The Elusive Expiration Dates of Makeup

Expired makeup is said to cause skin rashes, breakouts and allergic reactions, not to mention products that are full of accumulated bacteria are just pretty disgusting. Makeup that's damaged, smells bad and has changed texture is obviously fit for the bin, but sometimes it's not easy to decide if it's no longer any good. I think as beauty bloggers, there are very few of us who throw all of our makeup into a big messy makeup bag to get broken and to act as a breeding ground for germs; so when a product still looks fine and has been stored well it can be a bit harder to know whether it genuinely needs throwing away. Unlike food and consumables, at the moment cosmetics companies aren't required to put an expiry date on their products. With no guidelines set in stone, there are only rough guides online stating when certain things should be thrown away once they've been opened or used. The problem is that these guides can vary massively, and so it's difficult to know whether you're harming your skin by keeping certain products, or wasting money throwing away things that are still fine to use. Below I've listed the time frames that online guides suggest products should be thrown away after. I've tried to source all of the information from reliable beauty websites, but as you can see many of these vary a lot.

This is the one product that people tend to agree on. Most of the articles I looked at say they should be thrown away after 3-4 months which sounds quite reasonable. When I was younger I'd use my mascara until it went dry (which in most cases was a lot longer than 3-4 months) and although I never had any problems with eye infections or anything like that, using the same one for a long period of time definitely isn't something I'd want to do now.

Eye and Lip Pencils
I've read everything from 1-5 years with eye and lip pencils. Maybe the preservatives wear off after a certain about of time, but personally I think they'd last longer than that. Regular sharpening helps to keep them clean, and because the actual product is encased in wood it's not really exposed to the air so I don't see how they'd go bad. I really dislike short eyeliner/lipliner pencils so will generally throw mine away before they become sharpened down to nothing, although I own more than I could probably use in a lifetime at the minute so hopefully they don't all need throwing away in a year!

Lipstick and Lip Gloss
The general consensus states around 2-3 years for lipstick and lipgloss. I can see how a lipstick would last three years and possibly longer if it was stored well, disinfected a few times a year and wasn't left to melt. But lipgloss, really? Seeing as most lip glosses are tubes with doe-foot applicators that apply straight to the lips and then back into the tube it seems like a breeding ground for germs to me. Unless I hadn't used it much, I probably wouldn't keep a lip gloss for more than year. 

Liquid Foundation/ Concealer
I've read everything from three months to two years for liquid foundation. I'm thinking that it's probably somewhere in the middle, and depending on the applicator would probably throw foundation away after about a year. Obviously any kind of packaging that involves having to use your hands to get the product out is going to need throwing away quicker than a foundation with a pump bottle where the product inside isn't exposed to the air until you come to use it. The same applies to concealer- if you've used a doe foot applicator or built in brush directly on the skin it will have been picking up bacteria from the day you started using it.

Powder Products (Blush/Bronzer/Eyeshadow etc)
Some articles have said you should throw away powder products from as little as twelve months, with others saying two years plus. I disagree with this one. I think as long as you use clean brushes to apply with and disinfect by spraying on surgical spirit every few months they'll last much longer than that. Powder products can be kept clean by wiping with a dry tissue after each use- this prevents oil from building up. Bacteria have trouble breeding on dry surfaces, and so powders are likely to last the longest out of everything in your collection.

Keeping Makeup Clean
As you can see there are a lot of mixed opinions on how long to keep makeup for; it seems no-one knows for sure, hence the title of this blog post. I think in general it's best to use your common sense and go by what you think. Bacteria will accumulate more quickly in liquid products compared with powders for example, but if the liquid is a foundation in a pump bottle that's never been touched with unclean hands or exposed to the air then it's likely to last longer than something that's repeatedly been in contact with the skin- such as a concealer applicator or foundation pot. If you make a habit of cleaning down makeup and brushes regularly then your products will last you for a lot longer. Good storage is key, a dry cool place is best which rules out anywhere in a bathroom or on display on a dressing table in front of a window. If you own a lot of makeup, rather than using a bit of everything and having lots of products on the go at once, it's a good idea to put together an 'everyday face' and store a selection of your most used products separately. That way there are not lots of different products all being used at one time accumulating bacteria, but items can either be used up or be cleaned and swapped around each season or just when you feel like a change.

What do you think about the suggested time frames for throwing away makeup? Do you think cosmetic companies should be forced to put expiration dates on their products, or is it ok to judge it on common sense?


  1. first of all, thank you for sharing this very informative post.

    personally, i think they should be required to put expiration dates on cosmetics. If it's not possible, then they should at least place an approximation or guidlines like "dispose after 1 year"

    Gia @ Lovely Serendipity

  2. These are very good guidelines to follow! If I'm ever unsure of how long I've had a product I go to they have a pretty comprehensive list of cosmetics you can search thru to see when they were manufactured and what not to give you a better idea as to if they have gone bad.

  3. I change my lip gloss and mascara a lot but that's about it :) everything else is okay unless it looks/smells different.

  4. Just jumped here for the Super Sunday Sync blog hop and am really impressed because I just read a very long post all the way through on a subject that, if you'd asked me before I read it, I would've said I didn't care about in the slightest. I think that's an excellent indicator of quality writing.

  5. I am soooo guilty of keep make-up wayyyy longer than I should. Gross!
    *New follower

  6. great post, my foundation never lasts long enough to go off but i am so bad at keeping lipsticks and mascara for longer than i'm supposed to, oops!

  7. Great post, I have honestly never really thought about how long I should keep makeup. I think my mascara is like a year old. Eww! Thanks for giving me a reason to go shopping!
    Following from the blog hop if you get a chance check out my blog,

  8. I'm guilty of keeping my makeup for longer. I know better, too! I've gotten better about throwing things away, though. What people also need to look out for is the products that are without preservatives. There is a larger growing number of consumers looking for preservative free products and these same people are like some of us who keep their makeup too long. They need to be even more vigilant because preservatives are actually needed to keep us safe from the *nasties* as I refer to it. Radish root ferment is a good natural preservative, off the top of my head.

    I'm your newest follower.:)

  9. SUCH a good reminder! I'm going to go throw things away right now!

    Question...I saw on Pinterest that you can add saline drops to mascara to make it "last longer." I've tried it and it does work, but would you not continue to use it after 3-4 months??

  10. I would have never thought of this! New follower from the GFC blog hop. Excited to read more about you! Would love it if you followed along my blog as well.

  11. Really great post! I am very guilty of keeping products too long. New follower throught the GFC Blog Hop!

    Southern Glamourista

  12. Great post. Expiration dates are important for sure. New follower after finding you on the GFC blog hop!

  13. You would probably faint if you saw how old my makeup is. I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, so as part of my cleaning ritual all of my old makeup is going to go. Thanks for the important reminder.

  14. I usually throw my foundation, and eye make-up after seven months.

    I think makeup companies should state expiration date like: "good for six months after opening" or something like that.

  15. I usually throw mascara lip glosses away quite often as I find these are the items that go bad the quickest. I throw foundations away if I notice they have started to go a bit funny.

    I found your blog through blog hop and Im now following x

  16. Great tips and glad to have a better idea on when to through stuff out! ;-)