How often replace mascara?

Mascara can contribute so many things to your life, like Bambi eyelashes and…eye infections? OK, that last one isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s a possibility if you’re still using mascara you can’t even remember buying. It might seem harmless enough—mascara can be pricey, so why would you toss a tube without using up every bit of pigment? Unfortunately, hanging on to old mascara isn’t doing your eyes any favors.

Using old mascara can promote bacterial growth that could seriously screw with your eyes.

Various microorganisms live on your facial skin, including your eyelids. That can include bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Jacqueline R. Carrasco, M.D., F.A.C.S., an oculoplastic and orbital surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital, tells SELF.

When you use mascara, these microscopic beings can cling to the wand and wind up in the tube. There, they can build up and eventually spread to your eyelids and eyeballs as you apply makeup, David Lu, M.D., an associate clinical professor of ophthalmology at University of Texas Southwestern, tells SELF.

That wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that this exact process can sometimes cause eye issues. Streptococcus pneumoniae, for example, can cause pink eye. This inflammation of your eyes’ conjunctiva (the thin, clear tissue lining your eyelids and the whites of your eyes) often presents with redness, pain, itching, and a burning sensation. Staphylococcus aureus is another prime pink eye culprit, but as a bonus, it can also lead to styes, those mystifying pimple-like bumps that can bubble up on your eyelids. Pseudomonas aeruginosa can cause skin infections, which isn’t great news for the delicate tissue on your eyelids. Eyelid infections can lead to blepharitis, uncomfortable inflammation that can even cause loss of eyelashes, which, hello, is the exact opposite of what you want from mascara in the first place!

These kinds of bacteria can also put you at risk of infecting your corneas, the transparent outer surface of your eyeballs, Aaron Zimmerman, O.D., an associate professor of clinical optometry at The Ohio State University, tells SELF.

It’s not like using expired makeup will absolutely guarantee an eye infection or other problem, but it’s a real possibility. Some small studies have found that the above pathogens can all hang out in eye makeup, and that due to its particularly high bacterial diversity, mascara may be especially likely to cause eye infections.

To avoid mascara-related eye infections, you should be getting a new tube every few months at a minimum.

Exactly how often will depend on the specific product recommendations, but most manufacturers suggest replacing your mascara every two to four months, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The American Academy of Ophthalmology is even more specific, suggesting that you get rid of your mascara after three months.

If you insist on hanging on to old mascara, the FDA warns that you shouldn’t try to reconstitute dried-out stuff with water or spit. “The human mouth is incredibly dirty,” Dr. Carrasco says. Bacteria from your spit can grow in your mascara and cause an eye infection. Adding water can also introduce bacteria that should be nowhere near your eyes or mess with the product’s formula in a way that gives bacteria a better chance to grow, the FDA says.

If you’re dealing with weird eye symptoms, go see your eye doctor whether or not you think they’re due to your mascara.

If you do in fact have inflammation or an infection because of your mascara, the first thing your doctor will recommend is throwing out the tube, Dr. Zimmerman says. Then they’ll get to work treating that infection or inflammation, which will depend on exactly what you’ve got going on. It’s best to go without eye makeup until you’ve kicked the issue.

Maybe there’s no way you’ll go through an entire tube of mascara in three months. Relatable. If that’s the case, consider buying sample or travel-sized tubes and seeing where that gets you. You could end up safeguarding your eye health in the long run.


  • 6 Simple Ways to Take Better Care of Your Eyes
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  • How to Know If That Pimple on Your Eyelid Is Actually a Stye


How Often Should You Really Replace Mascara?

We’re pretty clued in when it comes to expiry dates in the kitchen: always reheat chicken, never leave milk out overnight and if in doubt, chuck it out.

Not unlike that yoghurt you needed a second opinion on, cosmetics have a used by date – but how often do you actually check them?

A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found 97.9% of participants reported using or previously using makeup after the expiration date, with mascara being the most frequently mentioned product. Oh.

What’s worse, the microbiological analysis of 40 mascara samples revealed the presence of bacteria and fungi which can cause nasty bacterial eye infections.

Optometry Australia’s resident optometrist, Luke Arundel, has seen first-hand the damage caused by common cosmetic mistakes. His advice? Health before beauty. Every. Single. Time.

“Eyes are particularly vulnerable to infection and some beauty products and procedures put your vision at risk. If you can squeeze in the time to see a beautician, you can manage an appointment with an optometrist,” he warns.

