How To Tell When Blush Has Gone Bad

Certain products seem to linger in our makeup collections forever. Whether you go for the same look every day or regularly mix up your favorite lipsticks and eye shadows, some cosmetics always end up playing second or third fiddle. So when you finally get around to revisiting old favorites or cleaning out your makeup drawer, you may pause to wonder how long, exactly, those overlooked cosmetics have been lurking in your vanity — and whether they're even still safe to use.

If you can't remember when you got a particular makeup product, that's probably a bad sign. While some cosmetics can last up to two years, others — such as liquid eyeliner — can become unsafe within three to six months (per Mayo Clinic). And according to Ohio State Health & Discovery, continuing to use expired makeup can lead to dire consequences, from irritation and breakouts to serious skin or eye infections.

Even makeup staples like foundation can expire, and eye products like mascara expire especially fast. But what about seemingly immortal products like blush? Does it really matter if you hang on to them a little too long? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. So if you're thinking twice about using that rosy old MAC compact you just unearthed, here's how to tell when your blush has gone bad.

Check the shelf life of your blush

If you're uncertain about using any cosmetic or beauty product, blush included, your first step should be to consult the product's packaging to get an idea of its intended shelf life. Skincare and makeup items typically come bearing a little icon known as a PAO symbol, which stands for "period after opening" (per The Green Chemist).

The PAO icon resembles a cosmetics jar and should feature a number that indicates the product's safe lifespan once it's been opened (via Shure Cosmetics). Generally, this number is followed by an M to indicate the product's usability in months. For example, a PAO stating 6M should be used within six months of opening, while a timeframe of 24M would be good for up to two years.

However, unopened products aren't guaranteed freshness or safety, either. As award-winning makeup artist Jessica Mae tells The Healthy, "It is also possible that the preservatives start to break down even before you open it. So, if you stocked up on foundation and it's now been sitting unopened in your drawer for five years, chances are you should just throw it out even though it's unopened." This also applies to any stockpiled blush products you may have gotten on sale and then forgotten about in your bathroom cabinet. But if you want to double-check a product's suitability, there are a few physical signs that your blush is on its way out.

Signs your blush may be unsafe to use

If you use pressed-powder blush, your favorite rouge may be safe for up to two years. But if you prefer a cream blush, that shelf life could be as short as six months (via MasterClass). So how can you gauge whether your blush is truly at the end of its rope?

Healthline suggests employing your senses to check the condition of any makeup item. First, give it a sniff to check for any strange or off-putting smell, which could be a sign that its formula is breaking down. Then observe the color for any changes in shade or vibrancy, which may occur as the product oxidizes or loses potency. Finally, pay attention to the texture. Powder blushes may become hardened like hockey pucks and difficult to apply (per Calanna Whole Health Pharmacy). Meanwhile, creamy blushes might show cracking, oiliness, or signs that the product is separating.

When in doubt, it's best to err on the side of caution and toss potentially expired products. If your blush is at all questionable, wouldn't you rather replace it with something fresh rather than risk a bad reaction? Your skin will thank you for playing it safe.