How long can you use makeup before it expires?

Do you know when it’s time to kiss your old lipstick goodbye? Beauty expert Janine Holmes provides some tips for cleaning out your makeup bag.

Cleaning out a makeup bag can get messy — you’re dealing with old products nearing the end of their shelf life. 

Using old foundation or mascara or forgetting how long you’ve had certain creams can potentially irritate or harm your skin, said beauty expert Janine Holmes.

To keep track of the age of your products, check a symbol on the container that indicates how long the cosmetic will last after opening, Holmes told hosts on Global News’ The Morning Show.


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“It’s called a PAO symbol. It stands for period after opening,” she said.

The symbol depicts a plastic pot with a number that indicates how long it will last for, she explained. 

She recommends using a marker to write the month you bought the product on the jar so you know how long you can use it.

“When that product is at its end, you’ll know it’s time to replace it,” she said. 

Sanitizing pressed powders 

Powdered makeup can include anything from blushes to eye shadows and powdered foundations, said Holmes.

“The good thing about powders is it doesn’t contain water. Bacteria needs a moist environment to thrive inside of,” she said. “They actually have a very long shelf life, between three to five years.”

It’s possible to extend the products’ lifespan even further by sanitizing them, said Holmes. She recommends using a tissue to wipe off the surface and lightly misting it with a sanitizing spray.

How to clean water-based or cream products

While water-based products should last about two years from the point of purchase, there are some signs you can watch for to see if the cosmetics aren’t aging well, she said.

“Some things to look out for is there’s some discoloration or there’s a smell, the smell has changed,” she said. 


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Sanitizing products like lipstick can be done by dipping it into 70 per cent rubbing alcohol and wiping it clean, she added. Lipsticks will have a PAO symbol as well, so you’ll know how long it’s supposed to last, she said.

Mascara is the kind of product that needs to be changed the most often, at two to three months, said Holmes. As well, sponges used to apply makeup should also be replaced within three months.

“Things you want to look out for are little nicks and tears, and discoloration,” she said. 


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A survey conducted for cosmetics company Anisa International found that 61 per cent of women clean their brushes less than once a month, or not at all. You can make sponge applications work for longer by cleaning them weekly, said Holmes.

Filing a microwave-safe cup, adding a little dish soap and submerging your sponge in the water is a method to help sanitize it. Microwave the sponge for about a minute, she recommends.

“What happens is that heat from the microwave and the soapy water will pull out all the foundation inside, and then your sponge is good to go,” she said. 

For more tips on how to clean out your makeup bag, watch Janine Holmes in the video above

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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