In today’s episode of “Getting My Life Together,” I learn exactly how old my makeup is via batch codes and what it could do to me if I don’t toss it, as well as other makeup expiration dates and how to keep track of it all!
If there’s one thing I’m really terrible at, it’s throwing out old makeup. I’ve been trying to declutter my makeup collection via the KonMari method, and although it’s gotten a little easier, I still have a hard time parting with most of my makeup. When it comes to checking expiration dates for makeup that I choose not to declutter because I actually use it, I’m even worse – I think the only product that I get rid of when I’m supposed to is mascara and that’s not even because I’m following the expiration dates, but just because I swap out mascaras so frequently because I get bored of them.
I’m sure you’ve seen the oodles and oodles of charts, such as the one above from The Mom Skoop, declaring when your various makeup products expire. There are also equally as many articles online stating what to look for to tell if your makeup has expired, such as a change in color, consistency, or smell.
According to Bustle, using expired mascara could lead to eye infections, and due to the separation of ingredients in older foundations, using expired foundation could lead to germ growth as a result of the decreased effectiveness of preservatives. Similarly, Refinery29 reports that old lip products could lead to rashes and expired powder products, such as blush, could lead to a transfer of oil and bacteria to your face, resulting in impetigo, which is a highly contagious skin infection. If you really want to scare yourself, check out this Buzzfeed article on how much bacteria might be hiding in your makeup products – luckily, according to the article, you can pretty easily kill the germs using 70%–90% isopropyl alcohol and wiping off the top layers of products, but if a product is too far gone and past its prime, it might be best to cut your losses and toss the old broad.
I’m not here to create yet another infographic on expiration dates because frankly, Pinterest has you covered. What I am here to do is share some tips that I’ll also try to use moving forward to be better about getting rid of some expired makeup products before they have the chance to do any damage to my skin!
Is it a Date?
Common sense tells us that the first thing to do here is to check the dates on products to see when or if they’ve expired!
Most products come with some kind of indication of when they expire – as you can see above, the Bad Habit Beauty Aura palette (which you can read all about in this post!) expires in 12 months, which is indicated by the little “12M” near the bar code. According to Design Packaging, this is more formally referred to as a Period After Opening (PAO) symbol – in Europe, standards require that products with a shelf life of less than 30 months be labeled with a “best used by date,” while products lasting more than 30 months must have a “period after opening” symbol. For us American folks, according to the FDA, “There are no U.S. laws or regulations that require cosmetics to have specific shelf lives or have expiration dates on their labels. However, manufacturers are responsible for making sure their products are safe. FDA considers determining a product’s shelf life to be part of the manufacturer’s responsibility.” #womp
Having this symbol is great and all if you actually keep track of when you first opened a product, but if you’re like me and are new to this whole makeup tracking game, you probably won’t remember when you opened it in the first place. One way around this little hiccup is to just go by the production date, which can usually be found via batch code for most mainstream brands.
If you’re familiar with the Subculture drama that I love bringing up because it was just so fascinating to me, you might also be familiar with what batch codes are – one of the aspects of the drama dealt with “bad” batches of the palette itself and according to Genie Supply, batches are a pretty big deal in makeup because they can provide manufacturing dates, assist the manufacturer in determining which batch on the market requires recall or resolution, and are required for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
Each company has their own format for these – Check Fresh has a whole page devoted to finding the batch codes for specific companies, which I found really helpful, as well as a batch code checker. Other websites that you can use to check your batch codes are Cosmetics Wizard and Check Cosmetic.
Unfortunately, some of the “newer” brands to the market aren’t included in the databases for these websites. For example, I wanted to check the date on my Tarte Toasted palette, which I recently did a post on, and although I found the batch code pretty easily (OF81), Tarte’s parent company (KOSÉ) wasn’t supported by any of the websites I listed yet.
Instead, I checked this Urban Decay Naked Flush palette that I got at the beginning of last year – the batch code (RBP70W) was stamped on the back label and was also pretty easy to find. I used Check Fresh this time and found that the manufacture date was July 2017. Since the little PAO symbol says “24M,” I’m going to just go by that date and assume that this will expire right around July 2019.
Keeping Track of Expiration Dates
Of course, the easiest thing to do rather than backtracking and having to go through this whole process is be proactive in the first place and keeping track when you open things – since I’m terrible about that, I’ve found a few ways to start actually doing this:
You all know I love spreadsheets and will take anything as an excuse to use one, so I had to include this as an option and it literally took like three minutes to make – basically, columns A-E are based on manual entry with column C (“Type”) containing a drop-down menu powered by a range in the second tab in this spreadsheet, which is just a reference table of product types and expirations taken from the chart from The Mom Skoop that I shared at the beginning of this post in case the packaging of the products didn’t contain any indication of expiration or PAO. In column D (PAO in months), I put the PAO date that I was able to find on the back of the two products I have listed in the table. As you can see, I’ve used 7/1/2017 as the open date for the Naked Flushed palette because I don’t quite remember when I actually opened it so I’m using the manufacture date as a proxy, while I used a more accurate date of 3/29/2018 for the Aura palette because that’s the date of the post I did aka when I actually opened it.
Columns F and G are formulas that just need to be dragged down – the Toss Date column works off a formula that basically just adds the months listed in the PAO column (column D) to the inputted open date (column E) to return the date in whatever number of months that is in the future in which the product should be tossed. I also included a Months Left column (column G) that’s based off of the “today” date in column J that’s based on a formula that will automatically update to reflect today’s date to show how many months are left until the toss date.
