Whether it’s that 50-color makeup palette you got for your birthday in junior high or that favorite Dior lipstick you’ve been using for years, we all have those beauty products we’ve kept in our collections for much too long. Over time, those products do expire, so pull out your makeup kits and get your trash can ready: Her Campus consulted beauty experts on how long we’re really supposed to keep our products.
Powdered Makeup: 6-9 Months
According to Atlanta-based makeup artist Kat Flynt, who has done makeup for Nicky Hilton and contestants on The Bachelorette, it’s less likely for bacteria to grow in dry products than it is in makeup that can have moisture buildup. Powdered makeup, therefore, can typically be used for longer periods, between six to nine months — so long as you clean your brushes. Foundation, says MAC makeup artist and product specialist Hillary Bell, has a shorter lifespan than other powdered makeup because it comes in the closest contact with the greatest amount of skin. Blush, on the other hand, usually goes on top of other products and spans a smaller amount of skin, so it may last longer than powder base. Eyeshadow is used minimally on a small part of the skin, so Bell says it is likely to last the longest — up to nine months. The biggest sign of expiration, Bell explains, is a darkening and hardening of the powder, whether it’s foundation, blush, or eyeshadow, almost as if it has been “sealed off” with a hard shell. Using expired makeup can result in acne and breakouts, which are caused by a buildup of bacteria.
Brushes: Multiple Years
With proper maintenance, MAC Online Makeup Artist Mary-Ann says that makeup brushes can last for years and years. “I have had some of my MAC brushes for 17 years and they are in perfect shape,” she says. Mary-Ann recommends cleaning brushes frequently — after each use or each second use with emollient products such as liquid concealer, or once a week with powder brushes. For a casual, everyday wash, Mary-Ann suggests using a brush cleaner to dampen the brush before swishing it across a clean tissue. For deeper cleaning, make a solution that is four parts warm water and one part brush cleaner (the exact volume is up to you and will depend on how many brushes you are cleaning, so long as the proportions are equal). Wash your brushes in this solution before rinsing with warm water and squeezing out excess water before allowing your brushes to dry. For even deeper cleaning, which Flynt says should be conducted at least every nine months, Mary-Ann suggests using a conditioning shampoo in place of the brush cleaner. Always allow your brushes to dry flat and re-fluff the bristles before using for the greatest effects. You’ll know when you need to replace your brushes, Mary-Ann says, when the hairs become matted or sparse.
Liquid Foundation: 6 months
Cream and liquid products are easily contaminated due to the moisture in the makeup. The quickest indicator of bacterial growth is a funny smell, Flynt says. Products such as liquid concealers last for about six months at a time. To get the most use out of your foundation, Flynt suggests buying all liquid products in pump bottles rather than pour bottles. “If you’re pouring, your fingers might touch the product, which goes back into the bottle, contaminating the product,” she explained. Not all makeup comes in convenient pump bottles, though, so if your favorite product pours, Flynt says to use applicators to avoid directly touching and introducing bacteria to the bottle. To get increased effectiveness out of your product, store it in a cool environment; heat and humidity can negatively affect what’s in the bottle. Using expired facial products can lead to acne and breakouts — after all, the product is sitting on your face all day.
Mascara: 1-3 Months
Mascara, Flynt says, has the biggest risk of becoming contaminated with bacterial growth. If applied daily mascara can be used for three months at a time, but Flynt says she replaces her product much more frequently. “Mascara I would not recommend keeping more than thirty days, because you’re using it on your lashes and then putting it back in the tube,” she says. This means you’re combining the moisture of your eyes with the moisture of your mascara, which increases the conditions under which bacteria may grow. Flynt adds that eyes are the most delicate and sensitive parts of your body, therefore being the most likely to become infected. If you’ve invested in an expensive mascara you don’t want to replace once a month, Flynt says it’s best to use disposable applicators if you’re serious about keeping your product from expiring — particularly if you use it frequently.
