Time to toss expired makeup?

Marie Claire magazine has some helpful bathroom uncluttering tips in their article “Has Your Makeup Expired?“:

“Like food, makeup has an expiration date, and over time cosmetics can harbor harmful bacteria that can lead to infections,” states Dr. David Schlessinger, a board-certified oculoplastic surgeon and ophthalmologist, and medical director of Schlessinger Eye & Face. “The risks are multiplied when these products are shared among friends.”

Check out the dates below and find out when you should toss your makeup stash.

Expiration dates β€” beginning from the time you first open these products

  • Powders and shadows: 2 years
  • Cream shadows: 12 to 18 months
  • Foundation: 1 year
  • Lipstick & lipliner: 1 year
  • Mascara & eyeliners: 3 months
  • Makeup brushes: Clean weekly using a mild detergent
  • Makeup sponges: Replace weekly, or when sponge becomes soiled

My makeup case is full of things that belong in the trash (eye shadows, especially). I’m going to go and immediately take care of this potential bacterial hazard.

37 Comments for “Time to toss expired makeup?”

  1. posted by Tina on

    I knew about this already but thanks for the reminder. I will go through my drawer later.

  2. posted by What The Pros Do on

    Great post, as well as being unsanitary old products also wont perform well once they are past their best so there really is no point hanging on to it!

  3. posted by Barbara Tako on

    I keep a permanent marker in my kitchen to date spices. After reading this article, I think it would also be a good idea to keep a permanent marker in the bathroom to date my makeup. Thank you!

  4. posted by Scarlett De Bease on

    Here were my tips to get women to clean ot their makeup drawrs from my blog: scarlettnewyork.blogspot.com
    Spring Cleaning Your Makep

    It’s spring so why not get your makeup bag and/or drawer cleaned up and organized?

    If you have any makeup that you would not pull out in a public area for fear that someone might see it, odds are it is way too old and most probably contains some dreaded bacteria. If it is a product that you use on a regular basis, the time has come to replace it with a new one. If on the other hand, you have not used it in months/years, or ever please consider tossing it out.

    The same guidelines apply to makeup as to your clothes. If it does not ‘fit’ and flatter you, then do not wear or keep it. All those lipsticks you got as a gift with purchase rarely come in a color that works for you, so why hold onto them?

    When your makeup collection only consists of what looks best on you, it will be easy and quick to apply your makeup every day.

  5. posted by Kathryn on

    I guess I’m an eternal skeptic, but I’ve got to wonder whether there’s any evidence of actual health problems caused by using old cosmetics, and whether it’s just the cosmetics pushing this fear in order to sell more product.

  6. posted by adora on

    @Kathryn. I know! And there is no scientific proof that one would need “toner” at all! Those cosmetic companies! But I have read about (mild) eye infection when people use old mascara. It is important to keep brushes that you use around your eyes very clean.

    For things that are not use on your eyes, the active ingredients break down after a while and you just don’t get the fresh perfect look anymore. Consistency of liquid/gel/creme would change due to sun exposure and dehydration. The ones with retinol are totally useless after few months. Bacteria grow more rapidly in some “Organic” or “Natural” make up, due to their lack of preservatives and use of corn starch (food source).

  7. posted by crunchycon on

    @Kathryn – I have often wondered the same thing; the only item I’m religious about tossing in a timely fashion is mascara – out it goes on January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1.

    Outside of that, unless it looks or smells bad, I tend to hang onto makeup for well past the “expiration date.” I wonder if I’m courting disaster?

  8. posted by Juli Borst on

    I’d like to take issue with one phrase from your post- “things that belong in the trash”. These days, many cosmetic companies are making items that are re-fillable and are using packaging that is re-usable and recyclable. Please check this out before heaving the whole thing towards a landfill, and when purchasing new cosmetics, look for items that come with less packaging and are re-usable!

    Just a suggestion. πŸ™‚

  9. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Juli — If you have a reusable container (for things like eye shadow) be sure to wash it thoroughly and let it air dry before dropping in a new shadow. The container itself can cross contaminate bacteria.

  10. posted by Juli Borst on

    @Erin– Yup, yup. And I wash my make-up brushes and let them air dry as well. Good quality equipment lasts a long, long time…and eliminates clutter to boot.

  11. posted by kat on

    Yeah, I’m with Kathryn (which, by the way, is my name too… even spelled the same πŸ™‚ ). It’s all a conspiracy of the cosmetic industry. But I use make-up pretty rarely; if I tossed everything on this schedule, I would use each thing only once or twice.

    I still have a case of eye shadow my grandmother got me when I was a teenager. I use face powder until I hit the bottom of the compact (which usually takes about 3 years). I use nail polish until it starts to go “gunky” (and even then, I can usually eke a few more uses out of it by mixing in a few drops of polish remover).

    I admit that my mascara is overdue for replacement… it’s about 3-4 years old and starting to solidify. πŸ˜‰

    But yeah, in general I don’t replace things until they’re used up or have deteriorated to the point of unusability.

