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When to Throw Away Makeup

Updated on February 5, 2019

Most women wear makeup to enhance their natural beauty. For others, wearing makeup has become more of an art form and a way to express themselves individually. However, many women tend to keep makeup past their expiration date. Some simply do not realize that makeup has a shelf life and can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can cause many skin and health problems. Knowing when it is time to toss out your old makeup will help you to always look your best and keep troublesome bacteria at bay.

Although some companies are now including expiration dates on their cosmetics, cosmetic companies are not required by law and usually do not include an expiration date makeup.


Bacteria loves moisture. Your foundation is an ideal environment to transfer bacteria and allow it to grow; especially if the foundation comes in a pump. This can cause various types of skin irritations and breakouts. Your foundation should ideally be replaced every 12 months, but in some cases can last up to 18 months. Any foundation kept past 18 months should be thrown away immediately. Foundations can last up to 2 years as long as the seal hasn't been broken. Oil-based foundations typically last longer and can be kept up to 18 months but water-based foundations have a shorter shelf life as it is easier for bacteria to multiply. Therefore, it is best to throw out any unused portions foundations about a year after purchasing and opening it.


Concealers are meant to cover up blemishes and red spots, but if not careful, they can be the source of the problem. The shelf life of concealers depends on the type of concealer. If it is a concealer that you dip your finger in, then it should be thrown away and replaced every 6 to 8 months. Same goes for the liquid concealer with wands. Again, moisture breeds bacteria. If it is a concealer stick or powder, you may get by with it lasting for 12 to 24 months.

Face Powder

Whether you use pressed powder or loose powder, bacteria and germs could be lurking even in your dry makeup. It is ideal that you throw away any unused face powder after 18 to 24 months. When it comes to pressed powder, if it becomes glossy in appearance, it is time to throw it away even if parts of it still seem usable.


Mascara is one of the products that is responsible for the most common eye infections, such as a sty and pink eye. Bacteria thrives in wet, dark places, especially in your mascara tube. Not just bacteria could be living in your tube of mascara, but eyelash mites, as well. Most people have eyelash mites. Not many people know or talk about them, but they can burrow into your eyelash follicle and they feed on dead skin cells. There are two subspecies of eyelash mites: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. This is another reason why you should not share your mascara with other people.

As far as how long mascara lasts, a good rule of thumb is to buy a new one every 3 to 6 months. However, if the mascara becomes clumpy on the brush or smells weird, then you should toss it out immediately to not only maximize the overall look of the mascara's application but for the health of your eye.


With so many types of eyeliner available, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact time frame to throw out eyeliners. Liquid eyeliners should be discarded and not used after 3 months. Eyeliners that twist up may last up to 6 to 12 months. Pencil eyeliners are known to last longer; up to 2 years. The reason is that pencil eyeliners require sharpening, therefore, removing surface germs and bacteria. However, it is advisable to clean the blade of the sharpener with some rubbing alcohol after each use and sharpen the pencil right before usage. Also, be sure to keep the lid on your eyeliners to reduce exposure to microbial.


Powder eyeshadow typically can last up to 2 years. Cream eyeshadows only last for about 6 months. As said previously, bacteria thrives in a moist environment. Powder eye shadow lasts longer due to the lack of moisture. However, if any moisture comes in contact with the powder eyeshadow, its shelf life is reduced to 6 months. One way to tell that your powder eyeshadow has come in contact with moisture, aside from looking and feeling wet, is it will look smooth and glossy. Consider not waiting until the 6-month deadline. Powder eyeshadow once in contact with moisture doesn't apply the color properly to the eye. Plus, depending on the type of moisture may run a higher risk of causing eye infections. So, you may want to replace moisture exposed eyeshadows as soon as possible.

Lipstick and Lip Gloss

It is a common consensus that lipstick will last up to 2 years and lipgloss up to a year. However, there are some concerns to consider with this longer shelf life. Lipsticks typically dry out a lot quicker than you may think. This could affect the original coloring of the lipstick. Also, consider the circumstance in which you apply the lipstick or lipgloss. The mouth can be a dirty place, especially when reapplying lipstick or lip gloss after eating, or even kissing. The mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria. Consider washing your lips before reapplying any lipstick or lip gloss. This will help minimize bacteria growth in the lipstick and lip gloss tubes, thus extending the shelf life closer to the two-year mark.

Makeup Sponges

Makeup sponges are meant to be disposable. Most are designed for a one-time use. Others allow for washing but only for a few applications. There there is the BeautyBlender, which is designed to be washed after each use and can last for up to 2-months, according to Edward Cruz, a celebrity makeup artist.

If you do prefer to get a few uses out of your makeup sponge, be sure to wash it thoroughly after each use with an anti-bacterial liquid soap and set out to dry. Some have even taken a blow dryer to the sponge on high heat. But do not set sponge back in your makeup case until it is fully dry. This creates a petri-dish effect do grow the bacteria you are trying to avoid.

It is suggested that for most makeup sponges for you to not use it past two uses at most. It's understandable that you want to save money but you will more than likely be spending more money on acne and blemish medication by spreading bacteria growth across your face each day.

When Makeup Expires

Throw Away
6 to12 months
6 to 12 months
Face Powder
1 to 2 years
Powder Blush or Bronzer
18 months
Cream Blush
12 months
Eye shadow, powder
2 years
Eye shadow, cream
6 months
18 months
Liquid Eyeliner
3 to 6 months
3 to 6 months
Lip Stick
1 to 2 years
Lip Gloss
6 to 12 months
Lip Liner
12 months
Nail Polish
12 months
Makeup Sponges
Depend on the type. 1 day to 2 months

Tips to Remember:

  • Be sure to wash your hands before applying any cosmetic products.
  • The more you use your fingers, by dipping them in the makeup product, the larger chance of infecting your makeup with more bacteria.
  • Once you open any cosmetic product, the time starts ticking on how long you have to use the product.
  • Throw out and replace any makeup you have used while you have been sick.
  • NEVER share makeup. This is a case where it is alright to be stingy and not share.
  • Wash your cosmetic brushes once a week.
  • Consider adding a sticker to each piece of makeup that states the date the product was opened. This will help keep track of when is a good time to throw it out. Alternatively, you could calculate the date it should be tossed and apply that date instead.

© 2016 L. Sarhan


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