It’s harder to find makeup expiration dates than it is food expiration dates. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.
Because the truth is this: makeup can and does expire. And if you ignore certain rules about keeping cosmetics fresh and clean, you can end up with irritated skin or, worse, an infection.
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That’s not me fear mongering to encourage you to spend money on new mascara and the like. These risks are real, so says the Mayo Clinic.
Why does makeup expire
There are a couple of reasons that your favorite lipstick, blush, eyeshadow or mascara will eventually go bad.
One, all makeup includes some sort of preservatives to keep them fresh. Over time and after exposure to air, these preservatives break down and stop doing their job.
What does that mean for you? Well, fewer preservatives can lead to more bacterial growth.
For example, I remember my mom always telling me to replace my mascara every three months. While she didn’t exactly explain why I should do this, I did follow my mom’s advice.
Of course, if you’re using organic or botanical or natural makeup without preservatives, then they stay fresh for shorter periods of time. So, you’ll need to replace this kind of cosmetics more often.
Two, where we keep our makeup can also make it expire faster. For example, are you like me and have your beauty products in the bathroom?
Well, that just might be the worst place to keep them. Think about it: bathrooms get steamy and warm, thanks to showers and whatnot.
What makes makeup degrade faster? Well, moisture and heat, among other things.
How often should you replace your makeup
As I mentioned earlier, my mom taught me to replace my mascara every three months. And she was right on the money.
However, I completely missed the mark with regards to replacing other products regularly.
For example, this Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer that I love using in place of foundation? Look at the expiration date I’ve circled below.
Here are the best tinted moisturizers overall. And wouldn’t you know it? Laura Mercier made the list.
Anyway, back to expiration dates. On my tube of Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer, it says 11/20 or November 2020. I’m writing this article in 2023. Clearly, this product is past its prime.
Speaking of Laura Mercier, this article on best makeup dupes taught me that some Maybelline products do as good a job as the Laura Mercier brand but at a much lower price point.
Makeup expiration date timeline
Below, I’ve outlined common makeup, cosmetic and skincare products, and how often you should replace them.
- Mascara: three to six months
- Liquid eyeliner: three to six months
- Eyeshadow: two years
- Lip gloss: one year
- Powdered blush: two years
- Lipstick: two years
- Concealer, primer, tinted moisturizer or foundation: one year
- Lip balm: five years
- Lip and brow pencils: indefinite
Of course, the caveat to these timeframe suggestions is this: if your makeup item smells bad, looks weird or just feels off, throw it out.
Find out which Target stores have Ulta Beauty in them.
How sharpening eye and lip pencils lengthens their life
You’ll notice that I’ve put the word “indefinite” next to pencils you might use to line your eyelids or your lips. That’s because you’re likely sharpening them each time you use them.
This act of using a cosmetic pencil sharpener cuts away any part of the pencil that might otherwise become contaminated. Therefore, you can use these pencils indefinitely or until they’re too short to sharpen anymore.
Of course, if they somehow dry out and crumble when you try to sharpen them, then I would say that your makeup pencil has expired and you need to buy a new one.
Finally, add one more step to your pencil sharpening to really ensure they stay clean and healthy: run a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol over the sharpener blade before and after every use.
This extra step is sure to sanitize any bacteria or fungi that might have come off of the pencil during sharpening.
Final thoughts on makeup expiration dates
Well, after researching and writing this article, it’s clear that pretty much everything in my makeup bag has expired and needs to be thrown out.
Also, now I’m starting to see the benefit of signing up for a makeup subscription like Ipsy. That way, you get a fresh supply of beauty products every month.
I used to get Ipsy boxes monthly, and built up a nice supply of mascara. So, when that three-month mark rolled around, it was no big deal to throw out my old mascara. That’s because I had a fresh one waiting in the wings.
Finally, given how lax I’ve been in replacing all of my beauty products, I must be one lucky son of a gun that I’ve never developed any eye infections or skin irritations from using expired makeup. However, with my newfound knowledge, I’m not going to push my luck anymore.
Here are tips on how to read medicine expiration dates.