    I’ve never gotten any infections… though it’s also true that I’m the only one who uses my make-up (e.g. I don’t swap eyeliner with friends). Still, the stuff is expensive enough, and I’m averse enough to tossing stuff that’s still useful, that I’m not inclined to do so just because someone invented a schedule. Ophthalmologist or no, Marie Claire magazine doesn’t seem like the most unbiased source here.

  12. posted by Susan on

    Because of skin problems, I rarely (once or twice a year) apply a makeup product – lipstick, eyeliner, blush – and foundation is a no-no. So I use the smell/look test for determining when to discard these costly, rarely used cosmetic items. If it smells rancid or looks dried up, out it goes. These tests apply to lotions and creams as well.

  13. posted by Sara on

    Does anyone know if powders containing sunscreen go bad sooner? I bought a mineral face powder just a few months ago, and I recently noticed an odor with it. I just replaced it, assuming it was due to the inclusion of sunscreen in it. But I’m curious if anyone knows if that’s true.

  14. posted by Fawn on

    I have 13-year-old (unopened) lipstick in the fridge from when they discontinued my ideal, perfect color/brand. Thanks a lot, Clinique. I refuse to throw it out. Weirdly, it seems to be fine when I open one.

  15. posted by infmom on

    I so seldom wear makeup that most of the stuff I buy expires before I’ve used even half of it. It’s a good excuse to go to Sephora and ask the ladies to experiment on my saggy old face. πŸ™‚

    I have one tube of mascara that I bought in high school, and I just went to my 40th reunion last year. No, I don’t use it! It’s just that it’s sat in my miscellaneous-memorabilia box so long it’d feel weird to throw it out. I guess some clutter isn’t meant to be dealt with.

  16. posted by Joan on

    This was a great reminder. Although I don’t know about a “health hazard,” I do know that I was using – daily – some OLD cleanser and foundation (3+ years). And guess what? I was breaking out like crazy.

    When I got “new” stuff, finally, I stopped breaking out within a week. And it was the same product, so it wasn’t that I changed brands or something.

    Just throwing that out there as an example. πŸ™‚

  17. posted by Wilhelm Scream on

    If I threw out my eyeliner and mascara every three months, I’d only use them two or three times before they were chucked out! I tend to keep things until they run out or become impossible to use. I just use my common sense and look at it. If it looks icky, out it goes. If not, on it goes!

  18. posted by Sunny Paris on

    Yeah, I’m with the people who don’t throw out. At some point it starts looking and/or feeling gross, and then I do, but if I actually threw everything out when I “should,” that would be several hundred dollars a year.

    I do take advantage of sample size make-up when I can (especially mascara). It keeps things from getting too old before I run out.

  19. posted by Karolina on

    Yeah, you have to wonder…
    In my experience, a full-sized mascara has about 600 uses in it (2 years), lipstick about 350, eyeliner probably 300-400 or more. Assuming you apply makeup once a day, why are all these products made in a size that is obviously impossible to use up on the schedule suggested?
    I think it’s all just a scam πŸ™‚ Wash your brushes, don’t share your makeup, don’t use anything that looks/smells funny and you should be OK.
    Also, for foundations and creams, esp. if you don’t use them often: try to get ones that come in tubes rather than jars, so you don’t have to stick your fingers in and contaminate the rest of the product when you use it.

  20. posted by Erika on

    The lipstick suggestion is ridiculous. Most germs get killed quickly when ingested, especially when they hit your stomach. I’ll keep using my lipstick until it’s gone.

    Replacing eye makeup regularly is important, of course, but I doubt eyeliner needs to be replaced frequently; it’s seems like sharpening it would remove most surface bacteria.

  21. posted by Dorothy on

    Or — and here’s an Uncluttering idea — you can just not buy makeup. You save money, time, angst — it’s a win-win-win situation.

  22. posted by Shana on

    This is why people laugh at Americans — we’re a bunch of freakin’ wasteful germaphobes. I toss stuff when it actually GETS old, not when some chart or cosmetics company says I should, and have never had a problem. Why do people think women are so stupid as to be unable to tell when our makeup’s old or gross and needs replacing? Is anybody telling men about when THEIR products need replacing? Use your brain and quit worrying about scary, scary microbes. A) they’re not as big a deal as we think, and B) they’re what we have immune systems for. Sheesh.

  23. posted by Bridget on

    If you do have makeup that needs to be tossed PLEASE recycle it! Origins just started a cosmetics recycling program which will take any of your old products:


    Also–a fun way to use the last bits before recycling the containers is in an artsy sort of application…you can use any cosmetic as a paint or way to get your art on! Just shellac when your done (and wash your hands!!) and you’re good to go. The best ones that I have seen are renderings of faces that aren’t too overdone–but they look so modern and cute…

  24. posted by Bridget on

    wow. sorry about the typo.

    *when you’re done

    yikes. i need to stop and proof read more often πŸ™‚

  25. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Shana — Sure, we probably are more nervous about it than people in other countries … however, we also have longer life expectancies than people in many other countries. There are many reasons for this longer life expectancy, and product safety, healthy lifestyle choices, and disease prevention play a large part in that.

