Are you guilty of holding onto beauty products that are well past their prime? Here’s an easy way to check…

You’ve just come back from a huge Sephora binge, and stashed all of your shiny new products deep within your makeup bag.

As the months go by, you notice your “special occasion” mascara is starting to get a bit flakey… and that experimental cream blush you’ve only used twice has now formed a slightly crusty layer… but as long as there’s still product in the tube, it’s ok to use… right?

Erm, no. Just like a bottle of milk in your fridge, your cosmetics have a definite expiry date. Ignore it, and your makeup not only looks bad, but also puts your face at risk of nasty breakouts and infections.

The good news is, there’s actually a very simple way to tell when it’s time to bin that blush. It’s called the PAO (“period after opening”) symbol, and it can be found on almost all of your beauty products.

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The symbol consists of a little open jar, with the number of months you’re able to safely use the product after it’s been unsealed. So, this mascara is good for six months.

And you can use this primer for a year without problems.

While you can keep this foundation for two years.


Sunny Shaper, a health and beauty specialist for QNET, says you should never use any makeup product past its expiry date.

“When kept for a long time, items like eyeshadow and mascara become breeding grounds for bacteria, which can cause eye irritations and infections,” he said.

“This can range from burning sensations to vision problems. We only have one pair of eyes – why would we put them in jeopardy with a tube of mascara?”

Products like liquid foundation stored in bottles that cannot be contaminated with your fingers may last longer, but it’s still important to keep an eye on that magic number.

“The ingredients in these products could separate and increase the risk of germ/fungal growth because the preservatives are no longer active,” he said.

“The skin may experience itchiness, clogged pores that may lead to acne conditions, hives or red rashes, frequent pimples, or in severe cases, an infection accompanied with irritated and bumpy skin.”


Shaper says out of all skincare products, it’s most important to check the expiry date of your sunblock.

It’s generally agreed you can use a bottle of sunscreen for up to three years – but that all depends on the storage conditions.

“As sunscreen gets old, its sun-protecting ingredients fade away, reducing its effectiveness. Moreover, if you leave your sunscreen in a car, the heat can cause the ingredients to become less effective.

“The best thing to do is, if the consistency seems weird – grainy or watery – to discard and purchase a new sunscreen.”


Does makeup expire faster in countries like the UAE due to the higher temperatures? Not necessarily, according to Shaper.

“Technically, temperature doesn’t affect the shelf life of your makeup since it’s mostly stored indoors – it all boils down to storage.

“It’s best to store cosmetics in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture. Always remember to seal its caps and lids tightly after each use.”

The place where most people store their cosmetics is possibly one of the worst rooms in the house, Shaper says.

“The bathroom is usually the most convenient place to keep your makeup but the warm, moist steam can make the products a breeding ground for bacteria.”

Right, we’re off to do an audit of our makeup bags…

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Image: Getty