Here’s How Long You Should Actually Be Keeping Your Makeup

Rachel Krause
Tom Medvedich

Tom Medvedich

Unless you’re a total neat freak, nobody enjoys throwing away makeup. I’ve held onto things I didn’t even like for upwards of three years, long past the time span indicated on the packaging (fun fact: there’s a symbol of a tiny jar on the bottom of most makeup and skin care that states a number of months a product should be kept—which, to be fair, isn’t necessarily set in stone), on the grounds that I might end up using it at some point in the future. You know, just in case.

Still, there’s a legit reason why you should have some turnover in your beauty arsenal: Whether you spent $150 on a foundation or $15, it’s going to go bad eventually. And once a product goes bad, continuing to use it could result in a mess of unwanted problems, like breakouts or infections. Hard pass.

Because it’s easy to justify keeping a mascara around just a little longer, here’s a rough guide to when and why you should be replacing your beauty products. Now you have no excuse.

After 3 months …

Anything liquidy that you’re putting near your eyes—namely, mascara and liquid liner—has got to go. Mascara tubes and liquid liner pens offer the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to build up over time, so even if the formulation is consistent with when you first purchased the product, it’s better to be safe than sorry health-wise. Holding onto a bacteria-ridden mascara past its prime just because it’s Dior probably isn’t worth an eye infection.

After 6 months …

Time to ditch creamy eyeshadows and potted gel liners, too—the rule of thumb is that anything that goes near your eyes tends to have a shorter lifespan than what goes on your lips or face. Whether or not you hold onto powder eyeshadows is up to you; if you’re actively concerned about bacteria, you can toss ’em after six months, but if you like to live dangerously, they’re generally good for another three to six.

After 6–12 months …

Anything you use your fingers to apply, like potted lip colors or balms, cream blush, and cream foundation in a jar, is done for. (This goes for skin care, too.) Bacteria is transferred to the product every time you dip your fingers in it, and that contamination can cause clogged pores, breakouts, and irritation. Once you’ve put your fingers in something 365 times, it is not the same product as when you bought it.

After 1 year …

If you’re sharpening your liner pencils on a regular basis (so that you’re not putting the same part to your eye over and over again), there’s no need to throw them out before they’re finished. On the other hand, twist-up pencils and shadows must go. Concealer and liquid foundation should be kicked to the curb around this time, too; their composition will change over time because of the water content, so they won’t work as well and may even have some visible separation between the liquid and the pigments. Waxy brow products tend to dry out around this time as well.

After 2 years …

Lipstick, lip gloss, powder blush, and powder foundations are good to go for quite a while, provided you don’t see any warning signs that they’ve gone bad, like a change in color or scent. (If it smells weird, throw it out.) Rest easy: There’s no logical reason why you shouldn’t be able to wear that $50 Tom Ford lipstick down to a nub.