If anybody wants to look at the formulas to try creating this for themselves or if you just want to take the easier route and download a copy as a template, you can find my spreadsheet here! The cool thing about Google Sheets is that if you have the app, you can access it on your phone, but if you don’t want to have a whole spreadsheet, the other mobile alternative is…
That’s right – there’s an app for that: Beauty Keeper is an app that lets you see when you products expire and after trying it out for myself, I found that it’s actually pretty nifty!
You can either manually enter your products or you can search by batch code – I was able to find the batch code on my Naked Flushed palette, but wasn’t able to find the Tartelette Toasted palette, so in the cases of the Toasted palette, manual entry is your only option. You can see above that the “Produced” date of July 2017 matches up to what I originally found on Cosmetic Calculator, but there’s now a “Shelf Life” of 36 M on here.
“Shelf life” is considered “the length of time for which an item remains usable, fit for consumption, or saleable” so theoretically, you could keep your Naked Flushed palette and not open it and it would be “usable” for 36 months after production, making it “best before” July 2020. However, if you open it, you should go by the PAO date, which is less than the shelf life date as products begin to deteriorate after opening.
You can also see above that the “use before” and “best before” dates are different – according to The Hub, “Use by dates indicate when a product may no longer be safe to eat. You should not eat, cook, or freeze it after the date displayed, even if it looks or smells fine. Best before dates are an indication of quality rather than safety. You can still eat food after its best before date, but its flavour and texture is most likely not as good as before the date.”
Although this deals with food, I’m assuming it can also translate to cosmetics and makeup – I would say that depending on when you open the product, you should go by whichever date comes first. For example, if my Naked Flushed palette was produced in July 2017 and it sat in my collection for nearly three years until I opened it in June 2020, I probably only really should use it for a month until July 2020 even though the PAO is 24 months because this is the “true” expiration date of the product.
Other than being able to check by batch code, another reason why this is so nifty is because it’s simple to use and lets you customize everything – for example, although I couldn’t find the brand Bad Habit Beauty in their list, the app let me add it, and it also lets you change the PAO. It also lets you upload a picture so you can see what exactly the product is.
The home screen lets you see if you need to replace any products that might have expired and also let’s you view the whole list of products, showing you the name, brand, type, and its Use Before date – I’ll most likely be using this app moving forward rather than the spreadsheet (sad, I know) because it makes everything so convenient!
3.) Write on Product
The third option is the most “old-fashioned” and the one tip that I see the most on the internet – to physically write the open date, use by date, or both dates on the product using a piece of tape.
While I see the merit in this option, this is my least favorite because I’m not really into the whole sticking-a-piece-of-tape-on-my-products thing for aesthetic reasons… especially when it comes to products I carry around with me like lipstick.
I think this option would work best for people who don’t want to check any apps or spreadsheet to see when their makeup expires or for people who are doing one of those “challenges” where they want to finish a product by a certain date because seeing the date on the product itself is a constant reminder of the “deadline” – I’m not one of those people, so I’m going to personally skip this one!
I know this post was characteristically long, so let’s just take a moment to go over all the terminology used in this post:
- Period After Opening (PAO) – useful lifetime of a cosmetic product after its package has been opened for the first time
- Batch Code – an identification code assigned to a batch of cosmetics; may contain information such as manufacturers code, production date, etc
- Shelf Life – the length of time for which an item remains usable, fit for consumption, or saleable
- “Use Before” Date – indicates when a product may no longer be safe to eat/consume
- “Best By” Date – indication of quality rather than safety; you can still eat food after its best before date, but its flavor and texture is most likely not as good as before the date
To sum up this whole ordeal, you should probably be throwing out your expired makeup to avoid the risk of infection or breakouts, and in the meantime, you should also probably be wiping down your makeup with rubbing alcohol to try to minimize the spreading of germs. Check the back of your makeup for a “PAO” symbol that indicates the number of months until you should toss the sucker – if you can’t figure out when you opened it, you can try to find the production date, which can be found via the batch code, although this isn’t possible for all companies.
Rather than backtracking, the best way to keep up with all this is to note when you open products for the first time rather than try to remember doing it months down the line, and there are a few options for doing this – you could create a spreadsheet yourself, find an app for it, or write down key dates you want to remember on a piece of tape before sticking that on the product itself.
Phew… did I get everything? I sure hope so! I’m slightly scared to find out how old some of my makeup might be…
- The Mom Skoop // Cosmetics Expiration Chart
- Bustle // This Is What Will Actually Happen If You Use Expired Makeup
- Refinery29 // How Bad Is Expired Makeup Really?
- Buzzfeed // Here’s How Much Bacteria Is Actually On Your Makeup Products
- Design Packaging // COSMETIC PACKAGING SYMBOLS AND WHAT THEY MEAN
- FDA // Shelf Life/Expiration Dating
- Genie Supply // WHY BATCH CODES ARE IMPORTANT TO COSMETIC MANUFACTURING
- CheckFresh // How to Find the Batch Code?
- The Hub // What is the Difference between Use By & Best Before Dates?
TRACKING EXPIRATION DATES
*Disclaimer: I purchased all above products with my own money and am not affiliated with or compensated by any of the brands mentioned (I wish!). As always, all thoughts & opinions are my own (unless stated otherwise)!