shelf life of cosmetics

How long do your cosmetics last?

I have been cleaning out recently, and the medicine cabinets in my house have come under scrutiny. I’m embarrassed to tell you how old some of the products are in my children’s and guest bathrooms because those rooms don’t get used all that much.

The shelf life or expiration date of a cosmetic or personal beauty product is the period of time the manufacturer has determined the product will be at its best. I was amazed to learn that there are no regulations or requirements under current U.S. laws that require cosmetic companies to print expiration dates on their products. Some products, like sunscreens, are classified as drugs and are required to have expiration dates. Makeup and moisturizers that contain sunscreen are regulated and also must have expiration dates. For all the products deemed only as cosmetics, it is up to consumers to be vigilant about the safety of those products because cosmetics can breed bacteria and cause infections.

Sometimes manufacturers will have a batch code on the product. By looking up the batch code you will learn the manufacture date. To find batch codes go to

If you use European cosmetic products you might be familiar with their requirements. Products with a shelf life of over 30 months must show a “period after opening” (POA) time. This is the amount of time the product will still be effective after it has been opened. An open jar symbol is used.

shelf life of cosmetics timer

Any European product with a shelf life of under 30 months must show a “Best before the end of” date. This is shown using an egg timer symbol with ‘Exp’ and the date. I think it would be helpful if the U.S. would adopt the European regulations.

Tips for keeping your cosmetics and personal care products effective:

  • Read the instructions and note any warnings.
  • Wash your hands before applying makeup especially if you dip your fingers into the container (which spreads any bacteria on your hands).
  • It’s never a good idea to share cosmetics, especially eye products and lipsticks.
  • Close product containers tightly after using them.
  • Water breeds bacteria and germs – don’t add water or saliva to a product that seems dry.
  • Throw away any product that smells funny or has changed color or consistency.
  • Use disposable makeup applicators.
  • Store cosmetics in a clean and dry place. Exposure to extreme heat or cold will cause the products to break down.
  • Organic products with no preservatives will lose effectiveness faster than non-organic products.

Remember that water is not your friend because it breeds bacteria and germs. Most foundations and eye products contain water.

shelf life of cosmetics chartImage from