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Makeup 101: Clean Out Expired Beauty Items

As summer winds down and you start thinking about your color palette for fall, it’s the perfect time to take inventory of your beauty and skincare products and toss out what you never wear, containers with barely-there product and anything that’s past its prime.

Product separation, weird odor or a change in color or texture—uncommonly thick or watery—can all be indicators of a product gone bad. If a product looks hard and doesn’t apply correctly, it’s probably best to get rid of it. Cream eyeshadows are more likely to grow bacteria than powder, so look for any change in the texture and color.

Need more details? Below are general guidelines on when certain beauty products expire.

3 to 6 months — Mascara and liquid eyeliner
6 months to 1 year — Gel eyeliner and moisturizer
1 year to 18 months —
Liquid foundation and lipgloss
18 months to 2 years —
Cream or mousse foundation, concealer, cream blush and cream eyeshadow
2 to 3 years —
Face powder, powder blush, powder bronzer, powder eye shadow, lipstick, lip and eye pencils

Mascara has the shortest shelf life. Toss it immediately if it develops a weird smell or color. To keep mascara from drying out too quickly, make sure you don’t pump the wand in the tube; you want to use more of a circular swirl motion. And make sure to close the top securely after each use.

In general, cream and liquid products expire more quickly. Cream blush will get a chalky white film that tells you it’s time to dump it. To extend the life of your cosmetics do not introduce water or saliva into the product; that will encourage bacteria growth. Use brushes, not your fingers, to access products in jars. And never share your cosmetics, especially eye or lip products.

Note: There are no federal laws when it comes to makeup expiration dates, but these are recommended guidelines you should follow. It’s also a good idea to go through and review your makeup collection at least every six months.


  • Keep your makeup in a cool location, away from moisture and heat, both factors in bacteria growth. So storing your makeup bag in the bathroom is a big no-no!
  • Clean your makeup brushes and sponges on a regular basis. Clean synthetic brushes that you use to apply concealer and foundation weekly (once a month for powder brushes). Dawn dishwashing liquid is a great cleanser. It breaks down cream and oil-based products wonderfully, and it’s anti-bacterial. Use any clear shampoo or brush cleanser on hairbrushes.
  • Dry your brushes laying horizontally on the edge of a table or counter. Drying them standing up causes water to run in the ferrule and loosen the glue holding the hairs in your brush. Good makeup brushes are an investment and you don’t want to ruin them!


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