How Long Does Makeup Last? Every Type of Makeup, with Expiration Dates

Over the years, we’ve gotten a LOT of email from readers asking about funky-smelling lip glosses, oddly-colored foundations, and lumpy concealers, and in every email, the reader asks the same question: is this makeup still good?

So here it is: our handy reference guide to makeup and makeup expiration dates.

Below, we discuss each type of makeup, how long it lasts, and how you can tell when it’s gone bad. We’ve also included discussions on what you can do to make each of makeup last a little longer, and what’ll happen if you use it after it’s expired. Sometimes an expired makeup isn’t really a big deal and it just smells weird—but other times it can give you a rash or make you really sick. In other words: know your expiration dates! 

There a few things to keep in mind when you read the items below:

  • If you’re new to makeup, remember: you want to look at the “good through” date on the package. If a certain cosmetic is good for six months, it’s not good for six months after you bought it, it’s good for six months after it was made. Trust the expiration dates on the labelling, and check them when you can; and
  • If you’re a makeup artist, checking expiration dates is part of your job. Chances are your cosmetics won’t expire because you’ll be going through them pretty quickly, but it’s really bad for business if you used expired makeup on a client and he/she has a reaction to it. Commit to a monthly (or even better, weekly) check-up, to make sure your stash is good to go.

OK, let’s jump in. We’ll start with a Table of Contents, and our first cosmetic that seems to confound just about everyone…

Makeup: Mascara

How Long Does It Last?

Mascara lasts about three months if used daily and about six months if used occasionally.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

When mascara goes bad, it produces an unpleasant, gasoline-like smell and tends to clump. Expired mascara can contain staph bacteria, as bacteria can flourish in the moist environment of a mascara bottle. The oiliness of eyelashes also makes them good breeding grounds for bacteria. When you brush your lashes with your mascara wand, some of the bacteria from the lashes can stick to the wand and wind up in the bottle, where it multiplies.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

Using expired mascara isn't a good idea since the bacteria buildup can give you sties, eye infections, and pink eye. Expired mascara can also cause general redness and itchiness.

How to Protect It:

To avoid nasty side effects from expired mascara, it's best to replace your mascara every two to three months. If the mascara starts to smell, throw it away immediately. It's also a good idea to avoid pumping the wand in the bottle before applying the mascara, as this forces air into the bottle and dries it out, and dryness can speed up contamination. A better way to pick up mascara is to move the wand in gentle circles once it’s in the bottle, rubbing the inside as you go for complete coverage.

Drizzling baby oil on the mascara every so often moistens it, preventing bacteria. However, don’t add water to the mascara, as this can ruin it. In addition, avoid sharing your mascara with other people so you don't have to worry about their bacteria contaminating it.

Makeup: Liquid Liner

How Long Does It Last?

Unlike pencil eye liners, which can last years, liquid and cream eye liners tend to need replacing after three to six months.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

If the appearance, scent, or texture of your liquid liner has changed, you should throw it out. Like mascara, liquid eye liners collect bacteria when you apply them, and they don’t typically show signs of contamination until they expire.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

Expired liquid liner can cause itchiness and redness. Occasionally, it causes conjunctivitis, an uncomfortable inflammation of the white part of the eye that can produce a discharge, among other symptoms. Since the liner touches the inner rim of your eyelid when you apply it, it can get stuck in the glands of your mucous membrane. Once there, the eye liner may leave an unsightly tattoo-like imprint that never fully goes away, and the blocked glands may impede the healthy functioning of your eye.

How to Protect It:

One of the best ways to remove bacteria from liquid eye liner is to clean the tip of the liner after each application. Also, you should avoid sharing the liner with friends or family. This advice applies to most makeup products, as their packaging is often ideal for the spread of bacteria.

Makeup: Pencil Eyeliner

How Long Does It Last?

If you take good care of your eyeliner pencils, such as by sharpening them after every use and keeping the caps firmly on them, you can make them last for two years or more. However, replacing your liner pencils after three or four months is a good idea if you want to be scrupulous about avoiding contamination.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

When a white film develops on the tip of the pencil and you can’t sharpen it off, the pencil is contaminated and should be thrown out.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

If your pencil eyeliner has expired, it can cause eye inflammations and infections, including conjunctivitis.

