How Long Should I Keep My Makeup?

April 13, 2017

The Lifespan of Cosmetics & How You Should Care For Them

How long you keep your cosmetics depends on several factors, such as the type of makeup, how it has been stored, if you’ve been sick while using it, and if it has been kept clean.  As a skin care practitioner, I am always checking in with my clients on how they are storing their cosmetics so as not to create skin troubles from bacteria lurking in there tubes, compacts, and jars. Some products -like mascara- should be replaced after 3 months, yet others can be kept up to a year or even two.  When we collect beauty products (especially with new trends and seasonal products constantly being thrown at us) it is easy to accidentally use something that has been sitting in the drawer a bit too long. If you have an occasional bout with acne, or perhaps suffer from ongoing breakouts, proper brush cleansing practices and clean cosmetics storage may help you ward off those dreaded pimples, and even clear it up completely.

Before we begin, it is important to note that The United States doesn’t have any laws that require cosmetic manufacturers to include expiration dates on their packaging. Guidelines for when to discard makeup are usually given out by people who work within the cosmetics industry, who handle products day in and day out, and who have a thorough knowledge on how a product behaves after long time usage. The Food and Drug Administration keeps an eye on cosmetics manufacturers and provide some general advice for consumers, though regulations vary from country to country and are not thoroughly agreed upon.

After twenty + years of working with cosmetics labs, reading various dermatology and skincare books, combing through numerous blogs (as I am sure you have too, if you’re reading mine), and reviewing good ol’ Milady’s (THE Aestheticians bible!) here are some common guidelines to follow along with a few of my tricks for a healthy cosmetics environment.



Mascaras should be kept no longer than 3 months unless you have had an eye infection (think cyst, pink eye, or allergic reaction) in which case, you should toss it.  Also, if the mascara is dry and flakey, or the smell is off, do not be afraid to throw it in the garbage.

PRO TIP Mascara only weeks old? Run the tube under hot water for 30 seconds. This will remelt the waxes and pigment together for an easier application and product longevity.


Eye Shadow & Pencils

Pencils can last up to two years if you sharpen them before and after each use (just be sure to keep that sharpener clean with tea tree oil or even a clorox wipe). Eye shadows can last up to two years if you keep your applicators and brushes clean, too. Think about what you “dip” into them. If you like using your fingers, make sure to wash hands thoroughly before going in for color.  If you like to use a brush, invest in good quality ones that can take washing and drying without falling apart (or simply buy the disposable applicators widely used throughout most makeup counters).

Important! If you’ve had an eye infection, you’ll need to throw out all the eye makeup and applicators you used from the time you developed symptoms. The virus or bacteria that caused the infection has probably taken up residence in your makeup, so using those cosmetics again could cause you to develop another infection. Yuck!

PRO TIP To get maximum longevity from your makeup, buy cosmetics that haven’t been opened (i.e.- no testers!). When you get your products home, store them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, like a dark makeup bag under your vanity. Always close the lids tightly after each use so air cannot get in.


Lipsticks & Pencils

Lipsticks can be kept for two years if they are kept clean (someone can keep a lipstick going for 2 years?! CRAZY!).  Lip Pencils can last for up two years as well, if they are sharpened before and after each use to prevent bacteria growth. Hey, we all think we are -and probably are- clean, but the mouth area is a haven for germs. If you have had a cold sore or other viral infection, toss that gloss, stick, or pen to prevent reinfection.

PRO TIP Swish a clorox wipe over your lipstick once a week for quick germ killing effectiveness, followed by a wipe of a tissue to remove any residue. 


Cream & Powder Blushes

Cream blushes should be kept for no longer than a year while powders (both blush & foundation) can be kept for up to two years, with proper storage. If sponge applicators are your thing, they can easily be cleaned with a bit of hot soapy water, just like brushes (more on that below).

PRO TIP Instead of using sponge applicators, try cotton rounds which can be tossed after each use. No need for fancy labels; Walgreens is my favorite brand.

Foundations & Concealers

Moisturizing foundations and concealer tubes and sticks should be kept for 18 months while oil formulas have a 12 month shelf life since they can dry out quickly and not blend as well.  I have found that mineral foundations can be used for up to two years as they are less likely to have bateria hanging around since minerals are inorganic and inhospitable for bugs.

PRO TIP Can’t keep track of when you opened that compact? Write the date on the product so you always know. And, always, ALWAYS, store your prized cosmetics in a cool, dark place no matter how lovely that beauty vanity looks.


Just as a painter cleans his brushes after each use, so too should anyone using one for makeup (the face IS a canvas, right?).  I recommend cleaning face brushes once a week (if you use them every day) and at minimum once a month.  Use a mild, non-scented bar of soap (Dove is always an honest choice), rinse them well, and let them air dry upright. A couple drops of tea tree oil while you create a lather works wonders as it has natural antiseptic properties and smells insanely clean (hint: this is what I do for my facial tools, too). Synthetic brushes can take a beating and still keep their shape, while natural hair requires a bit more tender, loving care to keep in shape (which is why I love a good dual brush).

PRO TIP Using clean brushes and sponges will help lengthen the life of your cosmetics. If I do not have time to wash and dry mine thoroughly, a quick swipe of a clorox wipe will do in a hurry.

Until next time,

Interested in more makeup advice and professional skincare knowledge? Read more of my beauty blog here.


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