Makeup Expiration: When to Throw Out Makeup


With a New Year comes a new you — meaning it might be time to donate neglected clothes, organize the cabinets, and sift through your makeup bag for expired cosmetics.

Yes, makeup has a shelf life. And it might be shorter than you realize.

Follow these guidelines to make sure your makeup is safe and healthy — plus see my favorites along the way, in case you need to buy new:

  • Mascara + Liquid Eyeliner 1 of 12
    Mascara + Liquid Eyeliner
    Every expert insists on being most diligent about tossing mascara and liquid eyeliner — a breeding ground for infection-causing bacteria — after 3 months. And if you do get an eye infection, toss all eye makeup — regardless of how old it is.
    Benefit BADgal mascara, $9 - $19
  • Liquid Foundation 2 of 12
    Liquid Foundation
    Water-based foundation collects bacteria much faster than powder-based formulas, so toss it after a year. (Unopened, you can keep foundation for a couple of years.)
    Make Up For Ever HD, $40
  • Concealer 3 of 12
    For the same reason as liquid foundation, liquid concealer should be tossed after a year. And although compacts and sticks can stay good for a couple of years, you'll want to toss it around 6 months if you're using your fingers to apply. (Lesson: apply your compact concealer with an applicator or brush to lengthen its shelf life.)
    Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer Kit, $32
  • Pressed Powder (Like Blush) 4 of 12
    Pressed Powder (Like Blush)
    Pressed powders can last up to two years — but its shelf life will shorten if it contains botanical extracts (like chamomile, aloe, green tea, etc.) because they contain a small amount of water.
    NARS Orgasm Blush, $27
  • Cream Blush 5 of 12
    Cream Blush
    Cream blush will last about a year because of the water-based formula.
    NARS The Multiple, $39
  • Pencil Liner 6 of 12
    Pencil Liner
    Pencil eyeliner can last years unopened, but you should toss them between 3 and 6 months because they can pick up bacteria around your eyes. Lengthen its shelf life by sharpening it before each use, and making sure to clean the sharpener.
    Smashbox Limitless Eye Liner, $19
  • Gel Liner 7 of 12
    Gel Liner
    Gel liner should be treated like liquid liner, tossing around 3 months. Lengthen the shelf life by cleaning the applicator after each use.
    Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner, $21
  • Eye Shadow 8 of 12
    Eye Shadow
    Eye shadow is tricky because it can technically stay good for over a year (due to its powder-based formula), but it should be tossed between 6 months and a year because it could spread eye infections. Cream eye shadows should definitely be tossed by 6 months. Again, using a clean applicator will lengthen its shelf life.
    Stila "It Girl" Eyeshadow Palette, $14
  • Lipstick 9 of 12
    Lipstick and lipgloss have a generally long shelf life — between a year and 18 months. You'll know lipstick is bad when it gets hard and won't spread, and when lipgloss gets streaky.
    MAC Ruby Woo, $14.50
  • Nailpolish 10 of 12
    All sources claim that nail polish will probably go bad after about a year (which is characterized by clumpy, thick polish that looks separated in the bottle) — but it's not from bacteria. Allure calls nailpolish "the Twinkie of the beauty world."
    OPI Nail Lacquer, $8
  • Sunscreen 11 of 12
    Sunscreen is typically labeled with an expiration date, but you can typically expect it to last a year. You'll know its bad when the sunscreen separates, changes colors, or starts to smell weird.
    La Roche-Posay Anthelios 40 Sunscreen Cream, $33.90
  • Multitasking Makeup 12 of 12
    Multitasking Makeup
    3-in-1 multitasking products (like cheek, lip, and eye color), is more likely to spread germs than single-purpose makeup. Replace after 6 months or so.
    Benefit Posietint lip and cheek stain, $29

More tips for keeping your cosmetics clean:

  • Store your makeup in a cool, dry place — meaning not in a bathroom that people shower in.
  • Don’t let your makeup sit in front of direct sunlight, which can mess with the preservatives.
  • Try to keep your fingers out of your makeup as much as possible, opting for clean applicators instead.
  • Clean your makeup brushes regularly — daily for liquid makeup, and bi-weekly for powder makeup. Either use a makeup brush cleaner or a mild shampoo to clean them thoroughly.
  • Also wash your makeup sponges and applicators, and let them dry before using them again. (Replace sponges every week or so.) Disposable applicators (like Q-Tips) also helps limit the spread of bacteria.
  • Don’t share your makeup with friends, which runs the risk of passing bacteria like fungus, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and staph.
  • If you see a change in color or consistency (or smell!), toss it.
  • If you see any black, white, or green spots — obviously toss it.
  • Don’t use saliva or water to moisten your makeup brushes. Adding any kind of liquid can breed bacteria.

Sources: BellaSugar, Allure, InStyle, Fitness


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