When to Get Rid of Your Cosmetics?

This is a magic question. When you buy food, you should look to the expiration date, to make sure you’re buying something fresh. You of course care that what you are putting in to your body is fresh and safe, the same should apply to make up. The problem I found with many products is the lack of manufacturing/expiry dates. As a vintage enthusiast, we know the great lengths women have gone through to create glamour and beauty, though many women still undergo various cosmetic modifications, a lot more has been done to ensure honesty of the companies who’s products we purchase. I looked in to it, and found a few insights on the topic of cosmetics shelf life, which should be helpful to you all. After all, in order to create the lovely pin up and vintage inspired looks, we want to be able to use the best products and ones which won’t do more harm than good.


There are SO many new things a girl needs to complete her look. Most of these products are used before their expiry date, such as face wash, moisturizers, body creams/lotions, shampoo/conditioners, etc. While things like lipstick, eye shadows, nail polishes/varnishes, sunblock might linger in your home for longer. The golden question is: When to get rid of these items? To start, when shopping for a product, I always look in the back of it (especially if I am buying from discount stores such as Marshall’s/TJ Maxx/etc. since there are so many products, expired ones might slip in to the stock), and check for the little symbols (if there are any) in the back of the container. One common one:

Period After Opening (PAO) Symbol

A symbol that I have seen on most cosmetics, one among many, which I had no clue as to what it meant, is the PAO symbol. It looks like this:


Usually within the PAO is a number with an ‘M’, that is the months this product has on your shelf (after being opened) before it is time to throw it away. This symbol should exist not only here in the US, but also in other countries, I  definitely know UK has it also.

We all know not all products have this, and some have really disappointing expiry dates such as my most recent mascara (6 months), which I use almost every day, will definitely last longer than that. I will be honest, I don’t throw something away unless I know I will never use it or its changed color, or of course it ran out. In lipsticks, I definitely have some that I’ve had well over 2 years. Will I throw them away? Not until they smell bad or when I use them up. Unfortunately, with the consumerism today, we buy way more than we need. I end up with a gazillion lipsticks which I certainly don’t wear every day, and with their prices, I don’t want to just throw away. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with make up expiring and causing some sort of a reaction, but, it never hurts to be an informed consumer. Here’s a list I summarized from various sites with the POA most commonly used products:

Nail Polish – 1 year

Foundation – 1 year +

Powder/ Eye Shadows/ Blush – 1 year +

Liquid Eye Liner – up to 6 months

Brow Pencils – up to 8 months

Lip Pencils – up to 1 year

Mascara – up to 6 months

Perfume – up to 3 years

Depending on the company and ingredients in the product, these times can change. This is especially true when using natural products, which contain lesser amounts of preservatives. Definitely look in to the product further if you may have concerns, after all, what you put on and in your body, is very important for your overall health and beauty.

Please leave a comment below, also check out the related articles below, which also provide additional wonderful information about the topic. As always, thank you for reading!

the vintage catxx



  1. Pingback: The Vintage Cat Version of Project Pan | The Vintage Cat

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