Mascara can contribute so many things to your life, like Bambi eyelashes and…eye infections? OK, that last one isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s a possibility if you’re still using mascara you can’t even remember buying. It might seem harmless enough—mascara can be pricey, so why would you toss a tube without using up every bit of pigment? Unfortunately, hanging on to old mascara isn’t doing your eyes any favors.

Using old mascara can promote bacterial growth that could seriously screw with your eyes.

Various microorganisms live on your facial skin, including your eyelids. That can include bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Jacqueline R. Carrasco, M.D., F.A.C.S., an oculoplastic and orbital surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital, tells SELF.

When you use mascara, these microscopic beings can cling to the wand and wind up in the tube. There, they can build up and eventually spread to your eyelids and eyeballs as you apply makeup, David Lu, M.D., an associate clinical professor of ophthalmology at University of Texas Southwestern, tells SELF.

That wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that this exact process can sometimes cause eye issues. Streptococcus pneumoniae, for example, can cause pink eye. This inflammation of your eyes’ conjunctiva (the thin, clear tissue lining your eyelids and the whites of your eyes) often presents with redness, pain, itching, and a burning sensation. Staphylococcus aureus is another prime pink eye culprit, but as a bonus, it can also lead to styes, those mystifying pimple-like bumps that can bubble up on your eyelids. Pseudomonas aeruginosa can cause skin infections, which isn’t great news for the delicate tissue on your eyelids. Eyelid infections can lead to blepharitis, uncomfortable inflammation that can even cause loss of eyelashes, which, hello, is the exact opposite of what you want from mascara in the first place!

These kinds of bacteria can also put you at risk of infecting your corneas, the transparent outer surface of your eyeballs, Aaron Zimmerman, O.D., an associate professor of clinical optometry at The Ohio State University, tells SELF.

It’s not like using expired makeup will absolutely guarantee an eye infection or other problem, but it’s a real possibility. Some small studies have found that the above pathogens can all hang out in eye makeup, and that due to its particularly high bacterial diversity, mascara may be especially likely to cause eye infections.

To avoid mascara-related eye infections, you should be getting a new tube every few months at a minimum.

Exactly how often will depend on the specific product recommendations, but most manufacturers suggest replacing your mascara every two to four months, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The American Academy of Ophthalmology is even more specific, suggesting that you get rid of your mascara after three months.

If you insist on hanging on to old mascara, the FDA warns that you shouldn’t try to reconstitute dried-out stuff with water or spit. “The human mouth is incredibly dirty,” Dr. Carrasco says. Bacteria from your spit can grow in your mascara and cause an eye infection. Adding water can also introduce bacteria that should be nowhere near your eyes or mess with the product’s formula in a way that gives bacteria a better chance to grow, the FDA says.

If you’re dealing with weird eye symptoms, go see your eye doctor whether or not you think they’re due to your mascara.

If you do in fact have inflammation or an infection because of your mascara, the first thing your doctor will recommend is throwing out the tube, Dr. Zimmerman says. Then they’ll get to work treating that infection or inflammation, which will depend on exactly what you’ve got going on. It’s best to go without eye makeup until you’ve kicked the issue.

Maybe there’s no way you’ll go through an entire tube of mascara in three months. Relatable. If that’s the case, consider buying sample or travel-sized tubes and seeing where that gets you. You could end up safeguarding your eye health in the long run.


  • 6 Simple Ways to Take Better Care of Your Eyes
  • The Fascinating Reason You Get Eye Boogers When You Sleep
  • How to Know If That Pimple on Your Eyelid Is Actually a Stye

How Often Do You Replace Your Mascara?

When is Your Beauty Product Past it?

One of the most important pieces of knowledge you should have, is how often you should change, throw or replace your beauty products. We will use up most of our products if we use them regularly enough before they should be replaced, but some products can lose their impact or even become dangerous to us if used past their recommended date.

Unfortunately your mascara doesn’t always come with a handy best before date like your carton of milk, so follow our useful guide below, to get the best out of your products and keep you safe from any potential beauty harm.

The Shelf Life of your Products:

1 Month

  • Makeup Sponges – an obvious one really think of how often you put make up on, and how the sponge goes from skin to product. A sponge doesn’t have the longevity of a brush. Washing them regularly helps but, you should replace them with a new one every month.

2 to 3 Months

  • Mascara – many mascara’s will dry up after 2 months and therefore stop working. Many mascaras now have natural ingredients in that can ‘go off’. You also have to think of the natural bacteria that builds up around your eyes, and how that will go in and out of your mascara tube. The health of your eyes is very important – this is a replacement date that is very important to stick to.
  • Face Peels and Masks – Once opened the natural ingredients and enzymes that react with your skin in peels and masks, will start to become inactive and even carry bacteria. 3 months is the max time you should use an opened one for.
  • Nail File – this is more of a case than anything that the file will be blunt and simply won’t do its job. However the cushion of the file will also start to hold and spread dirt after time.

