Does Makeup Expire? Cosmetic Expiration Dates

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.

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.

expired makeup featured pin

Why does makeup expire

There are a couple of reasons that your favorite lipstick, blush, eyeshadow or mascara will eventually go bad. A lot of it has to do with the ingredients in the product.

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?

Want to Save This Article?

Save this article and we’ll send it to your inbox. Plus, we’ll send you more great links each week.

Save Article
By submitting this form, you consent to receive emails from Leah Ingram

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.

makeup expiration date laura mercier tinted moisturizer circled
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

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 2024. 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. Keep in mind that creams and liquids will likely expire sooner than another makeup product that is a solid or powder. Even different lip products last a different amount of time.

  • Mascara: three to six months
  • Liquid eyeliner: three to six months
  • Eye shadows: two years
  • Lip gloss: one year
  • Powdered blush: two years
  • Cream blush: one year
  • Lipstick: two years
  • Concealer, primer, tinted moisturizer or foundation: one year
  • Lip balm: five years
  • Lip liners and brow pencils: indefinite

Of course, the caveat to these timeframe guidelines is this: if your makeup item smells bad, looks weird or just feels off, throw it out. Same if the texture has changed, you’re started to get breakouts or if you see mold, those are all really strong signs that the shelf life for your makeup has come and gone. Just because I say powder products, for example, last two years, use your common sense if something is off.

All of this is a great reason for decluttering makeup. There’s no reason to hold onto expired makeup products.

Find out which Target stores have Ulta Beauty in them.

What to do with makeup brushes and sponges

If you use any kind of makeup brush or sponge to apply makeup, then you need to be cleaning them on a regular basis. Yes, they don’t “expire” like other cosmetics. But they can get too worn out that you should replace them.

As far as cleaning goes, I’ll always use Dawn dishwashing liquid to clean my makeup brushes. I’ll put a drop in a cup and fill it with warm water. Then, I’ll swish the brush around. It’s amazing how much product comes off.

After a few seconds in the soapy water, I’ll rinse the brush. Then I’ll dab it on a clean, white towel. I say white because you want to keep rinsing and dabbing until the brush is no longer leaving residue on the towel. It may take a few minutes of rinsing and repeating to get there. Then, leave the brush out to air dry overnight.

With regards to makeup sponges, sure, you can wash them. But I wouldn’t bother. If they’ve started to fall apart or just look gross, throw them out and get a new one. On the other hand, if you have a lingerie bag for putting delicates through the wash, you could put your makeup sponge in one of those bags and see what happens. Worse-case scenario is you need a new sponge after all.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *