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When to Throw Makeup Away: Guidelines For Cosmetic Life Span

Chances Are You Used Expired Mascara This Morning

A chilly change in season is the perfect excuse to lock yourself indoors, binge-watch Netflix, eat lots of ramen, and reorganize your makeup bag. Since expired cosmetics can cause skin irritation and eye infections, it's important to replace them before they go south. A new study from Stowaway Cosmetics and Poshly found that 89 percent of women hoard old makeup "just in case." Plus, fewer than one in five of us trash mascara within the recommended three months (we're guilty, too).

Unlike food, cosmetics aren't required to have an expiration date on their packaging. Instead, you'll have to keep track of when you opened them. Most products have a jar symbol with a numeral that signifies the number of months you have until the item is no longer usable. If you have a hard time keeping track of when you've bought things, just use a Sharpie to write down the purchase date.

If you know how to take care of your cosmetics, your makeup should serve you well. But use common sense: if your gloss is gloopy, your nail polish is separating, or your lipstick has a funny smell — it's time to bid it adieu. And maybe your next life goal should be to never let crusty compacts and congealed mascara make an appearance again. See guidelines for when to replace your makeup below:

Product When to toss
Powders (including blushes, bronzers, and shadows) Two years
Cream shadows and blushes 12-18 months
Oil-free foundation One year
Cream compact foundation 18 months
Concealers 12-18 months
Lipstick and lip liner One year
Lip gloss 18-24 months
Pencil eyeliner Two years
Liquid or gel eyeliner Three months
Mascara Three months
Join The Conversation
Assistant-Community-Manager Assistant-Community-Manager 5 years
Great tip!  I have a few things that have expired, especially if I go by this chart!
Allytta Allytta 8 years
i don't know how much you put of foundation on your faces ladies, but i wear it everyday when i'm in school or out and 30ml lasts me a year. i always get a new one as a present from my aunt for christmas.
nextjen nextjen 9 years
I am as bad as anyone else (or worse, probably!) when it comes to throwing out makeup. I agree with the girls that I wouldn't throw out nail polish until it was unusable, but I am guilty of keeping lipstick forever and lipglosses (I don't think I have ever used one up!) Also, I don't use eyeshadow or blush much so I never think to throw them out! HOWEVER, I saw an episode of Tyra where they brought in a chemist or something and went through this lady's makeup box and some of it was nasty anyway, but even the stuff she said was "new" was full of bacterias when put under the microscope and it made me think twice about keeping some of my products.
SugarCat SugarCat 9 years
I am definitely not buying new eyeshadow every 18 months, esp with what I pay for it, lol. I did just throw out a bunch of old stuff that I hadn't used in years - an excuse to buy more? Hehe. Of course!
htiduj htiduj 9 years
i think the biggest thing with mascara is to make sure the wand is clean -- because thats where the bacteria harbors, and thats what can give you an eye infection. the smartest thing to do is to never wear mascara with an eye infection, but also do wipe down the mascara brush before and after you put it on. by wiping it off before, you get rid of any clumps (just twirl it on a tissue) and by wiping it off after, you really keep it clean. i also soap my hands before using any makeup. as for the tarte push ups, always wipe down the surface with a tissue before applying.
tiabia tiabia 9 years
I don't even wait until the season changes...I usually do a quick makeup throwaway when I'm switching makeup bags, which about a 1-2 month event...LOL...insane, I know.
em1282 em1282 9 years
Haha, as for the expensive mascara being tossed after 3 months--that's why I refuse to buy anything that expensive. L'Oreal makes awesome mascaras at a great price, so I really see no need to shell out $19 (AHEM, Benefit's Bad Gal Mascara which wasn't even that great to begin with!) for mascara. I'm just paranoid about anything that is applied that closely to my eyes, so I'd say the 3 month rule is great and definitely applies to a product like mascara. What about gel blush-type products? I'm assuming they should be treated like cream products (18 months maybe?) but I guess it depends. I kinda went on a Tarte binge and have a few of those gel cheek stains now, and I can't remember if they have an expiration date on them...
kittylitter1 kittylitter1 9 years
I can agree on the liquid stuff like mascara and foundation, but I am not going to toss a Chanel blush that is only half used just because it's a year and a half old!
emalove emalove 9 years
I clean out my makeup pretty frequently. But this is a great guide.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
I am going to do that tonight :)
glam-sugar glam-sugar 9 years
I just cleaned out my train case. There's probably a few more things I should toss but they still seem okay.
zazoza zazoza 9 years
come on, mascara after 3 months? im not tossing my expensive mascara that i saved up for! :)
Twinkle1 Twinkle1 9 years
I don't wear makeup that often and would be throwing a lot out and wasting an awful lot of money if I followed this chart. As I've never had any skin problems or eye infections from wearing "expired" cosmetics, I'm more inclined to believe Julieulie's dermatologists. It's just a ploy to make you spend more money.
cleegiants cleegiants 9 years
