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

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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

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 are 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 brushes

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 (or more often if I’m motivated). 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!

3 thoughts on “When is it Time to Toss Cosmetics? Makeup Expiration Dates Explained”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Also if your mascara starts to flake on you, it might be too old or a poor formulation…time for a new tube!


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