6 to 12 Months

  • Eyeliner – Again, it’s all about keeping the eyes happy and healthy. Liquid and gels have a strict 6 month replacement date. Pencils have a longer usage; between 9-12 months you should be throwing them out, even if you haven’t finished I’m afraid.
  • Eye Cream – The same principles as your other eye products. It such a sensitive area that we must look after and avoid any infections or bacteria build up near them. Throw or replace yours when it reaches 6 months. TIP – generally eye creams are sold in smaller volumes as we use them less, if you use it everyday a 15ml product should last you around 3 months so perfectly within a safe time.
  • Liquid Foundation and Concealers – Most women will use a foundation within a year, but if you do go over the 6 month mark then be careful as they are susceptible to dying out and bacteria. You can help to lengthen their life to a year max by using brushes and sponges, do not apply with your fingers! Pump and squeezey bottles help your foundation stay cleaner (less bacteria) if you have an open bottle, then make sure you fasten it tightly to stop any bad bacteria getting in. Your concealer generally lasts longer, but after 9 months, it will be very dry and will dry out area’s it is applied to. Treat yourself to a nice new one.
  • Acne/Blemish Products – 9 months is your replacement time. If you have blemish prone skin and use products that are formulated to tackle your issues, the various ingredients used in the products will become less effective and even stop working as a catalyst. TIP – You should mix up your routine and products every 6 months if your blemishes, spots or acne don’t improve anyway, chances are the product isn’t working with your skin if you don’t see any improvements within 12 weeks using a product.
  • Face Cleansers – It’s unlikely a regularly used face wash will last up to a year, but if you reach 12 months with the same one, then it’s cleansing qualities will be almost void.

1 Year

  • Lipstick – Your favourite shades you use more regularly will last you 6-9 months, but the ones you wear on the odd or special occasion can be in your makeup tool kit for a while. However after a year the preservatives that are in your lipstick will breakdown. They will start to dry out and the colour will crack, little beads also appear on the tip. Replace your lipsticks every 12 months. TIP – applying with a brush does help to stop bacteria spreading on your lipstick.
  • Nail Varnish – Chances are you have a staple colour, and ones that you wear every now and then, so often a whole bottle will be more than you can use in a year. You should be replacing your polishes every year, as their chemicals deteriorate, they can become dry or gloopy. Buying smaller sizes in your more unusual and less used colours will mean you get the best colour within the 12 month time frame. Go for a 9ml or 5ml polish. TIP – if your polish starts to clump or dry add add a drop of nail polish remover to it to give it a new lease of life.
  • Creme Makeup – creme blushes and eye shadows should be replaced after 12 months, they will be incredibly dry a year after opening and application will become harder and the products will appear dry and cakey on the skin.

Over a Year

  • Sunscreen – Most sun creams have a clearly marked use by date, which is very helpful. As a rule from time of purchase they should last up to a year, some can last up to 3 years. I suggest if your sun cream lasts more than a season, or over a couple of holidays – check them. It’s best to use newer ones so the SPF is still active, its effectiveness can slowly decrease, for high SPF’s it’s safer to replace every year. Regulations on sunscreen are increasing, so it’s easier to know when you should replace it.
  • Makeup Brushes – Your brushes will last longer if they are better quality, FACT, so invest in good ones. You will need to replace a foundation brush more regularly at least once a year, but many people have theirs for around 18 months. To help your foundation brush last and for it to give you the best results; keep it clean. Depending on how much foundation you use, washing your foundation brush should be a weekly job, if not more often. TIP – use a gentle shampoo or specific brush cleaning solution, let them dry naturally (overnight is best), once dry, massage in a very tiny bit of a mild oil if the brush needs softening after. A bronzer or blusher brush will last between 1-2 years. Other applicator brushes, will have a similar lifespan. When you notice a loss of bristles or clogging of products on them, it’s time to replace them. Storing brushes in a protective case is the best way to preserve them.
  • Makeup Powders – Bronze, blushes and eyeshadow powders can last up to 2 years, some even longer. Keeping them away from liquid is the key. The pressed powder formula is less prone to contamination, so they remain kind to your skin. After so long their performance can dip and the colour pigments don’t look as vibrant as they use to.
  • Shampoo & Conditioners – The preservative qualities in a shampoo and conditioner mean they will be still effective over a year over purchase. If you reach 18 months – 2 years, then it’s time to freshen your supply. However most women go through a regular size shampoo bottle within a month or so, so chances our you are getting the optimum out of them anyway.
  • Hairspray – Again a hairspray is highly preserved as it has a more chemical formula, after 2 years you should definitely replace your hairspray. Most hairsprays become ineffective because of the mechanism in the spray going rather than the quality of the actual product. TIP – a sign of quality in a good spray product is a ball bearing, or marble. They use to be very common, but now it’s an indication of a traditional touch of class that actually does help, you shake and hear it move which mixes up the formulation inside, so you get better quality in every spritz.
  • Perfume – A perfume can last up to 2 years. It is well contained in it’s packaging so isn’t easily contaminated. Keep it out of sunlight and avoid humidity, these elements will affect the notes and accents in the scent.

Top Tips

  • With every season the needs of our skin varies. Review your most used products at the beginning of the season or when you use them for the first time in a while.
  • You know what your product did and looked liked on it’s first few uses, when you see it change, it is time for you to change ‘it’.
  • Consider the amount of time you will be using a product at the time of purchase, i.e select the smaller size face scrub if you are only using it occasionally compared to a face cream you will use daily.
  • Think of your face, body, and eyes in the same way you would your stomach. You wouldn’t eat gone off food, so why would you use gone off products.

Why You Really Need to Replace Your Mascara Every 3 Months

I had heard that like toothbrushes, you should replace mascara every 3 months. But it wasn’t until my beloved mascara began irritating my eyes that I started to wonder why. Turns out that it isn’t just cosmetic manufacturers wanting to sell more products – you really should change mascara every 3 months.

Every time you apply that mascara wand to your lashes, then put the wand back into the mascara, bacteria are joining the party in the tube. You’re contaminating your mascara every time you use it. And although the preservatives in the mascara do their job at first, all the bacteria in mascara means they become less and less effective over time.

The moist, dark environment of the mascara tube is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Go check the ingredients in your mascara. The first one is water, right? The water is necessary to get the right formulation for a mascara that will glide onto your lashes. But water is exactly what bacteria need to grow.

