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When is it Time to Toss Cosmetics? Makeup Expiration Dates Explained


Makeup Collection
Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4

It’s the beginning of a new year, and everyone is looking for a fresh start. While this may include wardrobe rehab or gym memberships, it’s important to turn an eye to the place most of us ladies visit every day — the makeup collection.

Throwing away products that you simply don’t wear is great for simplification purposes. But, as we discussed a bit in our post on beauty resolutions for the new year, one should take into consideration the safety of older products (whether they’re routinely-used cosmetics or just-for-fun buys).

Cosmetics have a limited shelf life. After a certain amount of time they expire, and all kinds of nasty bacteria begin to call your makeup home. Learn more about the risks of using expired cosmetics, as well as how to keep your makeup collection safe, by reading on!

The Risks of Using Expired Cosmetics

Photo Credit

Acne and various eye infections are just a few of the possible outcomes of using expired or contaminated cosmetics.

Mascara, while providing you with lovely lashes, can be a notorious haven for bacteria. The dark, wet environment, combined with air (provided from either “pumping” mascara or even just opening it), creates the ideal place for bacteria growth. If your mascara is past its prime, you’re probably spreading those bacteria to one of the most sensitive areas of the human body — your eyes. Same goes for eyeliner.

Bacteria isn’t the only thing to worry about when it comes to old cosmetics. Oil can also become trapped in blushes, brushes, bronzers, or pressed powders — causing you to reapply said oil to your face and possibly cause acne.

Where’s the Expiration Date?

The entire idea of expired cosmetics gets a bit more complicated because according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, cosmetics areĀ not required to have expiration dates printed on their packaging or labels. The FDA says:

Manufacturers have the responsibility to determine shelf life for products, as part of their responsibility to substantiate product safety.

That leaves the responsibility of determining how old is too old not only to manufacturers, but to consumers as well.

How to Tell if You Should Toss a Product: The Test

To keep your skin and eyes safe and clean, put all of your cosmetics to the test.

Sniff the product. Mascara, eyeshadow, and lipstick usually have a strong, chemical smell to them if they’re expired. If any product doesn’t smell “right”, throw it away immediately.

Look at the surface of the product. If the color has changed or significantly faded from when you first bought it, the product is probably past its prime. If there’s a darker colored “gunk” on the surface of your powder makeup, it’s a sign that the oil from your face/applicator is wiping off onto the product. While this can cause acne, it’s an easy fix that doesn’t require trashing the product — just wash your applicator and gently scrape the oil from the makeup.

Makeup Expiration Dates

Depending on how clean your brushes/applicators are and how you store your products, your makeup’s expiration date can vary from these estimates.

In general, it’s time to toss a product after the following amount of time has passed since the first usage:

  • Concealer and Foundation: 6-8 months
  • Powder-based makeup (blush, bronzer, pressed powder): 1 year
  • Eyeliner: 1 year
  • Lip gloss and lip stick: 1 year
  • Mascara: 3 months
  • Eye shadow: 1 year
  • Sunscreen: 6 months

Make it Last: How to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Products

Makeup brush and a makeup palette
Photo Credit

Taking proper care of your makeup and applicators can extend the shelf life of your products and save you money. The best way to do this? Store your makeup away from direct sunlight and heat, and don’t share mascara, eyeliner, or lip products. (Sharing can cause more bacteria to grow – gross!)

Another great method I’ve found to make my makeup last longer is to wash my brushes every month or so. Doing this makes your makeup last longer by keeping excess bacteria and oil out of the product. It’s also a great way to prevent breakouts.

To wash my brushes, I like to let them soak for a bit in warm water, then “shampoo” the brush gently with a little bit of a gentle baby shampoo. Rinse the brush until no color washes out of it, then let it air dry on a towel.

Use a special brush cleanser if you want to be extra careful with your brushes (especially for expensive sets and brushes with natural bristles). You can purchase cleansers through different makeup brands (Clinique, MAC Cosmetics, etc.) or even at drugstores.


How long products last can definitely vary depending on how you take care of your makeup. What’s your personal rule of thumb when it comes to throwing out your makeup? What are your thoughts on the idea of expiration dates on beauty products? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!

Posted on on January 4, 2011 / Filed Under: Beauty & Hair / Tags: , , , , ,

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30 Responses to “When is it Time to Toss Cosmetics? Makeup Expiration Dates Explained”

  1. 1
    January 4th, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Another quick way to wash synthetic brushes is to use dish soap and a bit of olive oil after soaking them for a bit in warm water. However, make sure you don’t let the ferrule get soaked in water! That’s the metal part between the brush bristles and the brush handle. That’s where the glue is to hold the bristles to the brush, and if that gets wet, your brush will start shedding hairs and be basically ruined. When drying, I like hanging them upside down. I clip the end of the handle to a clothespin, and hang them on a clothes line or a drying rack if you have one. It’s simple and prevents water from collecting on the bottom of the ferrule like it would if you dried it with the bristles up or on its side.

  2. 2
    January 4th, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I’m not going to lie… I tend to keep eyeshadow until it’s used up. Everything else gets replaced regularly, but I just have too many higher end palettes that I can’t bear to part with unless I absolutely have to! And I know I reallllly shouldn’t, but I keep eyeliners longer than I should, too. At least I disinfect my sharpener and sharpen them regularly enough to keep the germs down…

  3. 3
    January 4th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Good timing, I planned on cleaning out my makeup collection today!!