How to Protect It:

The best way to keep your pencil eyeliner germ-free is to sharpen it regularly with a clean sharpener, ensuring the bacteria can’t accumulate on the tip easily. To clean your sharpener, dab a piece of cotton wool in some rubbing alcohol, and rub the cotton wool along the sharp edge to remove any germs. Also, make sure you keep your caps on your pencils to prevent bacteria from getting to them when they’re not in use. Another good way to prevent contamination is to store the pencils outside your bathroom so they’re not exposed to germ-attracting moisture.

Makeup: Foundation

How Long Does It Last?

Foundation has a shelf life of six to 12 months once it’s opened. If you get acne often, you might want to toss your foundation at the six-month mark. The expiration date for foundation depends on its type: cream and white liquid foundations don’t typically last more than eight months, whereas powder foundations can last longer. That’s because most liquid foundations are water-based, and bacteria thrive in water.

Oil-based liquid foundations can last up to a year and a half, since oil is a natural preservative. Foundation that’s still sealed can last two years and sometimes longer. Also, foundation sold in pump or spray cans tends to last longer than liquid or powder foundation, since bacteria doesn't fare well in air-tight containers. These cans also let you squirt the foundation so you don’t have to touch it, ensuring you can’t spread bacteria to its contents easily.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

When the ingredients in your foundation start to separate, it’s time to toss it. Ingredient separation typically means the preservatives have stopped working. Strange odors and textures are another sign of expiration. Foundation eventually oxidizes, causing a noticeable change in color. If you get a skin infection such as cellulitis or an acne breakout, that may be the result of expired foundation.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

Expired foundation can cause a wide range of skin problems, from simple irritation to full-on infections. If you suffer from acne, the breakouts that result from germ-ridden foundation can be especially bad.

How to Protect It:

A good way to make foundation last is to avoid touching the neck of the bottle when you use it, as doing so can contaminate the contents. Instead, drip the foundation onto the back of your hand before spreading it on your face. Also, try to keep your foundation in a cool, dry environment. Bathrooms aren’t a good place to store makeup products such as foundation, because the heat and moisture attract bacteria. To be on the safe side, wash your foundation bottle now and then, and always wash your hands before touching it. If you’re using powder foundation, gently clean its top layer each week to prolong it.

Makeup: Lip Gloss

How Long Does It Last?

Since lip gloss doesn’t hold bacteria for long, it can last from 12 to 18 months. However, it doesn’t last as long as lipstick due to its liquid consistency.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

Like foundation, the ingredients in lip gloss start to separate when the formula expires, and important components for resisting bacteria, such as vitamins and essential oils, break down. A strange, unpleasant odor typically suggests the lip gloss has gone off. This odor can vary from waxy to cheesy to chemical-like. Alternatively, the expired lip gloss might have a smell like stale cooking oil thanks to its oily ingredients spoiling. Expired lip gloss can also get a streaky, clumpy or gloopy texture, and it can start to get dry or look cloudy or chalky. Moisture beading is another sign of expiration.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

Expired lip gloss can cause uncomfortable rashes and even staph infections. Although rare, staph infections from expired lip gloss can cause a wide range of nasty symptoms, including nausea and blisters. This infection can even become deadly on occasion, so be careful.

How to Protect It:

To make your lip gloss last as long as possible, try to clean the wand every day. Silicone wands last longer than other types, so you might want to get one of those as well. Instead of storing your lip gloss in the bathroom, where heat and moisture can hasten the breakdown of ingredients, keep it in your fridge or a similarly cool, dry place.

Leaving your lip gloss in a warm car is a good way to ruin it. Also, wait a little while after eating before applying lip gloss to avoid spreading bacteria. Finally, try not to pump your lip gloss because this pushes air into it and dries it out, encouraging the spread of germs. Instead, gently circle the inside of the container with your wand.

Makeup: Concealer

How Long Does It Last?

How long your concealer lasts depends on its ingredients. In general, stick and powder concealers have a shelf life of two years, while liquid concealers have a shelf life of one year. Concealers are similar to foundation in their consistency, though they’re somewhat thicker. As with foundation, oil-based concealers last longer than water-based ones because oil is a preservative. Bacteria survive better in water.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

Concealers have many signs that they’re no longer usable. For example, they may become dry and lumpy, or they might change color. Most noticeably, expired concealers can cause irritations and acne breakouts. Healthy concealers have a smooth texture that blends well with your skin thanks to their hydrating agents. When these agents break down, your concealer can develop an unpleasant smell or cakey consistency. In addition, the ingredients in expired concealer begin to separate. If the concealer is oil-based, the oils can rise to the top, just as with expired foundation.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

Expired concealers result in a streaky finish that worsens blemishes instead of hiding them. If bacteria have contaminated your concealer, you might get a nasty infection or inflammation.

