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Is It OK To Use Expired Makeup? An Expert Weighs In

2000s babies, did you also go through a major YouTube makeup guru phase? I don’t know about you, but when I was in middle school I lived for beauty gurus like Zoella and Bethany Mota and saved up all of my money to buy as many of their product recommendations as I could. Fast forward to 2022, and I am now a college graduate with a ton of expired makeup sitting around. Recently, I was cleaning out my room and found a whole case filled with sticky, expired makeup products and decided it was time for a major purge.

While it’s fun to buy and try out new makeup, it’s important to be mindful of beauty product expiration dates and to regularly purge your makeup bag. Old makeup can be a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria and mold that can even cause redness and irritation on the skin — yikes. Read on to learn more about the shelf life of your favorite makeup products so you can confidently apply your makeup every day. 

Where to find the expiration date on your makeup products

Most products will have an expiration date printed right on the label, though it can be hard to spot if you’re not familiar with it. In most cases, it looks like a small jar graphic with a number inside that indicates the product shelf life, typically in months. Make note of this when you buy a product so that you know when it’ll be time for a refresh. It can be helpful to create a notes section in your phone with your products and their expiration dates so that you can easily keep track of what is about to expire.

Pro tip: Makeup lasts best when stored in a cool, dry place.

How to tell if your makeup has expired

If you can’t find an expiration date or you’re not exactly sure when you purchased the product, you can always use your best judgment to determine whether or not the product appears to have expired. Smell is an immediate giveaway; if the product smells off, your best bet is to immediately toss it. The same rule goes for color. Oftentimes, a product will oxidize over time and the color will change from what it was originally. The texture may also change over time, so patch test the product on your wrist and see how it feels on your skin. Anything clumpy or sticky can get thrown away.  

I spoke with Heather Muir Maffei, beauty director at Real Simple and Health, and she says it’s simply not worth it to use expired products, as tempting as it may be.

“I think it’s easy for all of us to want to use things up, especially when you have a favorite product and you think it is probably past its time, but it’s so tempting to use it — especially in today’s economy when everything is so expensive — but to be honest, cosmetic chemists say it’s actually really important to pay attention to expiration dates just because they can give you skin issues,” Maffei tells Her Campus.

When to ditch specific makeup products

Face Products

Face products typically last anywhere from 12 to 18 months. If you’re an avid makeup user, you’ll likely use up the product within this time frame. If you only use face makeup here and there, you should be cautious of using any old face products to avoid acne or irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Eye Products

It’s especially important to be mindful of eye makeup expiration dates since the eye area is so sensitive. The general rule of thumb is to replace eye products every three to six months. Expired eye makeup products can cause styes or even staph and eye infections. However, eyeliner pencils that can be sharpened tend to last longer due to the ability to shave away old product when sharpening. 

Maffei recalls a time she strayed from her usual everyday makeup and used an old purple eyeliner from her stash that ended up giving her a terrible reaction. “I remember using it on my waterline and having a reaction to it. Whether it was that certain color in the dye or if it was expired, I’m not sure, but I did have to go to the eye doctor for it,” she shares. “Even though it’s tempting, it goes to show it’s not worth it.”

Lip Products

Lip products typically have the longest shelf life, ranging from 12 to 24 months, with lipsticks lasting longer than glosses. Same as with eyeliners, lip liner pencils that can be regularly sharpened are the most hygienic and last the longest. 

How to keep makeup products fresh

As already mentioned, a cool, dark place is always the best spot to store any makeup products. “A lot of people store their makeup in their bathrooms because that’s where they get ready, but because the shower is in there, it’s the worst place because it’s warm and damp,” Maffei tells Her Campus. Instead, she suggests keeping your products in a makeup bag on your dresser or even tucked away in a linen closet so they are away from sunlight. 

Maffei also suggests waiting to open any new products until you are ready to use them. As a beauty director, she receives new products all the time, but says that she keeps them closed until she’s ready to use them. “Once you crack it open, whether it’s lipstick, an eyeliner, a mascara, then you’re introducing air, bacteria, water, and all kinds of things,” Maffei says.

While using expired makeup on your skin isn’t the worst thing in the world, there are easy ways to keep your products fresh and to figure out when they’re ready to be thrown out in the trash. And if you get one thing from reading this, it’s this: You should probably — no, definitely — toss that old lip gloss from middle school.

Carli is a 2022 grad of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and served as the style section editor for Her Campus. After being a national style writer for Her Campus, she launched Her Campus FIT. A born and raised Jersey Girl, she is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. In her spare time she loves running, jamming to Taylor Swift, and tracking down the best burgers. Find her on Instagram @carliannescloset.