Anosmia Make Up Tips By The Girl Who Cant Smell Blog Post

Anosmia Make Up Tips You Need To Know

So as an anosmic, the thought of make up expiring had never really crossed my mind, until I actually WORE lipstick that had spoiled!

This happened when I was in high school BUT I can still remember how embarrassing it was to this day.

Anyways, I recently talked about my lipstick snafu to my fellow anosmic friend (Hi Dia!) and she was really surprised to hear about all of this. I realized I had to officially post about make up going bad because it’s not very common to hear about make up expiring and well…the sad reality is that: Make up expires people! AND it can turn rancid.

Look, I know it sucks that make up is so expensive and sometimes the thought of throwing it out seems crazy but hear me out! I’d rather you say “goodbye” to your lip kit than “hello” to an awful skin rash or pink eye.

So because I want everyone who reads this blog to learn from my mistakes, I’m offering a couple of tips on how you can tell if your make up is as fresh as possible and what signs to look out for in case you’re wondering if your make up has gone kapoot!

So What Should You Do?

1. Check Your Make Up's Batch Code and Look For It's PAO Symbol

First things first, there are two important factors that you need to be aware of when it comes to your make up’s freshness. The first being it’s store shelf life AND the manufacturer’s recommended life span of the product after opening.

Have you ever wondered how long your make up had been sitting on the shelf BEFORE you bought it? The longer your product has existed in store, the less fresh it’ll be when you purchase it. Did you know there is a way to find out when your products were manufactured? 

Ok, so if you look on the bottom or on the side of your cosmetics, you’ll notice a small printed number. This number is called a batch code. Batch codes can be distinguished because they are applied later to already printed packaging and might look like a stamp.  The codes range in length depending on the brand so for example Estee Lauder has 3 character batch codes, Chanel has 4-digit batch numbers etc… In the pic below, I am using my Sephora liquid foundation as an example. This product has a 5-digit batch code.

Anosmia make up tips foundation batch code
Ha! Yes, my color is a bit toasty

 This code is important because you can punch it in online on a website called and the website will tell you when the product was made. This will give you a specific time frame of the product’s shelf life and an overall idea of how much time it has left before you should really keep an eye on it and then toss out.

Anosmia make up tips Checkfresh website
uhm, my foundation is almost 3 years old...

Screenshot via 

As you can see, I entered my batch code number and was able to pull up the production date of my foundation. THIS THING IS ALMOST 3 years old! (As of 1/14/20). Is this foundation still wearable? I’ll explain in a bit…

Anyways, the second piece of info I want to point out is a PAO symbol. You might notice that on your products there is a little picture of an open canister with a number (such as a 6 or 12) and then the letter M after it. This symbol (which stands for Period After Opening) tells you how long the manufacturer recommends you use this product after the package is unsealed.

picture of mascara packaging with a PAO Label
Anosmia Make Up Tips PAO label foundation

This first pic has a PAO label with a 6 and an M on it. The label is indicating this mascara has a life span of at most, six months after opening it. The second pic shows my foundation’s label. This manufacturer is recommending 12 months of use. 

 Just so we’re clear, once a beauty product comes into contact with air it can start to breed bacteria, so this is why a product wont last forever.

Helpful Mini Tip: Some readers, like Powercupcake on Reddit like to write the month & year of when they open their liquid and cream products on the packaging with a marker, so they have a better idea of how long they’ve used their product. This is an excellent idea and what I would recommend doing for liquid and cream products such as concealers, since these products are more prone to bacteria and expire quicker.

PAO labels gives us a safe time frame between first using our product until it might start going bad. PAO time frames are a general recommendation though, I would still recommend observing your products daily.

2. Be Aware of Make Up's Average Life Span

Now in case we don’t have access to our product’s batch code or if there isnt a PAO symbol on our product… Are there recommended time frames that we should keep in mind for each type of cosmetic that can help us indicate when it’s time to clean out our make up bag?

Based on my research on general make up use recommendations and what my mom has mentioned (she used to be a beauty consultant for a major brand) manufacturers recommend you swap your mascara every 3-6 months, eyeliner and eye shadow every six to 12 months, and lipstick every 1-2 years. Foundation, powder, and other facial makeup should be tossed after 12-18 months. 

Keep in mind it might be possible for your stuff to last longer or less depending on whether or not you store everything properly…which leads me to my next tip. 

3. Properly Store Your Stash

Where do you store your make up? 

This factor will actually determine how well your products keep their composition. We must first understand that cosmetics contain a lot of chemicals and active ingredients so the compounds in these formulas can change if they’re exposed to extremely hot or cold temperatures.

Where should you store your make up? 

Your make up will be safe in a cool, dry place. Never leave it inside a hot car or in the bathroom! Heat, humidity and direct sunlight can alter the ingredients.

