When to Throw Out Makeup, According to the Experts

Expert Tips On When To Throw Old Makeup Products and Buy New Supplies!

Stay beautiful and healthy by knowing when to restock your favorite beauty supplies.


New year? New makeup drawer! Whether you’re creating space for the latest loot or simply clearing out the old products as part of your resolution to finally get organized, we want to help you start 2015 with a fresh face. We asked experts for their advice on what beauty products to toss when (and why), and their answers might surprise you. Is that 3-year-old eyeliner as bad as it sounds? Read on to find out.

In general, products that contain moisture and/or are applied near the eyes are the ones to closely monitor. Liquid formulas can be breeding grounds for bacteria, and the sensitive eye area is especially at risk of infection. Also, old makeup doesn’t perform as well as the new stuff, so if your favorite product starts to change color or texture, or if it smells off, it’s definitely time to restock. Celebrity beauty stylist Brandon Liberati swears by this advice: “The oldest thing in your makeup bag should be the black or metallic permanent marker you use to write your own expiration dates on your cosmetics.”

Here are expert guidelines for knowing what to keep and what to let go.

Liquid foundation: Most experts recommend tossing it between six months and a year after it was opened. Warm temperatures and moist environments (like your bathroom after a steamy shower) encourage the growth of bacteria in all liquid makeup, so for safety’s sake, don’t let this product linger too long in your lineup. Always watch for changes in the product’s color and consistency as well. “If the color separates, fades, or if it starts to smell like funk, then it’s definitely time to junk,” says Liberati.

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Mascara: Once you’ve opened it, mascara should stay fresh for about three months, according to Wendy Lewis, editor in chief of Beauty in the Bag. After that, most formulas tend to dry out and get clumpy since they are exposed to air so frequently. The even greater concern, however, is the possibility of putting your health at risk. “If you have used the mascara when your eyes have been red, irritated, or shown any sign of infection, to be on the safe side, ditch it,” says Lewis.

Eye shadow: Powdered eye shadow holds up a bit longer than other products because it doesn’t contain moisture, but since it’s used on the sensitive eye area, it still needs to be replaced regularly. Most industry experts say toss it every three to six months, but Liberati says they can last up to 18 months as long as you clean your brushes at least once a month. “Dirty brushes are the demise of your eyes when it comes to powder eye shadow,” he says.

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Blush, powder, and bronzer: These powdered products have a long shelf life and can last up to two years if they stay dry. Lewis says look out for cracking along the rims and/or a change in color, either of which can indicate your product has gone bad. Liberati says, just like with eye shadow, keeping your brushes clean is the key to keeping other powdered products in good shape. After washing your brushes, make sure they dry thoroughly before you store them in a cool, dry place.

Pencils for eyes or lips: Go ahead and get attached to your pencil products; as long as you sharpen them after every use, they’ll last about a year, says Liberati. Watch out for changes in the pencil’s consistency, which will indicate it’s past its prime. “If a pencil feels hard, dried out, or has a white ring around the colored tip, it's too old to use and may irritate your delicate skin,” advises Lewis.

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Liquid and gel eyeliner: These trendy products are both liquid and applied near your eyes, so take special care to replace them often. Liberati says, “Avoid conjunctivitis by discarding liquid or gel liner before all bacteria hell breaks loose after four to six months.”

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Lipstick and gloss:
Lipwear can be kept for six months to a year if you treat it right. Don’t share it with others, replace it after you’ve been sick, and be aware of changes in texture. “Creamy formulas that have been in your bag and melted have been compromised and are not suitable to keep using,” warns Lewis.

Concealer: Like eye shadows and mascaras, concealers are used around your eyes and therefore should be replaced regularly. Powder concealers used with clean brushes can last as long as two years, but liquid formulas should be replaced annually.

As a final bit of wisdom, Lewis passes along this advice: “If you have a stockpile of old makeup in your medicine cabinet, think of it like clothing. If you haven’t worn it in over six months, you probably never will.”

What beauty products will you be replacing to start off the new year?

Check out how to apply makeup like a pro in just 5 steps here.

Get the latest makeup tips at our blog.

Read expert beauty tips here.

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