Eyeliner: 3 Months – Indefinitely
Like other liquid products, liquid eyeliner is more likely to become contaminated in a shorter period of time because the moisture in the product makes it easier for bacteria to grow. And like mascara, since eyeliner comes in such close contact with your eyes, which can become easily infected, liquid eyeliner should be kept for no more than three months. However, Flynt says she follows the one-month rule with all liquid eye makeup to eliminate any risk of contamination and therefore infection. Pencil eyeliner is a little easier to deal with, as it is more easily cleaned and maintained, Flynt says. She suggests spraying them with rubbing alcohol and sharpening them after each use, so you’re using a new tip every time — if you follow this rule, the only time you’ll have to replace the pencil is when you’ve worn it down!
Lip Gloss: 18 Months
Our mouths are a breeding ground for bacteria, so liquid lip products such as gloss need to be replaced every 18 months. Flynt recommends using disposable lip brushes and to avoid using your fingers, especially when you haven’t washed them before applying gloss.
Lipstick: 2 Years
Though the red lip look is trending, as collegiettes™ we don’t use lipstick as much as our grandmothers do, so it’s likely the inconsistent use means our lipsticks will last much longer than some of our other products. The chemical combination between pigment and fats gives lipsticks a longer shelf life, but if the lipstick starts to feel dry or change color, it needs to be tossed! Especially with expensive brands you don’t want to throw out and replace on a frequent basis, Flynt says it’s a good idea to use disposable lip brushes, or to wash your reusable brush once a week.
Lotions and Creams: 2-3 Years
The longevity of your lotions depends greatly on the type of lotion you’re using. An everyday body lotion, particularly in a pump container, can last for two to three years, but anything containing salicylic acid (found in acne-fighting creams) will have an expiration date that can be found on the packaging because it’s technically a medication, Flynt says. Such products, and those with SPF, become ineffective past their intended time of use, so replace as often as recommended on the package.
Perfume: 12-18 Months
As much as we love to display those pretty glass bottles on our vanities, doing so is only lessening our perfume’s shelf life. Though it’s unlikely for perfume to become infected because of its alcohol content, its ingredients break down with time and exposure to heat and light. Joanne Hancock, owner of In Due Time Collectibles, which carries vintage fragrances and works with Atlanta-based perfumer Shelly Kyle of the eponymous fragrance label, says that expired perfumes will smell stronger and less pleasant. Putting the perfume in the fridge will help it stay fresh for longer, as the dark and cold environment will slow down any deterioration, Hancock says — so make sure your roommates know your refrigerated perfume is off limits!
Ultimately, when it comes to knowing when to replace makeup, Flynt says the answer is simple. Most makeup products, she says, contain an emblem in the shape of an open jar that has a number and the letter “M” to signify the suggested number of months during which the product should be used — this emblem can typically be found on the label where size, ingredients and/or production information can be found, or on the original packaging when makeup is first purchased. Use a Sharpie to note when you first open a product to help you remember when you start using it. Bell suggests buying smaller-sized products when available so you feel less wasteful when throwing them out.
Using old beauty products may have varying negative health effects on your body including breakouts and eye infections, or perhaps simply become a less effective product, but Flynt reminds us that these are products we’re putting on our faces and bodies — so unless you’re cleaning your brushes and taking extra precautions not to infect your products, it’s best to follow the given recommendations. And if you don’t know the expiration date? Bell says, “like they say with the food industry, when in doubt, throw it out.” The rule of thumb, Flynt emphasizes, is to immediately toss anything that starts to smell different.
So take a look through your makeup bag, collegiettes™ — are you guilty of hoarding your makeup for much too long? Perhaps it’s time to go out with the old and in with the new — and who doesn’t love an excuse for a beauty splurge?
Kat Flynt, Atlanta-based Makeup Artist
Hillary Bell, MAC Cosmetics Makeup Artist and Product Specialist
Mary-Ann, MAC Online Makeup Artist
Joanne Hancock, Owner of In Due Time Collectibles