Oops. Can’t remember? Let’s open that makeup bag and see what’s ready to go into the makeup graveyard, shall we?

All personal care products have a shelf life and they’re all different. Not surprisingly, these products are not regulated by the FDA so instead of official expiration dates, you will most likely find a PAO (Period After Opening) number on the back of your products. This number will be followed by ‘M’ and an open jar icon. This is the number of months, after opening, that your product should be thrown away. For example, a 6M means you should probably toss this product 6 months after opening it. One tricky thing…many products put the PAO on the box, not the product itself, so how will you remember once you throw the box out?

TIP: take a Sharipe, and write the PAO on the product somewhere along with the date you opened it.

With most skincare, an expired lotion shouldn’t hurt/damage skin as long as it’s not extremely old, but it may not moisturize or carry the same level of anti-aging properties to it as the fresher products will. Sealed, unopened bottles can sometimes have a shelf life of up to 3 years – but a good rule of thumb – if you ever notice a change in smell or texture – toss it!

Store your lotions & makeup products at or below room temperature and keep away from direct light exposure. I used to keep a bunch of makeup products in the bathroom but moisture from the shower isn’t good for your products, so keep products in a bedroom, if you can. A cool, dry place is always best.

Luckily, most companies write the shelf life on their packages. Go grab something in your makeup bag or your moisturizer (you are using a moisturizer, right?) Now look on the back of the bottle/container towards the bottom. There should be a small icon in the shape of a bottle with a number and the letter M. Usually a 3, 6 or 12. That’s the shelf life! The number of months the product will be effective, from time of opening…not necessarily when you bought it. If it’s sealed and you buy it and keep it on your shelf for a month while you use another product up, not to worry.

So what’s the general rule of thumb for shelf life of specific products?

Mascara: replace every 3 months after opening.

Eye Pencils: about a year. The best way to extend the life of an eye pencil & keep it germ free is to sharpen it before each use.

Foundation: 6-12 months. Again, if you notice the consistency or smell changes, toss it. You can also help extend the life of your foundation by using a makeup sponge or a brush to apply. This is my favorite set of vegan makeup brushes.

Powder products: these contain the least amount of water, so it’s harder for bacteria to grow…however, the brushes you use to apply may carry dangerous bacteria so make sure you wash your makeup brushes regularly. *more on that below*

Lip Gloss: because it’s another product with a wand, and we ‘double dip’ like mascara, it’s best to toss after 6-12 months. If it changes color or develops a weird consistency or smell, replace it. Also, to prevent passing germs and contamination, never share lip products with anyone else. (I even gave my toddler her own lip saver to keep in her room because kids are full of germs and I don’t want them!)

How to clean makeup brushes:

“Most dermatologists will tell you to soak your tools, especially foundation and concealer brushes, once a week — at minimum — to prevent product buildup. Because these brushes are used on your face, the cleaner, the better, says Bobbi Brown. “Brushes that are used around the eyes should be cleaned at least twice a month,” she says. “All others can be washed once a month.” According to makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci, soaping up your makeup brushes regularly can extend the life of the bristles and make for a better makeup application. “Brush hairs and sponges are porous, so they hold onto oils, debris, and bacteria,” she says. “If your brushes are dirty, your application will be spotty and blending will be difficult.” (Allure)

The best (and easiest) way to clean your makeup brushes is with water & a gentle soap. I love using this Gentle face soap – because I am also using it to wash my face so it’s multi-purpose.

Follow these seven steps for cleaner, good-as-new brushes and blenders.

  1. Wet the bristles with lukewarm water.
  2. Place a drop of makeup brush cleanser or soap into the palm of your hand.
  3. Gently massage the tips of the bristles in your palm.
  4. Rinse the bristles.
  5. Squeeze out the excess moisture with a clean towel.
  6. Reshape the brush head.
  7. Let the brush dry with its bristles hanging off the edge of a counter, thereby allowing it to dry in the correct shape. Never let your brushes dry on a towel — the bristles can become mildewed. (Allure)

“It may seem harmless, but expired beauty products can compromise skin. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science evaluated the makeup routines and habits of women, and the results were more than a little cringe-worthy. 70% of women in the study used some type of expired product—mostly eye makeup (mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow). The researchers sampled the eye makeup for contamination, and found that 67% were contaminated!”  (Paula’s Choice Skincare)

Whether you are a makeup aficionado or never wear anything and just want to learn, here are some of my favorite tutorial videos with everything from eyes, foundation application, to a full face from expert makeup artists and more.

Content provided by Women Belong member Melissa Engle