Expired Makeup Isn’t Just Gross — It’s Destroying Your Skin

Aly Walansky
Don't even think about using expired makeup.

Don’t even think about using expired makeup.

We’re busy. Time flies, weeks go by, and before we know it, that half-used foundation is now months old. Is it still safe to use? Just as we wouldn’t advise drinking spoiled milk—gross!—there’s lots that can go wrong when your makeup ages: breakouts, skin irritations, infections and worse.

Expired makeup can cause breakouts and infections like pink eye, acne, and worse. This is especially true with mascara, liners and foundations. “When a product expires this means that the preservatives have stopped being as effective as they once were or have stopped working altogether. This can lead to infections,” says Dr. Gary Goldfaden.

If your makeup is old enough to have expired, it’s likely already accumulated tons of germs and bacteria, which then can get passed onto your eyes and skin. Just what we need.

“Expired makeup usually means there is a loss in the chemical structure of the product which can wreak havoc when applied to skin,” says Dr. Marina Peredo. This can lead to redness and irritation and, in most cases, allergic reactions. The result? Bumps and itchiness that can go on for a few days, or longer. The last thing we need during the holiday (or any) season.

“In addition to the more commonly known bacterial growth problems there can be issues of oil rancidity,” says Julie Longyear of Blissoma holistic skincare and apothecary. “Petrochemical oils are terrible for skin at the get-go as they block pores and are not able to be integrated into the skin—they just sit on top and clog. I see a tremendous number of clients that have breakouts just simply because of the products they are using—both their skin care and their makeup is making their skin worse!” 

So, how long should we keep our makeup?
A mascara should be swapped out for a new one every two months. Eye liners should be sharpened every time before usage and not kept over a year. Foundation should be kept, at most, for six months. If you dip your fingers into your foundation make sure your hands are washed and clean. This is a sure way to get bacteria in your product and then possibly an infection on your face.

“Foundations normally last two to three months on average. Foundations longer than six months often go bad due to bacteria from cross contamination,” says Dominic Cruz, Kryolan Professional Make-up’s director of education and professional makeup artist. “A good rule of thumb is to mark your bottle on the day of purchase and to replenish it within a six month period, no longer.”

Clean your brushes
“Always wash makeup brushes to get rid of any bacteria that may have transferred from your skin,” says Dr. Goldfaden. Bacteria, which causes infections and breakouts, can be passed back and forth from the jar to the brush to your face, so keep it clean.

Know your options
“One great alternative for makeup that would not technically expire is mineral makeup,” says Longyear. As there is no water or oils in the products they don’t grow bacteria or go bad. As a lady that doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, most of my eyeshadows are loose mineral powders. That equals an investment that is safe for a long time.

Read more: Make Over Your Makeup Bag: What to Keep Vs. Toss