By law, cosmetic manufacturers don’t have to put a use-by date on their products. Generally, the use-by date for liquid or gel eyeliner and mascara is 3 months. Pencil eyeliner, on the other hand keeps for around 2 years. Need a reminder? There’s an app for that. Beauty Keeper will give you a nudge when it’s time to replace them.

Edwina Bartholomew shares secrets from the Channel Seven makeup department for BW Magazine

Edwina Bartholomew shares secrets from the Channel Seven makeup department for BW Magazine

Here’s How Often You Should Actually Replace Your Makeup

When was the last time you replaced your mascara? If you’re not sure, you’re going to want to first, throw it out and second, keep reading. Just like the food in your fridge, your makeup stash will go bad eventually, meaning it’s important to regularly assess the condition of your cosmetics and replace things past their prime. We asked experts to weigh in on why this is so important and to share exactly when to toss different types of makeup.

Image zoom Image courtesy of Getty.

Is Old Makeup Effective?

“Any type of powder makeup that’s cracked or crumbly isn’t going to pick up well on a brush,” says beauty expert, makeup artist, and best-selling author Jenny Patinkin. Liquid or creamy products—think foundations, lip glosses, cream blushes—dry out and start to tug and pull on your skin, she adds. Not to mention that regardless of the texture, the colors can start to change, too. The bottom line: Old makeup will neither apply as well nor look as good on you.

Related: How to Clean Makeup Brushes

Is It Safe to Use Old Makeup?

Not to sound like alarmists, but using old, grimy makeup can be dangerous. “Old makeup can harbor disease-causing microbes that can lead to infections, rashes, or other skin problems, so it is a safety issue,” says cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski. “Even if your makeup starts off properly preserved, over time it picks up microbes from your face and the environment, which might eventually overwhelm the preservative system.” Still, not all makeup is created equal—nor will it go bad at the same time—so it’s important to think about products differently.

“Eye makeup is the most problematic because you’re dealing with a mucous membrane where there are more ports of entry for the bacteria to get into your body,” says Chicago dermatologist Jordan Carqueville, M.D. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to exactly when you need to pitch your mascara, liner, and shadow in a moment.) You can contract all kinds of things, including conjunctivitis (aka pink eye) to sties, to name a few common issues.

But using a foundation that has been in your makeup bag for who knows how long can potentially be problematic too. “There’s less of a risk of carrying infection on skin because the skin’s oil acts as a protective layer,” says Rita Linkner, M.D., of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. Still, it is possible to contract serious infections such as staph or strep from old, dirty makeup, says Carqueville, particularly if you have a pimple or blemish, which makes it easier for the bacteria to get in. And to that point, if you’re prone to breakouts, you definitely want to keep your makeup fresh and clean. “Oil, dirt, and bacteria are a recipe for clogged pores,” she says. “The preservative systems in makeup break down with time, upping the likelihood of bacterial growth. And, especially if you’re sticking your fingers in a product, it can get full of oil and dirt. All of that ends up on your skin.” No, thank you.

Related: How Much Should You Really Tip at the Salon?

How Often Should Makeup Be Replaced?

Follow this universal rule: No matter the product, if it smells funny or looks funny (e.g., has started to separate or change color), get rid of it. When in doubt, throw it out. Otherwise, follow these helpful guidelines.

Eye Makeup

It’s most important to be diligent about your eye makeup, particularly mascara and gel eyeliner, Romanowski says. Because these products contain water (which is necessary for bacteria to grow) and are applied to skin then dipped back into the container, they’re more prone to microbial contamination, he says. All the experts we spoke with recommend replacing your mascara every three months. A tell-tale sign it needs to go? “You should hear a popping noise every time you open it and pull out the wand,” Patinkin says. “If you don’t hear that sound, it means too much air has gotten into the tube and the mascara is old and dried out.” (Again, putting you at risk not only for eye issues but also upping the likelihood that your mascara will clump or flake.) Pending any changes in scent or appearance, eyeliner pencils and powder shadows can be used longer—six months to a year—given that they don’t contain water.

Powder Makeup

It’s harder for bacteria to grow in any kind of powder because there’s no water present, Carqueville says. That means that powder blushes, bronzers, and foundations are OK to use for nine months up to year, Linkner says. Although, once again, keep an eye out for any changes in how they look. See strange speckling on top of the powder? That’s a buildup of oil that Patinkin says you scrape off with a knife. Depending on how much of the product you have left and how pricey it was, it may just be easier to replace it.

