You’re Keeping Your Makeup For Way Too Long

‘Tis the season for decluttering our homes, wardrobes and office spaces. But a frequently overlooked spring cleaning category? Our trusty cosmetics collection. While certain women have a streamlined approach to their beauty edit, others amass a plethora of products that can easily turn into stockpile status (beauty junkies everywhere can relate). And while many makeup packages don’t list an official expiration date, there is a healthy (and more sanitary) practice for eliminating the old rather than hoarding it for those abiding “just in case” moments. Here, your guide to knowing when to toss that eye shadow, lipstick, eyeliner and more, direct from Erin Lindsay, Product Development Manager at ColourPop in Los Angeles.


Time To Toss!

General Guidelines

"All cosmetics have a shelf life of three years if the product is unopened. A good rule of thumb with all cosmetics is if the color changes, the formula begins to separate or the smell or texture changes, it's time to throw it away. Once a product is opened, depending on the formula, shelf life varies."


"Primers (tube or pump) are good for about three years—because of air-tight packaging the product stays very clean."

Liquid Foundation And Concealer

"For liquid foundation or concealer with a pump, three years is the max because the product stays very clean. For products without a pump, one and a half years is best—be very careful not to touch the formula with your fingertips, as this will add germs to the formula. The best application practice is to dip a clean Q-tip into the bottle and apply onto the face, then blend out the foundation with your fingertips or your favorite brush. For concealer with a doe-foot applicator or flow-through pen, 12 to 18 months is best because the applicator touches your skin."

Powder Foundation, Blush And Eye Shadow

"Because powders are anhydrous, they tend to have the longest shelf life of any cosmetic product and can last about three years. It's important not to store powder products in the bathroom because they will be subjected to heat and humidity, causing metal pans to rust. If this happens, throw the product away. If you see any fluffy texture on the surface of the powder, throw it away immediately. Using a wet brush with a powder may limit the shelf life to about one year."

Mascara And Eyeliner

"Mascara can be kept for about two and a half to three years if unopened. Once in use, throw away after three months and do not pump the wand—air will get inside the tube and bacteria can grow, causing the formula to get thicker. If the formula thickens, it will not apply as evenly. Liquid eyeliner should be tossed after three months because it's water-based and the applicator touches skin directly. Eye pencils should be thrown away between six and 12 months. Be sure not to store eye pencils in hot environments like the car, as they will melt."

Lip Gloss, Liquid Eye Shadow And Cream Eye Shadow

"For lip gloss and liquid eye shadow, you should toss after 12 to 18 months because the applicator lives in the formula. With lip gloss, look for any change in formula like color, texture or smell; because it's used on the lips, saliva will get onto the applicator. Cream eye shadow will last about six months if you do not touch the product with your fingertips and it's applied with a clean brush."

Lipstick And Lip Pencils

"Lipsticks are best to keep for about two years, while lip pencils can last from 18 months to two years—airtight packaging gives them a longer life. Similar to eye pencils, it's important not to store either product in warm environments like the car, as they will melt."

Brushes And Tools

"Brushes will last for years if you take care of them. Wash your brushes at least twice a month with a shampoo for color-treated hair—it's more gentle. Squeeze out all excess water from the bristles and let dry flat; otherwise, water will drip into the feral (metal part) of the brush, which will cause bristles to loosen and fall out. Using a brush cleanser daily will help to remove color in between uses, but it's still best to do a thorough cleansing with hair shampoo. If you have any contagious eye infections, throw away all brushes! Replace your brushes when they start to fray.

Generally, if you use proper hygiene a sponge can last three to six months. If you are using with water-based formulas, it is probably closer to three months. Be very careful with sponges, as they are an open cell and bacteria can get into the sponge and live inside. Wash at least twice a month and replace when they start to fall apart or have an odor.

For eyelash curlers, replace pads every three months. Clean the pads with alcohol weekly or biweekly and replace when the mechanism breaks—otherwise you risk breaking lashes."