Mascara and liquid eyeliner are particularly problematic, because unlike most water based products, you’re putting the applicator back inside the tube each time. This is why mascara and liquid eyeliner are the makeup products with the shortest shelf life, and why replacing mascara regularly is so important.

“97.9% of women use makeup after the expiry date”

But most of us continue to use our mascaras well past the recommended use by date. A study of female medical students in Brazil found that 97.9% of them admitted to using makeup after the expiry date. Mascara was the most frequently mentioned product.

The researchers in the Brazilian study trying to find out when to replace mascara found Staphylococcus aureus in 79% of mascara samples from the students, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in 13% of their expired mascaras. The study doesn’t mention how far out of date the mascaras were.

However, another study shows the levels of microbial contamination after using mascara for just three months. In this study, 40 women used mascara every day for three months. At the end of three months, 36.4% of the mascara tubes contained microbial growth. These microbes were mainly Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus species, or fungi.

The authors of this study thought that using a mascara for three months was the outside limit. So if you’ve been wondering how often should you replace mascara, it’s probably sooner than you think.

So what’s the problem with microbes in mascara? Microbes are everywhere, right?

You apply mascara to your eyelashes, which are right next to your eyes. And I know I’m not the only one who’s stabbed themselves in the eye with their eyelash wand, or got a bit of mascara into her eye!

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a kind of bacteria that can lead to infections in people. Scratching the eye with a mascara wand has led to severe eye infections and damaged vision. It’s rare, but it has happened.

Staphylococcus epidermis is another kind of bacteria that can cause serious health issues, and this one is even more problematic because it doesn’t respond well to antibiotics.

In healthy people, neither of these bacteria should cause too many problems. But for someone with a weakened immune system, it can be a big issue.

And even for a healthy person, these bacteria can cause irritation and even eye infections. No wonder my eyes were getting irritated when I applied out of date mascara.

So when should you replace mascara?

You don’t have to swear off mascara forever. But you do need to be sensible, and if you’ve been wondering how often to buy new mascara, you now know that it really should be every three months.

The FDA has guidelines on the safe use of eye makeup:

  • Keep your eye makeup clean – don’t put the mascara wand or the liquid eyeliner brush down. Apply it to your lashes or lids, and put it straight back in the tube.
  • Don’t share or swap eye makeup – even with your family or close friends.
  • Don’t apply eye makeup in the car! Getting a scratch in your eye from the mascara wand can cause serious eye infection, and even damage your vision.
  • Wash your hands before applying makeup.
  • Don’t use mascara or liquid eyeliner if you have an eye infection. Get rid of any eye makeup you were using when you got the infection.
  • If your eye makeup causes irritation, stop using it. If you’re getting continuous irritation, see your doctor.
  • Don’t dilute dried up mascara to reuse – throw it away.
  • Keep your makeup in a cool place. The car glovebox might be handy, but it’s not ideal.

As for me, I’ve started writing the date on my mascara tube, and putting a reminder into my phone so that I remember to replace it every three months.

Looking for a non toxic mascara replacement for your current masacara? Check out our Natural Mascara Cheat Sheet.

How often do you replace mascara? Have you ever had a reaction to out of date makeup? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Beauty Product Shelf Life: When to Toss Out Expired Makeup

Stop for a moment and ask yourself this question about your beauty habits. When was the last time you cleaned out your makeup stash? If it’s been longer than six months, heaven forbid more than a year, then it’s probably a good time to browse your beauty vanity and toss out expired makeup products.

Cosmetic products can be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. This puts your skin at risk for irritation, eye and lip infections. Follow this handy guide to help you determine your beauty product shelf life so you know when to toss your cosmetics.


Mascara has a shelf life on average of three months. Some brands stamp a sell-by date or expiration date and some do not, so be sure to keep up with the day you purchased and toss after three months. To minimize eye infections, never pump the wand. This allows more air to get into the tube, providing a breeding ground for germs. Never try to revitalize dry mascara with eye drops, water, alcohol, glycerin or spit.


Lipstick has a shelf life of two years. A change in smell is a surefire way to know that your lipstick is expired. Before the shelf life runs out, keep your lipstick up-to-date by dipping it in alcohol to keep it clean and sanitized.

Lip Liner

Lip liners have a very long shelf life because they can be sharpened, thus removing the outside. So basically, you can use your lip liners for up to two years before they become expired makeup, or until you’ve sharpened them all the way down–whichever comes first.

Eye Shadow

Eye shadows are one of those makeup products that vary. Tossing out this expired makeup is dependent on the type of eye shadow used. Cream eye shadows only have a shelf life of six months, especially if you double dip and/or use a dirty brush. Powders last longer, at an average of two years or more.


When it comes to expired makeup, cream or gel liners last six months for the same reasons as cream eye shadows. Pencil eyeliners that can be sharpened last one to two years, in the same vein as lip liners.


Powder foundation lasts roughly two years and liquid foundation shelf lives vary. Liquid foundations that come with a pump can last as long as a powder foundation, but most likely, you will finish it before the two year mark. Liquid foundations that do not come with a pump have a shorter shelf life of six to eight months. Liquid foundation that has a change in color, consistency or smell should be thrown away as it is now expired makeup.

Powder, Bronzer and Blush

Powders, bronzers and blushes have a shelf life of two years if powder based and six months if cream based. If you are not dealing with expired makeup and it’s not time to dispose of your beauty products, here are some other tips to consider for a safer, more beautiful you:

  • Never share makeup with friends or family
  • Always apply makeup using clean brushes and applicators
  • Sterilize lipsticks after use by dipping in alcohol
  • Keep a spreadsheet with an inventory of the products and dates of purchase to properly keep track of expired makeup
  • Products that have changed consistency, color, formula or smell need to be disposed of, no matter how long you’ve had them

Deciding how long to keep your go-to mascara in rotation or when to toss that miracle skin care cream can be downright confusing.

