When to Toss Your Makeup

  • Copy by: Megan Stokes

Sorry beauty hoarders, but it’s time for some tough love. We know how much you love the perfect coral lipstick you’ve owned for three years, but it’s time to say goodbye. While it can be tempting to hold on to every last piece of makeup you’ve accumulated over the years, it’s just not a smart thing to do.

It might be time to grab your makeup bag and a trash can because cosmetics do have expiration dates. Not sticking to the “use by” dates can cause makeup to become a breeding ground for bacteria. And trust us, the very last thing you want to do is put those products on your face. Our guide to makeup shelf life will help you know which makeup items are still good and what has passed its prime.

A few helpful hints?

  • The more moisture in a product (like mascara and foundation), the shorter its life span will be.
  • The “use by” time frame begins from the moment you open a product, not from the time you purchase it.
  • Don’t expose makeup to extreme changes in temperature.
  • Write the date you opened a product on it (use a permanent marker!).
  • Stay away from products packaged in jars because fingers also add unwanted bacteria.
  • Try not to share makeup with friends.
  • The bottom line? If you don’t remember how old a beauty product is, it’s probably time to toss it.

Pencils (good for 1 to 2 years)

Pencils (lip liner, eye liner, and brow pencils) may be sharpened, so the good news is that you can start with a clean slate after a good sharpen and spritz with alcohol. But that doesn’t mean they will last forever. If a pencil dries out and starts tugging on your skin, it’s probably time to toss it.

Lipstick and Glosses (good for 1 year)

Since lipstick and lipgloss are applied to the mouth area, it’s a good idea to replace them every year or so. Don’t keep your lip products in your hot car and do sanitize them with alcohol every so often!

Products shown: NARS Lipstick and Lipgloss

Foundation and Concealer (good for 1 to 2 years)

Bacteria loves foundation and concealer, especially if they aren’t in a bottle with a pump. Any change of smell, color, or consistency means it’s time to toss—applying it could cause irritation or breakouts. These products are meant to cover blemishes, not cause them!

Products shown: MAC Pro Longwear Foundation and L’Oreal True Match Super Blendable Concealer

Powders (good for 2 years)

These powder products (powder foundation, blush, eyeshadows, bronzers, and highlighters) last longer than any other color cosmetic, but if it breaks before it’s expiration date is up, go ahead and throw it out.

Products shown: Bobbi Brown Blush and Bronzer and Revlon ColorStay 16 Hour Eyeshadow

Mascara and Liquid Liner (good for 3 to 6 months)

Don’t pump your mascara, even though it’s common practice. It pushes air into the tube, causing it to dry out and lets in bacteria. Using liquid eye products passed expiration dates can cause redness, itchiness, pinkeye, and sties. And of course, don’t ever share these products with a friend!

Products shown: Stila Stay All Day Mascara and Liquid Liner