Where do I store my stuff? I keep my beauty loot inside a large make up box inside my closet. The environment is ideal, as it’s dark and there are no windows nearby that can create any fluctuating temperatures. I also like the fact that I know where my make up is always. This is super helpful since I’m not scrambling or constantly trying to remember where I may have placed my  products.

4. Look for These Changes in Foundation, Nail Polish, Mascara Lipstick

Ok so now that we know all about our make up’s freshness and the best way of storing it safely, let’s discuss what kind of visual signs you should look out for that might indicate your products are expiring.

Side Note: I highly recommend making a mental note of what your product looks like when you first buy it…Actually, better yet, use your phone and take a picture of it. That way, when you see it months later or are starting to have doubts about it’s color or anything, you can look at the pic and compare it.

  •  Foundation:

Foundation will look really gross. You’ll notice changes in it’s color. For example, it might turn lighter or darker than usual. The pigmentation and oil will look like it has separated and will clump up to the surface. It might also look watery or too greasy to use. This goes for concealers as well. Since these are more liquidy they’ll be a little too runny and or might clump together and look faded. 

Photo Courtesy of Samantha Ann

This pic shows a clear cut (almost extreme) example of how the pigmentation has separated from the rest of the ingredients. Foundation will gradually look like this if you keep it in your stash longer than you should. It probably smells awful too! I’m sure my DN would’ve been mad if I would’ve asked him to smell these for me LOL!

One important thing I wanted to address real quick about my foundation example earlier in the article. On, my Sephora foundation was listed as being almost 3 years old. I was very surprised and worried after finding this out. Visually, it didn’t show signs of being “expired” at all. The color looks even and the texture runs smooth. This brand is probably really high quality and has top notch ingredients? So I was a bit confused.

I did ask my Designated Nose to smell it for me and he said it DIDN’T smell “funky” or “weird.” Still, I’m not going to risk it and have tossed it out (I guess I’ll be going to the mall again pretty soon). It probably lasted well since I had stored it properly and it was never exposed to extreme temperatures. But, honestly, it’s not worth it. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Now If I would’ve checked my foundations batch code before purchasing it ( I purchased it in November of last year) I would’ve been able to tell that it was already 2 years and 10 months old. I would’ve NOT bought this product and would’ve asked a rep to check in the back for fresher ones.


  • Nail polish 

Nail polish is also really obvious. You’ll see the color separating from the rest of the liquid. Even if you try shaking it so you combine it together, it will separate all over again. The color will look like it faded…Expired nail polish looks nasty. 

Expired Nail Polish Anosmia Awareness by The Girl Who Cant Smell
  • Mascara

Mascara will turn dry. If you try to apply it on a napkin, there wont be any of it marked on the paper. It’ll look like an off black/greyish color. It just wont work. Also, I wouldn’t add any water or oils to revive it…that’s just asking for it. Please don’t “pump” your mascara either (rapidly inserting your mascara brush in and out of the tube). This is a big “No No” as you are introducing air inside of the tube and exposing the liquid to more airborne contaminants. These can cause infections such as pinkeye and sties.

picture of a mascara that has gone dry

Look at how dry this mascara is. I can’t believe I had this in my make up bag…

Pencil eyeliners will also turn dry and will wear out their pigmentation. Liquid eyeliner dries out too…I usually use these up faster then they expire though…so I would check if they smell bad just in case.

Also, if you’ve had an eye infection recently, make sure you toss out the eye make up you were using during that time. Your eye products can re-infect you, so make sure you buy brand new products.

  • Lipstick

Lipstick is a little more difficult to tell whether it’s gone bad. Honestly, if I try to remember the lipstick I used that had gone rancid that one time in high school, it visually looked okay to me (kinda why I thought it was okay to apply it on my lips in the first place ). But, after wearing it, I was able to notice something very wrong about it. It had an awful taste. It was disgusting!

 Lipsticks are normally composed of pigments and oils. So if you see yours showing more oil bubbles then usual..that might be a bad sign. It’s possible the color on them might fade or turn darker as well…

5. Most Importantly...

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of “smell checking” your cosmetics. I know for the most part, as anosmics we can only guide ourselves visually when it comes to this issue. But luckily, smells don’t lie. Make up consists of chemicals and chemical compositions break down. 

Make it a habit of asking your Designated Nose to smell check your cosmetics periodically. Make up was designed to enhance our beauty not endanger it. By following these make up tips, you’ll be looking and feeling your best always!

Take it from me, make up is great to use but you should always be cautious, especially if you can’t smell.

Were you already aware of the fact that make up has an expiration date? Or did you not know and find this article helpful? Let me know. You can always contact me via email: or on InstagramFacebookTwitter.

With Love,

The Girl Who Can’t Smell

Did you like this article? Pin it!


“What Makeup Looks (and Smells) Like When It Goes Bad” Written by Shannon Farrell

“What’s The Deal With Expired Makeup?” Written By Samantha Ann

Declutter Your Make Up

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