Using a product after its prime might not seem like a big deal, but expired beauty products are less effective and can even cause health issues like infections and irritation. So TODAY Style consulted a range of beauty experts to get the scoop on the actual shelf life of your favorite beauty products.

How to read beauty product labels: Ingredients and symbols to look for

Jan. 19, 201603:58

When do skin care products expire and why?

In an ideal world, all beauty products would be labeled with a “sell-by” date and instructions for how long to use them after opening. Unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet, and with so many variations of products and formulas, it’s not always easy to define a clear shelf life.

“Expiration dates are tricky when it comes to cosmetics because it entirely depends on the product. When in doubt, check the item in question for a round jar printed with a number (that represents the number of months to use once open). That’s always a safe indicator for when something needs to be tossed,” said makeup artist Austin Evans, a part of Tomlinson Management Group.

Keep in mind that certain product consistencies tend to last longer than others.

“In general, liquids and creams expire fastest, while powders tend to last much longer,” Evans explained. “The more wet a product is (take mascara or liquid eyeliner, for example), the easier it will facilitate bacteria growth. Your eye shadows, on the other hand, can stick around for quite a while.”

What do cosmetic expiration dates mean?

  • Mascara

Mascara definitely wins the award for the shortest shelf life — you should toss yours every three months! Depending on the frequency of use, two to four months is also acceptable. Mascara tends to dry out quicker than other products, and since it’s an eye product, it’s also more likely to cause infections when used for too long.

“There’s moisture near your eye so you may be introducing small amounts into the tube. Signs it needs to go sooner? Dry and over-clumped mascara is past its prime,” said Tasha Brown, a makeup artist at Exclusive Artists Management.

  • Eyeliner

Eyeliner can last longer than mascara, but it still has a relatively short shelf life. “Eyeliner is dependent on the brand and type. If liquid, it will probably last around three to six months, if a pencil, it will last from six to 12 months. A good rule of thumb is smell and obvious dryness,” said Lydia Sellers, makeup and hair artist represented by Exclusive Artists Management.

So when is it time to toss your eyeliner? Be sure to ditch it when the wax becomes too hard, since that means the eyeliner won’t glide anymore.

  • Eye shadow

If you’re looking to invest in an eye product that will last longer than a few months, eye shadow is your best bet.

“Powder products like eye shadow and blush have a longer shelf life due to their dry nature. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t susceptible to microbial growth. Be sure to use clean applicators to reduce the chance of introducing microbes,” said cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos.

Clean applicators and brushes can extend the shelf life of your products.Getty Images stock

  • Lip products

Lip products — think lipsticks, lip glosses and lip liners — typically last about a year, but there’s no one-size-fits-all expiration date.

“The shelf life of these formulas depend on the specific ingredients and preservatives they contain. The types of formulations have expanded and changed making it harder to give general recommendations,” Dobos said. “So it’s really the period after opening (PAO) shown on the product package that the consumer should go by.”

  • Foundation and concealer

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Foundations and concealers can also last anywhere from six months to a year. “Keep fingers away from the neck of the bottle for a longer shelf life and to avoid separation of the oils,” Sellers said.

  • Skin care

Skin care is a whole other beast, and your favorite lotions and potions have their own unique suggested shelf life.

In general, you can get six months to a year out of your facial cleansers while the shelf life of your lotions and creams really depends on the type of bottle you’re using. For instance, a pump lotion can last more than a year, but a jar that you scoop product out of is more likely to experience bacterial growth, so they typically last six to nine months.

In general, liquids and creams expire fastest, while powders tend to last much longer.

Austin Evans

“For skin care, any items that contain an active ingredient that is unstable around oxygen should be kept away from the heat as well. Beauty favorites like retinol, hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid and vitamin C are all relatively unstable if left exposed to oxygen, so if you’re going to incorporate these ingredients into your skin care routine, it’s a good idea to invest in products that come in a tube with a pump rather than an open jar,” Evans said.

  • Perfumes

Perfumes can last as long as three to five years, but let your nose be the guide for figuring out when it’s time to toss your fragrances. Nail polish, on the other hand, typically only lasts a little over a year once opened and exposed to air.

  • Hair care

What about your beloved hair products? It could depend on the ingredients found in your shampoos, conditioners and styling products said hairstylist Sunnie Brook, a part of Tomlinson Management Group. Hair products generally last between one and two years, but the warning signs that they’re expired aren’t that obvious, so pay attention to when they start to lose their efficacy.

“One of the cool apps that helps with keeping track of products or knowing their shelf life is Beauty Keeper app. Many manufacturers use a batch code on the product and you can scan or enter that into the app with your phone to determine the shelf life. Then the app notifies you one month before the product will expire and has over 850 hair, makeup, skin and fragrance products to source from,” Brooks said.

How much of these skin care products should you apply?

Dec. 7, 201600:50

Do expiration dates really matter?

We all know the negative side effects of eating expired foods, but many of us don’t take beauty expiration dates as seriously. But, as it turns out, we should!

“Sometimes using a product that is expired can result in skin irritation along with bacterial infections. Most products have preservatives in them to keep fresher longer but over time, even preservatives lose their effectiveness,” Sellers said.

If a product has many active ingredients (like an SPF) and it’s susceptible to bacteria — for instance, if air hits a product when you open the jar, or you store it in a damp room or warm bathroom — it can be pretty likely to harbor bacteria.