How to Protect It:

Prolong the life of your concealer by keeping it in a cool, dry place where germs can’t easily get to it, such as in your fridge or in a makeup drawer outside your bathroom. If your concealer is liquid-based, it’s a good idea to shake it often to keep the ingredients from separating. Avoid touching the concealer container except when applying the stuff to minimize bacteria exposure. Also, wash your hands before using the concealer, and wash the container now and then, too. As always, avoid pumping the wand if the concealer comes with one. Try to remove the concealer with gentle circular motions instead.

Makeup: Nail Polish

How Long Does It Last?

Nail polish can last pretty much indefinitely if you store it the right way and rarely use it. That’s because nail polish isn’t as susceptible to germs as most beauty products. Most nail polish bottles have expiration dates, though, because their ingredients gradually separate. These dates range from one to two years.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

When nail polish goes bad, it doesn’t make an even coat. Instead, the polish is clumpy. Once the ingredients separate, the pigments collect at the bottom of the container. Sometimes, you can shake the polish to mix the ingredients again, but this may not work if they’ve been separated for months. Some of the ingredients can also evaporate. Expired nail polish gives off a weird odor, and the color of the formula tends to change. Because it can be hard to tell if your nail polish has expired or merely aged, it’s a good idea to inspect it carefully before throwing it out.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

Because nail polish doesn’t nurture bacteria the same way that foundation, eye liner, and other beauty products do, it’s not likely to harm you if it’s expired. However, expired polish can be a pain to remove, as it’s thick and clumpy.

How to Protect It:

To make your nail polish last longer, keep it out of the sunlight. Applying polish outdoors is a fun way to relax, but sunlight discolors the polish and separates its ingredients faster. Store your polish in a cool, dry place. In addition, you might want to carefully clean the neck of each nail polish bottle with nail polish remover to avoid any possibility of contamination.

Makeup: Lipstick

How Long Does It Last?

Despite their hydrating agents, lipsticks are some of the longest-lasting beauty products, with a shelf life of about two years. Lipstick contains parabens and essential oils, among other ingredients, which help to keep bacteria at bay for a while. However, the mouth is prime real estate for bacteria, especially if you’ve been sick, so lipstick can still get contaminated if you’re careless or unlucky. Some lipsticks only last a year or so.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

Expired lipstick has many of the same traits as expired lip gloss, such as an unwelcome cheesy, waxy, or chemical-like smell. Lipstick also changes color when it starts to break down. While lip gloss develops a streaky texture when it expires, lipstick that’s past its prime becomes stiff and difficult to use. Other signs of expiration include moisture beading or a chalky texture. Lipstick that’s long past its prime can develop a mold.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

Expired lipstick isn’t likely to cause many problems. It may simply feel rough against your lips. However, sharing lipstick isn’t wise, since it can transfer nasty conditions such as herpes and contact dermatitis.

How to Protect It:

There are many ways to make lipstick last. For one, you should always keep the lid on your lipstick when you’re not using it so bacteria can’t contaminate it easily. Avoid cleaning lipstick with alcohol as department-store employees do, since this dries out the lipstick, helping germs thrive. Also, it doesn’t hurt to apply lipstick with a lip brush so you can keep skin contact to a minimum. Just remember to clean the brush with makeup wipes to prevent germs from spreading.

Another way to keep your lipstick for a long time is to buy lipstick pencils. Each time you sharpen the pencils, you cut off the layer of lipstick any bacteria might have settled upon. If you get an infection, you should immediately throw out your lipstick. Store the lipstick in a cool, dry place such as your fridge, and don’t leave it in the car on a warm day. Finally, avoid using lipstick after a meal for extra sanitation.

Makeup: Powder

How Long Does It Last?

Face powder can last up to two years if you maintain it properly. Most types of face powder don’t contain much water, so germs don’t take to it easily.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

When face powder goes off, it often develops a hard rim due to mixing with the oils from your face. The powder may also have a grey film, and its color and texture can change in other ways over time. Many face powders contain botanical extracts such as aloe, bamboo, and chamomile, and these can provide the moisture that bacteria need to grow. If you’re using a face powder with these extracts, it’s probably going to expire earlier than one without them.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

Expired face powder can cause irritation, but it’s unlikely to lead to serious problems. Mainly, the powder develops a tough texture and becomes difficult to apply.

