Out with the old: expiration date of beauty products

Throw away skincare

Since it’s the last day of the year, it seems appropriate to do a post on make up and skincare that needs to be thrown away. If there is a change in texture, scent or color then obviously you need to throw it again (the one exception is that some sunscreen products may be separated naturally and you need to shake it up before applying). I know I know, it might have sentimental value or was expensive or you were hoping to squeeze a couple more use out of it, but c’mon! It’s a new year, new you, and let’s go into the new year with healthy habits and good makeup. Now then, how do you tell when your beauty products expire?

Expiration date

The first and easiest is expiration date. Just like food, some brands are nice enough to provide an actual date printed somewhere that tells you when the product is expired:

Expiration date
Expiration date of Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation (January 2015 for the one I bought)

POA logo

Majority of the products do not have an exact date printed on the container, but they do have a little POA (Period After Opening) logo posted somewhere on the bottom or back of the full size product (and some samples/minis too). It’s a little jar with open lid, on which there is a number followed by either M (for month) or Y (for years). Ex. 12M = use within 12 month after opening. 2Y = use within 2 years after opening. 1S = use within 1 second after opening (just kidding). Unless you know you will be able to use it up, I would hesitate to buy products with 6M expiration date. My Bliss Oxygen gel moisturizer was labeled 6M but I didn’t want to throw it away, well, when I finally dumped out the content after 1.5yr, there were congealed gunks on the bottom. Eeek! The longest POA I’ve seen was 36M or 3Y so I would not recommend keeping your moisturizer 3 years after opening it (even if it look/smell the same, bacterias can’t be seen by naked eyes. Toss it!)

Period After Opening code for skincare products (24 month for Murad and 9 month for Benefit)

Product batch code

And if your product is especially mischievous and does not have the POA printed on it, perhaps it was on the packaging that you throw away or it’s rubbed off or you got it in travel/mini size then there’s one last thing you can do–with the product batch code. It’s a printed or etched series of gibberish numbers and letters somewhere on your product. Based on the information provided by the brand, there are some website that will give you an estimated expiration date when you input the product code:



There are also tons of articles online about the general rule of thumb for tossing makeup (3-6 month for mascara, 1-2 years for liquid/cream and ~3 years for powder products depending on your usage) so we won’t go in detail there. And as always, to keep your makeup sanitary, remember do NOT share your makeup (or sanitize thoroughly afterwards) and try not to double dip (especially with non-clean hand/brush). =)


8 thoughts on “Out with the old: expiration date of beauty products

  1. Great information for people to know! I should start keeping closer track of when I buy/open product, I like the sharpie month/year marking method I think I saw you mention on BT a while back.

    1. That’s a great idea and what I used to do, but beware where you write with the sharpie! The sharpie can rub off if you’ve got oil/moisturizer on your hand! I was in the middle of applying moisturizer once when I realized my fingers were blue and that the sharpie was half rubbed off because, with my luck, of course I cut the corner of the packet where I wrote the date and was applying from there. ugh.

  2. And don’t forget to change out your toothbrush, Sonicare, Waterpik, Clarisonic, etc. heads. Then there is floss, brush cleaner, etc.

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