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How to know when it’s time to throw makeup away

Unfortunately, even the highest-quality cosmetic and beauty products have a limited shelf life. What this means is that all your makeup products are meant to be used only for a specific amount of time. There’s even the right time for discarding makeup brushes. If you know you are hanging onto your makeup way longer than you should, you should really reconsider. Being a beauty pro means knowing how long you should keep makeup for. You got this.

Why is using old makeup such a big deal?

Old cases of makeup covering a table

The grim and potentially nasty truth is that expired beauty products can pose a fairly significant health risk. For starters, expired makeup — especially if it has already been opened and languished for days, weeks, or months at a time without its lid or container properly sealed — is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Not the good kind of bacteria from your kefir yogurt! This is the icky kind of bacteria that can make you break out with acne or pick up infections such as viral conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. If beauty is important to you, trust us, you don’t want to run the risk of picking up a skin infection simply by using old and expired products.

Just because you haven’t broken out from using old makeup yet, doesn’t mean you won’t. Let’s be honest, if you are just becoming aware of this, there is a fairly good chance you may have had a breakout and not even realized what was causing it.

So, how long does makeup last?

In the United States, unlike many other nations, makeup products are not generally labeled with a specific expiration date. This makes knowing exactly when to get rid of products a bit challenging. The key is keeping track of what you purchase and knowing how long you’ve held on to products you probably aren’t using anyway.

As painful as it might be to hear, makeup and beauty products do not last forever. In fact, there are pretty specific guidelines for every product category you can imagine. We will try to cover the most common ones so you can continue to be on your way to having beautiful and healthy skin.

Here’s the 411

Foundations, blushes, eyeshadows, and primers are some of the longest-lasting makeup products out there. You can get a solid two years out of top shelf varieties of these products. We emphasize quality here because the more well-designed your makeup formulation is, the better chance it will stand the test of time and not cause you to come down with something gross. Keep in mind that the more you touch your products with dirty fingers, the better chance they have of being cross-contaminated.

Luscious lipstick is the next longest-lasting product category. A good lip coloring will last for about a year. Remember, though, your mouth is literally a bacteria homestead so if you’re sloppy when applying lipstick, you might want to cut this time a bit shorter. It’s up to you to be honest with yourself. Don’t forget about the time you dropped your lipstick on the ground or placed it on a filthy bathroom counter while you were out dancing!

Eye pencils are another product that will typically last for about one year after opening. Liquid varieties of eyeliner on the other hand, are only good for about three months. What’s that all about? Actually it’s simple: Liquid products of all categories attract and hold onto bacteria much easier than dry and powdery products.
While we are on the topic of powders, keep in mind that you should wash your makeup brushes and other tools regularly. We don’t suggest once a year, more like once a week to be on the safe side.

Eye products such as mascara are particularly bad when it comes to picking up bacteria. Getting an eye infection is one way to ensure your special big day ends up being less than ideal. You can easily avoid these issues by being smart about what goes on your face.

Woman applying lipstick holding a small mirror
Dragon Images/

When in doubt, throw it out

Say it loud and shout it proud: When in doubt, throw it out. It really is that simple. We know how it is out there. It’s not easy to track every little beauty purchase, especially if you are the type who likes to shop until you drop or order products after a night out on the town.

Really though, if you aren’t sure about a product and haven’t used it recently, there is a good chance it belongs in the trash, not on your face. Seriously. Your health is important, so it is essential to do everything possible to protect against germs. Bacteria is something you usually want to keep off your face, so do that by using only new and fresh, top-quality beauty and cosmetic products.

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