Cosmetics & Toiletries Expiry Guide

It's completely up to you to decide how long to keep and use your body care products. This post and handy guide from Real Simple Magazine should make the purging process easier and speedier.

Manufacturer's choose the shelf life, or expiration date, of any personal care product based on how long its determined to be suitable for use. Suitable for use includes microbiological safety - when cosmetics can become harmful to use if contaminated with certain bacteria and fungi. It also includes oxidation when the cosmetics are opened and exposed to oxygen in the air. Finally it includes loss of freshness or potency.

A great example is the shelf life for eye-area cosmetics. The date is more limited than on other products because it is more susceptible to microbial infection and therefore risk of eye infection. Keep in mind that expiration dates on personal care products are similar to that on food products, in that it's quality may decline before the expiration date if it hasn't been properly stored and vice versa in that it can last longer if stored well. For example, was the container left open, in the sunlight or in a space that attracts moisture?

When sorting through your body care products, look for the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol on the container. It's a symbol of an open jar with a number. The number represents the number of months this product is okay to use after opening. Now, you just have to remember approximately when you opened it! states that "in Europe, cosmetic products with a lifespan longer than 30 months must show a POA time." Although this symbol is frequently present on US and Canadian-made cosmetics, it is not required.

If we're lucky enough, there's an expiry date printed on products. says that "In Europe, any cosmetic product that has a lifespan of less than 30 months must show a Best Before the end of date. This can be shown using the egg timer symbol followed by the date, or the words, which can be abbreviated to BBE or Exp, followed by the date. The fact is there are very few cosmetics that are labeled with Best Before dates because the majority of products are known to last more than 30 months." If you buy a body care product that doesn't have an expiration date, such as sunscreen where you might be concerned for it's effectiveness long term, write the date of purchase on the bottle.

Real Simple Magazine created this handy guide for cosmetics and toiletries shelf life and expiry.

  • Concealer: one year

  • Cream blush: one year

  • Eyeliner: three months

  • Eyeliner pencil: two years

  • Eyeshadow: one year

  • Foundation: one year

  • Lip balm: one to five years

  • Lip gloss: one year

  • Lipstick: two years

  • Liquid eyeliner: three months

  • Mascara: three months

  • Nail polish: one year

  • Powder blush: two years

  • Bar soap: 18 months to three years

  • Bath oil: one year

  • Body bleaches and depilatories: six months

  • Body lotion: two years

  • Body wash: three years

  • Deodorant: one to two years

  • Disposable razors: every five to seven shaves

  • Eye cream: one year

  • Face cream: two years

  • Hair brush: one year

  • Hair gel: two to three years

  • Hair spray: two to three years

  • Loofah: six months

  • Makeup sponge: one month

  • Medications: check the label

  • Mouthwash: three years from the manufacture date

  • Nail polish remover: indefinitely

  • Perfume: one to two years

  • Shampoo and conditioner: two to three years

  • Shaving cream: two years

  • Sunscreen: three years

  • Toothbrush: three months

  • Tooth-whitening strips: 13 months

Source for background photo in title image: Breathing Room Organization

From Align Home Organizing. Professional Home Organizer in Guelph, Caledon, Erin, Puslinch, Elora, Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and surrounding rural areas in Ontario, Canada.

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