A simple way to keep track is to use a sharpie to mark the date when you opened the product.

Ali Hendi

Certain product types, like eye products, are more likely to cause infection, so if your eyes are experiencing itching, redness or weeping, you should stop using a product immediately.

“Expired products run the risk of having destabilized active ingredients that can potentially cause contact dermatitis. In addition bacterial growth is a possibility,” said Dr. Ali Hendi, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Georgetown University and co-founder of Luminora UPF 50+ Resort Wear. “This is often not an issue on intact skin, but if there’s a cut or nick in the skin this can lead to a localized skin infection.”

How long do unopened skin care products last?

What about products you bought a while ago and haven’t had a chance to use yet — are they still OK to use even if they don’t have a clear expiration date listed on them? The short answer is: They should be good for a few years.

“Most good cosmetic manufacturers will do accelerated stability testing that includes microbial testing to ensure a product has a two to three year shelf life if unopened,” Dobos said.

Brown agreed that being exposed to air is the biggest issue. “When it has been sealed, it means no air or bacteria have entered the product so it should be just as good as when you brought it,” she said.

And if you forget when you opened a product (versus not opening it just yet), there are a few ways you can prevent expiration date confusion in the future!

“A simple way to keep track is to use a sharpie to mark the date when you opened the product,” Hendi suggested. Or, try adding the date you opened it to your phone calendar.



If you have sensitive skin, you need to be very careful about understanding how long to keep makeup. Sometimes it’s hard to throw away your favorite blush or lipstick, but it’s important to weigh the problems old makeup can cause, specially to sensitive skin. Unfortunately, unlike food, there are no printed makeup expiration dates on cosmetics labels. However, there are subtle ways to tell if you need to part with them. For example, common sense tells you a sticky, goopy lip gloss that smells should be thrown away. If your nail polish is separating, it’s too old.

Keep the following guideline as a general rule for how long to keep your makeup, and you’ll never have to look at a drawer full of old cosmetics from years ago.

  • Mascara – Mascara and liquid eyeliners have the shortest shelf life: 3 to 4 months. It’s important not to pump the wand into the liquid, since this tends to increase bacteria into it. If your mascara gets dry, don’t add water, just toss it. If your eye feels irritated after using it, immediately throw it away. If it smells bad, also throw it away. You don’t want to risk eye infection called ‘conjunctivitis’ (red eye).

  • Eye or lip pencils – Any kind of pencil can be kept up to 2 years. Sharpen as needed, to keep the tip clean.

  • Eye shadows – Powder shadows can last up to 2 years, while liquid ones, last about 12 months.

  • Liquid foundation, concealers – It’s best to use an applicator with makeup. Putting your finger into a product can introduce bacteria to it. If used properly, liquid foundation can last up to a year. Bacteria love water-based makeup. You can prevent contamination by not using your fingers to apply them. Stick concealers can last up to 2 years.

  • Lipstick – As long as it’s not a liquid lipstick, it can last up to a year or longer.

  • Lip Gloss – Most lip gloss are in liquid form. Their shelf life is shorter than lipstick. They can last about 6 months.

  • Blush – Makeup that is powder based, can last 18 months to 2 years. Cream blush should not be used after 12 months.

Easy Chart on How Long to Keep Makeup

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  • 6 Quick & Easy Makeup Tips

  • Care for Sensitive Allergy Prone Skin

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I was in an extreme cleaning mode with my beauty supplies a few weeks ago and realized I had no idea how to clean my makeup pencil sharpener. I use it consistently for my eyeliner, brow wax pencil, and eyeshadow stick–and that doesn’t even include other lip liners, shadow sticks, and brow pencils. Besides a quick wipe out with a tissue, I’ve never been entirely sure how to keep it clean (disgusting, I know).

Here are some basic steps to keep this important beauty tool clean, sanitized, and sharp!

Empty out the shavings

First and foremost, make sure all the makeup residue is gone! Beautylish recommends doing this once a week. A cotton swab is a great tool for removing grime from hard-to-reach areas. Leaf TV suggests using a toothpick to pull out build up from small spaces (or an old toothbrush!). A cotton swab dipped in makeup remover can break down stubborn makeup that refuses to come off the blade.

Clean and sanitize with rubbing alcohol

Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and wipe all along the blade and inside of the sharpener. You can always wash your sharpener in warm water and dish soap as an alternative to rubbing alcohol.

For daily upkeep, use a sanitizing mist

Invest in a sanitizing mist for a quick clean when you’re in a hurry. This brush cleaner from Sephora is a great choice for daily cleaning. Here’s another option from e.l.f. you can buy from Amazon. Wet wipes or makeup removing wipes are great when you’re on-the-go or in a hurry. Here’s a cosmetic sanitizer from BeautySoClean.

Maintain the blade

A properly maintained makeup sharpener should last you a long time (as long as you keep it clean and disinfected!). To keep the blade sharpened, you can actually unscrew it and use any knife sharpener to keep it from getting dull.

Now go clean out that grimy sharpener in your bathroom drawer!

If you’re anything like me, you swipe on mascara every single day so that you look more awake and, ok, put together. But day in and day out, as I dunk my wand into the goopy black elixir and slather it all over my lashes, I don’t do a single thing in order to clean it or make sure I’m not introducing all sorts of germs to my eyeballs. But (oops!) apparently, I should be. As in: At least once every three months.