  26. posted by Sian on

    Erin-with all due respect the longer life expectancy of Americans has little to do with infections-in the top ten causes of death in economically developed countries there is not one infectious cause on there.

    We have vaccines (and importantly vaccine programmes) for many life-threatening infectious diseases (and whatever you get off your make-up would never KILL you unless you’ve got an immunecompromised condition such as HIV-a skin infection maybe for the rest of us, which is a valid reason for chucking the old stuff I’ll admit), and when we do get infections, there are myriad treatments for them, unlike for cancer and heart attacks (etc).

    Increased life expectancy is primarily to do with better access to healthcare, safer/less manually taxing workplaces and no civil wars and the inevitable famines that go with that (plus efficient agriculture/money to import the extras).

    Also, I don’t think Shana was referring to countries with lower life expectancies-rather other economically developed countries which have less paranoia than the average american, and just as high if not higher life expectancy.

  27. posted by Sian on

    To get back on topic-regardless of how sceptical one is about these sorts of expiry dates, it makes sense that if you’ve still got make-up over two years old then you can’t be using it much-an opportunity to get rid of it in aid of an uncluttered lifestyle? An uncluttered make-up bag saves time and space.

  28. posted by Jenn on

    Use rubbing alcohol to clean any non liquid make-up. This will kill most of the bacteria. Fill a small spray bottle with it and spray it evenly over the surface of the product. Once it dries it’s ready to use again.

    I do this once every 6 months or so on all my eyeshadows, compact bronzers and fountations, lip liners and lipsticks.

  29. posted by Karolina on

    Jenn: Wow, that’s a great idea! I’ll definitely give that a try. I have some very old eye shadows – I like to have a variety of colors available, I do rotate through using them and they last for years. Being able to sanitize them would be great.
    What do you all wash brushes with, btw? Just soap and water?

  30. posted by mstreemn on

    I buy E.L.F makeup or mascara and eyeshadow at the $ store. It is only a $1 so I don’t feel bad tossing it. I don’t notice a big difference from any other brand I’ve tried. I use basic earth colors so It is easier to find the right one.

  31. posted by TheGreenCat on

    Following up to Juli’s comment: MAC makeup takes most of their makeup packaging back. (In fact, if you return 6 packages, you will get a free lipstick!) Additionally, many of their packages are designed to have a portion of the package (like the little cup that holds the actual product) removed and replaced with a new one, so there is less packaging waste overall. They not only make a great product but they are good at using minimal packaging!

  32. posted by Yodder on


    I am a graduate of Make-Up Designery (MUD) in Burbank, CA with certification as a Journeyman Make-Up Artist (the highest certification). Hygiene and cleanliness were drilled into us, as a make-up artist’s supplies are used and reused many, many times. Standard practice is to clean EVERYTHING with 99% alcohol. There is professional brush cleaner available, or swish and squeeze in container of water w/ a dab of dishwashing soap. Air dry and spritz w/ alcohol. I have supplies that, because I never touch twice with any ‘unclean’ implement, I’ve had for many years. When in doubt, use alcohol.

  33. posted by Josephine on

    Luckily, I don’t have this problem. The only “makeup” I wear is Chapstick. πŸ™‚

  34. posted by tanny on

    while reading this i ws just thinking about all the unused and rather old products lying at home…i have to start my clean up mission..

  35. posted by jenn on

    This might be a useful tool. http://tosstime.net/

  36. posted by Sooz on

    I refuse to believe that lipstick “goes bad”! Now, mascara I definitely ditch after a couple of months, regardless of how little or often I use it. And since I wear mascara rarely, I tend to use the small size ones that come in a gift-with-purchase goodie bag; somehow throwing that out doesn’t bother me as much as throwing out a full-size one. But lipstick-gone-bad has never been a problem, as far as I can tell. Still safely using lip gloss that was discontinued 5 years ago!

    If makeup manufacturers were smart, they’d sell those small, travel-sizes of their products ROUTINELY. Small sizes would be bought for travel, for trying-out, and for being able to fit one’s makeup into a small purse without looking like one has packed for a road-trip! The manufacturers don’t have any idea how much they are missing in sales from this untapped market.

  37. posted by Julie on

    Oh, Sooz, lipstick DEFINITELY goes bad. I cleaned out my makeup last night, coincidentally, after buying some new stuff (my rule: if I can’t fit it into my makeup storage, I have to throw old stuff out). It’s easy to tell when they go bad– they smell different. For example, Bobbi Brown lipsticks generally smell like nothing much. When they’ve turned, you smell a very pronounced wax smell. Mind you, it takes a LOT longer than a year (I threw away a lipstick I’m certain was about 6 years old yesterday, that hadn’t smelled the last time I used it).

    Mascara– Sephora at the holidays sells these little trial packs, $30 for 10-12 LARGE sample sizes, enough to last a couple of months (per sample).

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