  4. 4
    January 4th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Honestly I usually toss away products when they’re used up or when I’m simply bored with them and want something new.

    A little tip I learn about lipstick is to wipe it with dry tissue after application. And to buy cosmetics with pumping mechanism – the less touch required to get the product, the better to keep it germs free and eventually, last longer. I even use anti-bacteria hand gel before applying my make up.

    This article is one of those pages well deserving for a bookmark. Thank you so much for sharing this info!

  5. 5
    January 4th, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    just what I needed :D

  6. 6
    January 4th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I always keep track of when to replenish my make up. I have very sensitive skin and eyes, so if I wear mascara thats only a few days past the three month mark, my eyes would be really irritated.

  7. 7
    January 4th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Oh and I just would like to add that in the first picture, the eyeshadow in the bottom right corner is amazing. It’s by Smashbox and it’s highly pigmented, so the colors really pop. It’s also really soft, so there’s some “fall out” when applied, but it’s still one of my favorites.

  8. 8
    January 4th, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I could really use this; I can never remember when I should keep/dispose of my makeup. :)

  9. 9
    January 4th, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    This is a great post. However, makeup brushes should be cleaned more often than once a month. If possible, one should wash them once a week, and spot clean them often. Unless you only use your brushes once in a blue moon, it is definitely a good idea to take some time to clean them once a week. It will make your makeup look better, as well as sustain the life of the brushes. This is definitely the case with face brushes, but the same goes for eye brushes.

  10. 10
    January 4th, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Sometimes I think that makeup doesn’t actually expire, but makeup companies want you to think that so that you’ll keep tossing and repurchasing their products! Honestly, if you were to buy an $18 eyeshadow, would you throw it away if, a year later, it looked perfectly fine and you haven’t come close to finishing it? I love makeup, and my personal philosophy for throwing away makeup is this: If I haven’t used it in a few months, I’ll throw it away, but otherwise, I’ll keep it until I finish it. However, I always toss mascara after 3 months, because it starts to smell.

  11. 11
    January 4th, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I think a lot of makeup has a lot longer shelf life than most people think. I rarely throw away makeup, only if I run out, and I never break out or get infections.

  12. 12
    January 4th, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    I’ve honestly never had a problem with the smell of my mascara changing, and I’ve never been able to use an entire tube in three months, but I tend to agree with the other timelines. Unless my eyeshadow is higher end, it’s dried out and cracking to pieces after about a year.

  13. 13
    January 5th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Most of my make-up gets used up in that time frame anyways, but if its not, I’m willing to take the risk. Make-up is expensive!

  14. 14
    January 5th, 2011 at 5:37 pm


  15. 15
    January 5th, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    I think this was a great article – I used to keep my makeup for really long because I kept switching back and forth and getting new stuff. I think once I get back to school I’ll have to go through it again to make sure – I’ll certainly be using your article for reference!

  16. 16
    January 7th, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I’m extremely guilty of keeping my mascara for way too long. Even once it’s practically empty and I’ve bought a new one I don’t toss it.

  17. 17
    January 7th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I always wonder about foundation, I think I’ve kept my current one way too long. I agree with other comments that brushes should be washed more than once a montj\h, esp concealer brushes. I spritz mine daily with Sephora’s daily brush eash and wash them with facial cleanser at least every other week. And I’ve alwys read that mascara is fine for 6 months, maybe “natural” mascaras only have a 3 month shelf life, though. I keep eyeshadow until it’s gone. sure, drug store eyeshadows tend to expire within a year, but high end powder shadows are good for much longer. I’ve been using my tarte palette for 2 years with no issues and I have sesetive eyes. Well written post but I think the information is a little off; my sis is a cosetologist/esthetician and she’s always said products last longer than this article would lead you to believe. The thing about smell is dead on though.

  18. 18
    January 7th, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    I work for an optometrist and I was advised by the boss to change my mascara every three months so I am really glad to see this info getting wider circulation! Having seen some nasty eye infections at work I hope people take this to heart!

  19. 19
    January 13th, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Also if your mascara starts to flake on you, it might be too old or a poor formulationā€¦time for a new tube!

  20. 20
    June 27th, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Does anyone else get annoyed at expensive products that can’t be used in excess daily, yet expire in 6 months?!? I bought an $80 (Yep, things are freaking expensive in Australia) Clinque eye cream and a rosehip oil a couple of months ago and they expire in 6 months! Although they are only about 15ml (0.5oz) you’re advised by Clinque to use ‘half a grain of rice’ for each eye daily! I could never finish the whole pot in 6 months! What a waste of money, energy, carbon, packaging – everything! Quite annoying.
    They should make cosmetics in smaller tubs that suit the appropriate expiry date. I’d rather have to buy another, cheaper product than throw away some.

  21. 21
    September 7th, 2012 at 1:09 am

    I’ve had my MAC prolong wear concealer for quite awhile now. It works fine, like any high end product. I’m almost finished with it. Should I toss it, or just finish it up? Cuz next month I was planning on buying a new one anyway. Thanks for any advice;)

  22. 22
    March 19th, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I understand that we shouldn’t use makeup for too long but I have a suspicion *wink, wink* that these companies just want our money and it would suit them incredibly if we all obeyed these rules. I’ve been using the same mascara for over 12 months and I’m not planning to buy a new one at this moment.

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