How to Protect It:

To make your face powder last, keep it outside your bathroom in a cool, dry place, and take good care of the application brush. That means cleaning the brush often and spraying it with makeup sanitizer between uses. A clean brush is less likely to transfer oil from your face to the product. Just remember to let the brush dry thoroughly after cleaning it.

Each time you finish using your face powder, shut the lid tight. You don’t want the powder to oxidize, as this ruins its hue. Also, take care not to put on a greasy concealer before using your face powder. Avoid sharing the face powder so it doesn’t collect other people’s germs. Finally, always wash your hands before opening the face powder container.

Makeup: Blush

How Long Does It Last?

Powder blush has a long shelf life thanks to its low moisture content and prevalence of zinc and titanium, which bacteria don’t like. You can easily make powder blush last two years with proper maintenance. As with face powder, it can contain green tea extracts, chamomile, and other botanical extracts that hasten expiration, however. Cream blush loses its edge after six months to a year, as it contains a lot of moisture.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

When blush expires, it tends to crack, discolor, and produce streaks of oil on its surface. These products stem from the germ-rich oil you transfer from your skin to the blush each time you use it. For powder blush, another sign of expiration is a grey film. A chalky layer tends to form on cream blush. Expired blush usually has a tough, unyielding texture that’s hard to remove from the container let alone use. Cream blushes also tend to separate over time, which isn’t a problem for powder blushes. Expired blush also has a weird smell.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

A common hazard of expired blush is impetigo, a skin infection that causes itchy sores. Applying the blush with a disposable makeup sponge can prevent this infection.

How to Protect It:

To keep blush from expiring early, store it in a cool, dry place, and clean your brush between uses just as you would for face powder. Remember to let the brush dry thoroughly after cleaning it. Always clean your makeup with sanitizer as well to keep germs from spreading. Also, avoid applying blush right after applying an emollient, moisturizer, foundation or greasy concealer, since you don’t want to accidentally transfer those products to your blush. Wipe any oils off your face with a towel as well before applying the blush, and keep the lid on your blush tightly shut when it’s not in use.

Makeup: Bronzer

How Long Does It Last?

Powder bronzers last about as long as powder blush, namely two years with proper maintenance. Cream bronzers last roughly half that long because they’re moisture-rich and attract germs as a result. Bronzers come in other forms as well, such as sprays and mousses, and the expiration date of each product varies by company.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

To find out if your bronzer has expired, study it closely for signs of discoloration. Powder bronzers can develop a hard rim or grey film due to their minerals mixing with oils from your face. As they harden, powder bronzers become difficult to extract from their compacts with an application brush. Expired bronzers also have a pungent chemical smell, and their cream versions tend to separate. Expired bronzers cease to blend consistently with skin as well.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

Expired bronzers may irritate your skin, causing rashes or acne breakouts, but they’re not likely to cause serious problems.

How to Protect It:

The secret to maintaining bronzers is to clean the application brush often, as you don’t want the brush to transfer oil from your face to the product. Bronzers containing liquids and botanical extracts attract bacteria, so you might want to stick to powder bronzers if you want ones that last years. As always, don’t forget to store the bronzers in a cool, dry place where bacteria can’t get to them easily, and remember to keep their lids shut tight.

Makeup: Eyeshadow

How Long Does It Last?

Cream-based eyeshadows last three to six months depending on how well you take care of them. By contrast, powder eyeshadows last one to two years.

How Do You Know When It's Expired?

Expired powder eyeshadow can develop a hard texture and become discolored.

What Will Happen If I Used It When It's Expired?

In addition to irritating your skin, expired eyeshadow can bring bacteria to your sensitive mucous membrane. This is a bigger problem for cream eyeshadows, because they tend to harbor more bacteria than the powder versions. Expired eyeshadows can cause pink eye, which is contagious, along with serious allergic reactions involving eye redness and itchiness.

How to Protect It:

To prevent eyeshadow from expiring quickly, always wash your hands before using it so germs don’t have the opportunity to spread to it, and regularly check the formula for ingredient separation or discoloration. Store the eyeshadow in a cool, dry place, and keep it tightly sealed when not in use.

Makeup Expiration Dates: Wrapping It Up

There you have it! If you have any questions, please let us know, and if we’ve forgotten anything (or you’d like us to add a note about a specific cosmetic), please us know that too! Jump over to our “Contact” page and drop us a line. We always love to hear from you!

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