As I recently discovered, there’s a hazardous risk if you’re not replacing your gunky old mascara on the reg, or fully removing it from your eyes at the end of the day. “Long-term use of mascara has been associated with higher rates of eyelashes falling out, and mascara tubes that become contaminated with germs can lead to eye infections,” says Justin Bazan, OD an optometrist and medical adviser to The Vision Council. “The more use a tube has had, the higher potential for it to be contaminated with germs that can lead to eye infections and irritation.”

I’m also about to reveal a dirty secret: I don’t throw out my mascara after being sick, despite fully still using while I’m infected. And, as you can imagine, that’s not a good idea. “Never wear eye makeup if you have an eye infection—throw out the mascara you had on before you got the infection, as it may be contaminated,” says Dr. Bazan. “Your infection could come back if you don’t buy a new mascara.” The same applies if you’re just sick in general and happen to sneeze or cough near your mascara wand—that stuff’s gonna wind up in your eye area.

This is all not to say that you need to start hoarding mascaras or that you should invest in a new one every single week. Just, you know, be more conscious with your lash makeup instead of mindlessly applying it every day without ever replacing it. “There aren’t any universally accepted replacement schedules for mascara that I know of, but preservative-free mascara should be replaced more frequently than those with preservatives,” says Dr. Bazan. “I advise patients to replace their mascara every few months. Also, pay attention to the quality of your mascara over time. If it changes or the performance decreases, it might be a sign that the tube is contaminated and it’s time to toss it.”

Oh yeah, and here’s why you should be taking off your mascara every night. Or you can just get a lash lift.

Here’s How Often You Should Actually Replace Your Makeup

When was the last time you replaced your mascara? If you’re not sure, you’re going to want to first, throw it out and second, keep reading. Just like the food in your fridge, your makeup stash will go bad eventually, meaning it’s important to regularly assess the condition of your cosmetics and replace things past their prime. We asked experts to weigh in on why this is so important and to share exactly when to toss different types of makeup.

Image zoom Image courtesy of Getty.

Is Old Makeup Effective?

“Any type of powder makeup that’s cracked or crumbly isn’t going to pick up well on a brush,” says beauty expert, makeup artist, and best-selling author Jenny Patinkin. Liquid or creamy products—think foundations, lip glosses, cream blushes—dry out and start to tug and pull on your skin, she adds. Not to mention that regardless of the texture, the colors can start to change, too. The bottom line: Old makeup will neither apply as well nor look as good on you.

Related: How to Clean Makeup Brushes

Is It Safe to Use Old Makeup?

Not to sound like alarmists, but using old, grimy makeup can be dangerous. “Old makeup can harbor disease-causing microbes that can lead to infections, rashes, or other skin problems, so it is a safety issue,” says cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski. “Even if your makeup starts off properly preserved, over time it picks up microbes from your face and the environment, which might eventually overwhelm the preservative system.” Still, not all makeup is created equal—nor will it go bad at the same time—so it’s important to think about products differently.

“Eye makeup is the most problematic because you’re dealing with a mucous membrane where there are more ports of entry for the bacteria to get into your body,” says Chicago dermatologist Jordan Carqueville, M.D. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to exactly when you need to pitch your mascara, liner, and shadow in a moment.) You can contract all kinds of things, including conjunctivitis (aka pink eye) to sties, to name a few common issues.

But using a foundation that has been in your makeup bag for who knows how long can potentially be problematic too. “There’s less of a risk of carrying infection on skin because the skin’s oil acts as a protective layer,” says Rita Linkner, M.D., of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. Still, it is possible to contract serious infections such as staph or strep from old, dirty makeup, says Carqueville, particularly if you have a pimple or blemish, which makes it easier for the bacteria to get in. And to that point, if you’re prone to breakouts, you definitely want to keep your makeup fresh and clean. “Oil, dirt, and bacteria are a recipe for clogged pores,” she says. “The preservative systems in makeup break down with time, upping the likelihood of bacterial growth. And, especially if you’re sticking your fingers in a product, it can get full of oil and dirt. All of that ends up on your skin.” No, thank you.

Related: How Much Should You Really Tip at the Salon?

How Often Should Makeup Be Replaced?

Follow this universal rule: No matter the product, if it smells funny or looks funny (e.g., has started to separate or change color), get rid of it. When in doubt, throw it out. Otherwise, follow these helpful guidelines.

Eye Makeup

It’s most important to be diligent about your eye makeup, particularly mascara and gel eyeliner, Romanowski says. Because these products contain water (which is necessary for bacteria to grow) and are applied to skin then dipped back into the container, they’re more prone to microbial contamination, he says. All the experts we spoke with recommend replacing your mascara every three months. A tell-tale sign it needs to go? “You should hear a popping noise every time you open it and pull out the wand,” Patinkin says. “If you don’t hear that sound, it means too much air has gotten into the tube and the mascara is old and dried out.” (Again, putting you at risk not only for eye issues but also upping the likelihood that your mascara will clump or flake.) Pending any changes in scent or appearance, eyeliner pencils and powder shadows can be used longer—six months to a year—given that they don’t contain water.

Powder Makeup

It’s harder for bacteria to grow in any kind of powder because there’s no water present, Carqueville says. That means that powder blushes, bronzers, and foundations are OK to use for nine months up to year, Linkner says. Although, once again, keep an eye out for any changes in how they look. See strange speckling on top of the powder? That’s a buildup of oil that Patinkin says you scrape off with a knife. Depending on how much of the product you have left and how pricey it was, it may just be easier to replace it.

Cream Makeup

Cream formulas (foundations, concealers, blushes) contain water so can become problematic. Replace these after about nine months, more frequently if you’re either constantly dipping your fingers into the jar or are dealing with breakouts and acne.

