best before"|
Companies must put expiry dates on products with sun protection, since that is the one factor which will 100% lose efficacy post date. A good trick is to toss most sunscreens within the year it is opened, and most definitely once the expiry date has passed. You only have one skin for your entire life - don't get sunburned.
Powder products like blush, eyeshadow, and bronzer are typically fine for years. Again, abide by the texture colour and scent. If you never wash your makeup brushes and powders, you may notice a shiny, dark crust developing on the surface of the product. This is a buildup of oil, dirt and possible bacteria which has been absorbed by the powder. Scrape it off using a clean spooly brush (free at Sephora) and please, WASH YOUR BRUSHES. (see my methods here)
Note: Keep a spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol to spray on the interior and exterior of any dry makeup product. It will not disturb the powder/cream and it will kill bacteria. This is great for lipsticks - if they haven't started to smell toxic and develop a fuzzy coating, keep lipsticks fresh and clean with a quick swipe of rubbing alcohol on a paper towel.
Creams like foundation, lip gloss and concealer should be finished within the year. If it's in a pump bottle or tube, give it 2. Separating of the pigment and base oil/water will most likely happen within a year. Anything with a doe foot applicator needs to hit the trash sooner - bacteria from your skin, blemishes, mouth, etc. will thrive in creamy tubes.
Let me preface this by saying that I am one of the lucky few who has never experienced any kind of eye infection. I can attribute it to being anti-sharing, frequent hand washing, and luck.
Mascara - 4 months with constant use, 1 year MAX if you are a clean freak.
Liner - sharpen often and swipe a piece of cotton with rubbing alcohol over the tip to sanitize. Also, get that alcohol paper towel into gel liner pots if someone else uses it.
Don't forget to toss all dip-tubes and sanitize solid products if you ever get an eye infection!
Hair Care, Fragrance, Nail Polish
Use your common sense - I don't set a time limit since you don't need to. Hair products are no concern, fragrance usually has a date printed (1-2 years) and nail polish dries up or separates within 5 years. Always keep fragrances hidden from the sun, since light is the biggest culprit for changing scent and colour. You can find nail polish thinner at beauty supply stores to extend the life of a thickening formula. Also, don't buy the claim that nail polish "expires" - those solvents can kill anything.
The most common signs of expiration in cosmetics also follow the texture, colour, scent rule: oil separating in creams, gels drying out, fragrances turning rancid, oils going cloudy, grey spots developing, etc. All of this = product is going bad. After a year, use up quick or say goodbye.
Keep in mind that any product in a jar is VERY likely to lose its effectiveness as time goes on.
"The ingredients most beneficial for your skin are not stable, which means they won't be effective if exposed to light and air, which is exactly what happens when you take the lid off a jar. No matter how great the formula, it all begins to break down when you first open it! There is also the issue of hygiene; dipping your fingers into a jar transfers bacteria from your hands into the product, and that causes the important ingredients to further deteriorate." - Paula's Choice
So in general, stick to tubes.
Every year, I try to use up my entire stock of opened products. I very rarely keep an opened product for more than 2 years. Most skincare products that I put onto my face expire in 6-12 months anyways, so I always pay attention to dates and pass items off to friends and family who could use them in time. Why put a separated, rancid lotion on your face when it could make any skin issue 10x worse? JUST TOSS IT!
You can do it, babes.