i know i have makeup that is past these guidelines, but i feel like if i've kept it clean and do use it on a fairly regular basis, it should be fine. I flip through my makeup fairly often, so i will toss anything that 1) is dried out; 2) is just not a good color (what was i thinking??). Nail polish is really the only thing that I toss out more regularly - i wonder if i'm not storing it correctly because my bottles seem to dry out quickly. Of course a lot of them were cheap and old, so my newest ones should last longer.
htiduj htiduj 9 years
i definitely agree that the chart is a guideline, not a rule. i can definitely tell when my makeup has gone bad, and until its bad, i see no reason to toss it. especially since some of the makeup i have is very very expensive.
JessNess JessNess 9 years
This lady that works at the salon where I get my hair cut admitted that she still uses the exact same shadows that she had from the 80s. Its soooo gross. Not only are the shadows old and disgusting but the colors are HORRIBLE!!!
kaynkay kaynkay 9 years
I think this chart was made by cosmetics companies. I agree with the comments above. If something is hard (blush, eyeshadow, etc) I use it til it breaks (most likely) or I run out. Marcara when dry or funkified - toss. Lipgloss etc, if stick or whatever - toss, otherwise keep it. It is the oxygen that usually makes things go bad...less use = less O2 = longer shelf life. I used to be a body care buyer ...natural products go bad faster. Rancid products (gloss, lotion. etc have a very distinct smell - learn it and use it). Honestly, I have to try not to buy too many lip glosses at the same time otherwise i'd end up with 75 of them. Sugar love :)
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Thanks for that little chart. I might have to print it out and tape it inside my medicine cabinet. :)
julieulie julieulie 9 years
I've asked 3 different dermatologists about this, and they all said the same thing -- you can tell when cosmetics go bad. Using mascara that is 4 months old is no more likely to give you an eye infection than 2 month old mascara, provided it looks and smells normal, and you have never used it when you've had an eye infection of any sort. All three used the same analogy -- it's like Advil. Advil is required to put on an expiration date, so they do, but it's still good significantly past the expiration date. They hope people will follow it so they throw it out and buy more and the company gets more money, but you can take year old Advil and it works and won't cause problems. Cosmetic companies don't have exact expiration dates because they don't know when you opened it, but they put down a time line because they have to, and they hope you will throw things away before you need to do so. Just like I continue to use my Advil well after the expiration date on the bottle, I do the same with blushes, eyeshadows, eyeliner, etc. And if three dermatologists tell me it is quite fine to do so, I see absolutely no reason to change my habits.
shernic82 shernic82 9 years
I agree with the comment about not trashing blush and eyeshadow after that amount of time...it takes me forever to use both and there is no way I'm throwing out a $30 lancome blush...I've had it for 3 years, and it's still perfectly fine. However, with stuff like mascara and foundation/powder products, if you wear make-up regularly, it should take a lot less time than the chart says to use 'em up.
Beauty Beauty 9 years
I personally don't keep my polish for more than a year; the color just isn't good to me. When it starts to separate and show weird colors, that's it for me. When I went home for the holidays, my mom had a bottle of Sally Hansen in her closet — I remember this shade from my childhood! Yikes.
pandatours pandatours 9 years
Bella, the truth is that nail polish can be kept for much longer than a year. I asked this over at The Beauty Brains and here was my response: Basically, you can keep nail polish until it dries out. That's because it's based on solvents (no water in it so it can't grow bacteria.) As long as you keep it tightly closed and well shaken it can last for a loooong time. Also, if polish gets too thick you can always use a bit of nail polish thinner that you can get at Longs or Sallys. I only toss out polish that has been separated beyond repair. Hope this helps!
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 9 years
I toss my mascara about every three months, because I use it up! Same with concealer, foundation, powder... but I must admit, I don't throw away gloss or lipstick or shadow or blush, because I don't use them up on a regular basis, and I take care of them quite well - I'm not replacing a barely-used $30 eyeshadow every 18 months, ya know? Obviously, if stuff looks/smells icky, it gets thrown out, but otherwise, I see no need...
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
What happens if you have nail polish that you got years ago? I haven't been wearing nail polish much until recently, when I tried to re-use my favorite magenta polish. The polish was hard like a rock so I just threw it out and went on hunt for a similar color that took me to about 5 Duane Reades and a CVS until I finally found it at Sephora. Then I tried two other colors that I hadn't used in years also and surprisingly, they were just fine. No clumps or anything. What would happen from using old nail polish? like would it just be hard like the first one I mentioned or would you get an infection or something? Just curious...
audreyxoxo audreyxoxo 9 years
i have a bizilion cosmetics but i dont remember when i bought them. im gonna toss them and use this from now on!
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