Related: This Is the One Makeup Product with SPF You’ve Been Missing

Lip Gloss and Lipstick

Lip gloss and lipsticks should be replaced every six months, says Linkner, especially if you’re prone to perleche—cracking, crusting, or irritation in the corners of the mouth caused by bacteria or fungus. “The lip makeup can harbor those microorganisms and reinfect the skin if you’re not careful,” she cautions. For similar reasons, it’s a good idea to throw out any lip makeup you use while you’re sick or have a cold sore.

Tip: When you open a new makeup item, write the date on its bottom with a fine-tip permanent marker (or note the date on a piece of masking tape, then stick it on the product).

Remember, when to replace makeup boils down to the formula (powder versus cream) and the type of product, but updating your beauty arsenal every few months is in your best interest. Besides, it’s a good excuse to change up your routine and try new products.


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Philip Friedman Do a quick check of any woman’s bathroom, and chances are you’ll find jars of rarely used face cream, the dregs of a favorite powder blush, and at least one tube of lip gloss squeezed within an inch of its life. Whether unused, or consumed to the last drop, squeeze, or swipe, these cosmetics are taking up shelf (and makeup-bag) space because we want to get every penny out of the precious dollars we spent on them. But this hoarding habit has a catch: Beauty products do go bad. At best, they stop performing as well as they used to; at worst, they can cause irritations or infections.

“Unopened, well-formulated cosmetics can remain stable for a couple of years at room temperature,” says Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist at Cosmetech Laboratories in Fairfield, NJ. “But the clock starts once you bring a product home and open it. When air hits the formula, certain ingredients start to oxidize and degrade.” What’s more, every time you touch your makeup or skin-care lotions and potions, you transfer germs to them — and, subsequently, to your face. Heat and humidity, which promote the growth of mold and yeast, are factors, too. That’s one reason the bathroom, though convenient, isn’t the ideal spot to store cosmetics. (High levels of airborne bacteria can contaminate beauty products, too.) A better place: a cool, dry linen closet.

Beyond the obvious signs — dried mascara or separated foundation — it can be tough to tell when something’s past its prime. (U.S. labeling regulations don’t require an expiration date on most cosmetics.) So read on for easy, expert, beauty-protecting tips on when to throw away what.

Face Makeup

Toss-it time: Six months for liquids; two years for powders

Insider info: You increase the odds of bacterial growth — and, hence, of breakouts or irritation — when you repeatedly dip your brushes and fingers into liquid foundation. Also, as it ages, foundation can go on unevenly, creating a streaky, inconsistent finish. “Oils rise to the top, and the consistency thickens,” explains New York City makeup artist Mathew Nigara. Powders present less of a problem because bacteria can’t grow where there’s no water. However, over time, powders with botanical ingredients like aloe or jojoba can become harder to blend and are more likely to crumble, as their trace amounts of water evaporate.

Toss-it time: Three months

Insider info: “A mascara tube is a dark, wet environment — the perfect breeding ground for bacteria,” says New York City optometrist Andrea Thau, O.D. “Preservatives in a mascara only work for so long.” Dr. Thau knows from firsthand experience: She once developed a sty from a makeup artist’s mascara wand. Plus, three-month-old mascara is a nonperformer. “It’s chalky and powdery, and any lengthening or thickening fibers often separate from the fluid, so the mascara stops going on in a smooth, even coat,” says makeup artist Cristina Bartolucci. To avoid hastening the demise of your mascara, never pump the wand — that pushes air into the tube, causing it to dry out faster. Instead, slowly draw out and twist the brush to scrape the tube’s interior and pick up product.

Eyeliner and Eye Shadow

Toss-it time: Liquid eyeliners, three months; cream eye shadows, six months; pencil eyeliners and powder eye shadows, two years

Insider info: As they do with mascara, bacteria tend to flourish in liquid-eyeliner tubes, and the product dries out. Pencil eyeliners have a longer shelf life because you can create a fresh, clean surface each time you sharpen them. (Just be sure to regularly sanitize your sharpener with rubbing alcohol.) Powder shadows, like pressed powders, are less prone to contamination because they, too, lack water (if you wet them, toss after six months). But aging eye shadows have performance issues: They get packed down, making it harder to pick up pigment with your brush, says Bartolucci.

Lipstick and Lipliner

Toss-it time: Lipstick and gloss, two years; lipliner, two years or more

Insider info: Lipsticks’ water content makes them potential mini reservoirs of bacteria. No surprise, they also dry out with age, says New York City makeup artist Tina Turnbow: “They no longer look creamy on the lips.” Long-wearing formulas may have an even shorter life span since they often contain ingredients that evaporate more quickly than creamier formulas. Pencil lipliners, like eyeliners, may last a little longer since putting them through a sharpener removes the old surface.



Nail Polish

Toss-It Time: One to two years

Insider info: When polish expires, the consistency turns gooey or stringy, says Ji Baek, owner of Rescue Beauty Lounge in New York City. Formulas are especially sensitive to temperature extremes and humidity, so avoid storing in the bathroom.

Skin Care

Toss-it time: Acne creams and other over-the-counter products that contain drugs are FDA regulated and usually carry expiration dates. But cosmeceuticals (products claiming to have anti-aging and skin-changing benefits) are not regulated, and once they’ve been used, they shouldn’t be kept for more than six months — or, if they’re in pump bottles, a year — says Wilson.

Insider info: “Some ingredients degrade even more rapidly if they’re left in direct sunlight or exposed to air,” says Tina Alster, M.D., a Washington, D.C., dermatologist. Less frequently — but more alarmingly — certain products can actually become more potent over time, says Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, M.D. The reason: Active ingredients like retinol and glycolic acid become more concentrated as their bases degrade, separate, or evaporate. And when proportions change, your skin may get irritated. To prevent problems, store cosmetics properly, discontinue use after six months, and look for products that come in a pump, which helps keep air out. Another option that’s starting to hit shelves: special jars that dispense creams through a tiny hole or slit when you press the top (an internal “floor” rises with each push).


