Why You Need to Toss That Old Lipstick, and Other Expert Advice on the Shelf Life of Your Makeup

| Beauty
(Photo: Instagram / @doutzen / @lorealmakeup)

We’re all guilty of letting our makeup bags overflow without taking inventory of our beauty loot — meaning we have no earthly idea when we opened that tube of mascara or just how long that bottle of foundation has been sitting there. Even though it doesn’t always come with an expiration date, your makeup does in fact expire, according to hair and makeup artist Misty Rockwell.

“It’s so hard for most people to part with their makeup,” Rockwell empathizes — and especially after you’ve paid a pretty penny for it. “But you don’t want to risk getting any skin or eye infections, since most makeup is a breeding ground for bacteria.”

If you’re unsure about the shelf life of your favorite cosmetics, Rockwell helps break it down so you know without a doubt which products get the thumbs up and which get the trash can. 

“Mascara only last about three months, but if it starts to dry up before that then go ahead and toss it,” Rockwell explains. She also adds to never try and lengthen the life of your mascara by adding water or any other liquid to the tube.

“Powder shadows last about two years,” Rockwell says. “So go ahead and toss all of those free gift shadows you keep holding onto thinking you might want to wear them in a few years!”

Eye pencil
With eye pencils, it more so depends on how often or how much you’re using. “Pencils can be kept up to two years, but maybe even less time if you sharpen before every use.”

Liquid Eyeliner
With liquid eyeliners you don’t have as much leeway as you do with solids; just like your mascara, these need to be tossed after three months.

Lipstick, lip gloss and lip pencil
“Everything you put on your lips has a shelf life of about two years,” Rockwell says. But chances are you’ll run out of your favorite gloss before it even has time to expire.

Blush and powder
Just like your eyeshadows, any blush or powders need to be thrown away after two years. “However, this doesn’t apply to your powder and blush brushes,” Rockwell points out, “as those should be washed every two weeks.”

“Moisturizing foundations last around 18 months, while oil-free foundations dry out a little easier and need to be discarded after about 12 months,” Rockwell notes.

Liquid concealers will last you about one year, but stick or potted concealers will keep for up to 18 months before needing to be replaced.

Rockwell has a few other expert tips she’s picked up along the way when it comes to maintaining your makeup.

1. “Always use clean brushes and sponges — always!” she stresses, as this will help lengthen the life of your cosmetics.

2. Her rule of thumb? “If it’s starting to turn colors, change in texture or smell different or bad, then it shouldn’t be used anymore.”

3. Her parting tip deals with how you store your stash. “I know it’s hard, but try not to store your makeup in your bathroom. Because you shower and bathe there, it keeps moisture constantly in the air, making it much easier for bacteria to grow in your makeup. Aim to store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.”

Hayley Simmons |

Hayley Simmons is a twenty-something writer, wife and new mama to her baby girl, Scout. A native Texan turned Nashvillian, she spends her time experimenting with healthy recipes -- then forcing her husband to eat them, finding new ways to not hate the gym and shopping for (an absurd amount of) baby clothes.