Toss-it time: Six months

Insider info: Sunscreens are FDA regulated, and though they usually have expiration dates of at least one year, that date indicates the purchasing time frame, says Wilson: “When you open a tube, water may start evaporating, causing the formula to eventually become unstable. Once that happens, the ingredients are no longer evenly distributed, so you may get a lot in one dose, but nearly none in another.” Protect your tube by storing it out of the sun.

Hair Products

Toss-it time: One year

Insider info: Always close the caps of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products tightly. Otherwise, water and air can get in, breaking down the formulas or causing them to separate. (Good news for hairspray users: Aerosol cans are the best product protectors going, so sprays should stay good even longer.)


Toss-it time: Two years — or potentially many more

Insider info: “Eau de toilettes and perfumes can last for several years, as long as they’re kept out of humidity and sunlight,” says Robert Gerstener, co-owner of Aedes de Venustas, a New York City fragrance emporium. “Both of these elements can alter notes in a fragrance, which will then change the overall scent.”

Simple Stay-Fresh Secrets

  1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before putting your fingers into a product.
  2. Avoid reinfection. Stop using all eye makeup if you have an eye infection and lip products if you have a cold sore. The exceptions: lipsticks, lipliners, and eye pencils, which can be shaved clean with a knife or sharpener. (Just cleaning with a tissue won’t suffice.)
  3. Smell your mascara when you first purchase it. If you recognize that scent, you’ll know when it goes bad: Expired mascara often takes on a funny, chemical odor.
  4. Choose a cotton-tipped swab or disposable sponge to apply makeup to a pimple — and avoid double-dipping. Going back and forth from the product to the affected area with your finger or a sponge can lead to contamination.
  5. Try Timestrips,, stickers that “remember” when a product was first opened and alert you when it’s no longer wise to use it.

What About Natural Products?

For starters, they may have an extra-short shelf life, according to the FDA, because their botanical ingredients may be susceptible to microbial growth. (Think pure extract, oil, pulp, rind, or bark of plants, fruits, trees, or leaves.) What’s more, though natural preservatives like essential oils of cinnamon, orange, rosemary, and thyme can be potent, when used at low levels they may not be as strong as synthetics, says Wilson. An added problem for consumers: There’s no way to know how “natural” a product is, since the term is undefined and unregulated.

If you’re a natural fan, consider contacting the manufacturer about specific cosmetics. “Most reputable companies put their products — ‘all natural’ or not — through a microbial challenge,” says Wilson. Request the test results. (If the customer-service rep doesn’t supply them, ask to speak to the technical team.)

Your When-to-Toss-It Timeline

Every season: Toss your mascara and liquid liner

Every six months: Toss your skin-care regimen, sunscreens, and liquid foundation

Every year: Toss your hair products (except hairspray)

Every two years: Toss your powder-based cosmetics (such as pressed powder and shadows), lipsticks, and nail polishes

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While many girls wear eyeliner, it’s a known fact that liquid liner is as intimidating as it is beautiful. Before you know how to use it, the thought of applying a liquid liner that will surely require some touch ups can be terrifying, but once you know how to use it, there’s nothing quite like a perfectly liquid lined eye. Below are 10 things no one ever tells you about liquid liner, which are essentially guaranteed to give you the best eye makeup you’ve ever done.

1. You need to let it dry: Always struggling with a case of liner in your crease? Maybe you’re not letting the liquid eyeliner dry for a long enough time after applying. Keep your eyes closed (and thus, the liner from being pressed against your lid) for at least 30 seconds after applying to let the liquid dry.

2. Primer helps: Whether you use eye primer or just concealer, priming your lids before using liquid liner will help to hold the liner in place, and will keep the rest of your lid from becoming greasy and picking up color where it shouldn’t be.

MORE: How to Nail the Cat Eye Look From Tory Burch

3. Seal it with powder: Once you draw on the shape of the liner you want, you can seal it in place by using an angled eyeliner brush and a powder eyeshadow over the liner.

4. Apply before mascara: Applying liquid liner after mascara can tend to displace your lashes, which can cause clumps. Use the liquid liner before applying mascara, and if you feel like you’ll get stray mascara marks on your lid, hold a business card or plastic spoon up over your lid to guard it from marks.

5. Use it on your entire lid: Need a long-wear shadow? Use a liquid liner that comes in a gel formula with a brush over your entire lid for an eye makeup look that’ll last longer than you do.

6. Go to your inner corner: Especially if you’re going for a cat eye, line your upper lid all the way into the inner corner to make your eyes look extra wide.

7. Relax your eye, pull your lid: To give yourself a steady, clean line, relax your eye and gently pull your lid taught. If your eye is shaking at all, you’ll just get a shaky line, so keep things still for a perfect application.

MORE: The Newest Liquid Eyeliner Tools for Statement Eyes

8. Always go waterproof: In some cases of makeup (like mascara) we’d suggest only going waterproof on special occasions, however with liquid liner, we always vote for the longest wearing, most waterproof formula to keep things in place all day long.

9. Prop your elbow: If your hand is shaky, prop your elbow up on a counter to hold your arm still while you apply. The steadier your application, the smoother your line.

10. Thicker in the center: While the liner is kept close to your lash line across the top, apply the liner just a hint thicker in the center of your lash line. The thicker line tricks the eye into looking bigger, making you look more awake.

Image via Imaxtree

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