Cream Makeup

Cream formulas (foundations, concealers, blushes) contain water so can become problematic. Replace these after about nine months, more frequently if you’re either constantly dipping your fingers into the jar or are dealing with breakouts and acne.

Related: This Is the One Makeup Product with SPF You’ve Been Missing

Lip Gloss and Lipstick

Lip gloss and lipsticks should be replaced every six months, says Linkner, especially if you’re prone to perleche—cracking, crusting, or irritation in the corners of the mouth caused by bacteria or fungus. “The lip makeup can harbor those microorganisms and reinfect the skin if you’re not careful,” she cautions. For similar reasons, it’s a good idea to throw out any lip makeup you use while you’re sick or have a cold sore.

Tip: When you open a new makeup item, write the date on its bottom with a fine-tip permanent marker (or note the date on a piece of masking tape, then stick it on the product).

Remember, when to replace makeup boils down to the formula (powder versus cream) and the type of product, but updating your beauty arsenal every few months is in your best interest. Besides, it’s a good excuse to change up your routine and try new products.

What better way to go into spring cleaning than with anything old and icky cleared out and swapped for fresh and new? We continue our look at how often to replace overlooked items with a tour of the room just brimming over with things that really ought to be long-gone. Yep, we’re talking about the bathroom.

When to toss them: 3 months to 2 years

When we find that perfect mascara we may be loathe to let it go. But let it go we must, along with other cosmetics, the FDA warns. Citing a veritable cornucopia of ick factors — bacteria, mold, and yeast —they note that manufacturers usually recommend discarding mascara two to four months after purchase. In fact all eye-area cosmetics have shelf lives shorter that that of other makeup. Tempted to overlook their advice? They’d remind you that eye infections from makeup gone bad can be serious.

Cosmetic manufacturers aren’t required to put use-by dates on products but Good Housekeeping shares some best practices. They say three months for liquid eyeliners, six months for cream eye shadows; and two years for pencil eyeliners and powder eye shadows. Liquid face makeup should go after six months, but you can hang onto dry powders for two years. They give two years to lipstick and gloss and at least that for lipliner.

As for skin care, plan on six months, or a year for products in pump bottles. Their tip: Keep your beauty regimen out of the bathroom where heat can speed up the bacterial and fungal growth. A linen closet is a better place to stash that cosmetic bag.

When to toss them: 2 to 3 months

Are you washing your brushes regularly? Good. The bad news is they still won’t last forever. Elle magazine experts say you should be buying new brushes every three months if they start to shed, smell or are discolored. As for that foam blending sponge, In Style says that needs to be replaced at least every three months, if not two — and that’s if you’re keeping it clean.

When to toss them: 3 to 4 months

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You know these guys don’t last forever. What’s their life span? The American Dental Association says you should replace your toothbrush every three to four months. For nightmare material, read their treatise on bacterial growth.

When to toss them: 6 months to a year

Yep, these need to be replaced too. Even with regular cleaning (are you doing that?) to keep from weighing your hair down with accumulated gunk, hairbrushes still have a limited life — about six months to a year, according to Women’s Health magazine. How will you know when it’s time to say goodbye? Bristles separating is the warning sign, they say, but when the bed starts to crack and your hair catches it’s time to give it the brush-off.

When to toss them: Every 5 to 7 shaves

Here’s the million dollar question: How long can you use that disposable razor languishing in your bathroom? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends replacing it after every five to seven shaves to avoid irritation — and if you’re keeping it in the shower, get it out of there, stat. Razors should be kept dry in order to avoid bacteria growth, they warn. If a handful of shaves doesn’t cut it for you, you’re not alone. A whole movement has sprung up around getting the most use out of these throwaways, with some proponents going to great lengths (drying, oiling, running the blade along jeans) to get months — if not years — out of a single plastic razor.

When to toss it: After a bout with the stomach flu

What has the dirtiest job in the house? It would be hard to think of something working harder than the toilet scrubber. So not only does it need its own TLC, it’s got an expiration date. Home site Hunker says as long as you’re disinfecting it regularly, you can keep it until the bristles start to go bad, so keep an eye on that. One caveat, though, says biology professor Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D, co-director of Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community. If someone in the home has had a gastrointestinal illness, the scrubber used to clean after them has got to go because “now you’re dealing with infectious materials.” If you don’t want to throw it away, we’ve got one word for you: bleach.

When to toss them: It depends

Prescription and over the counter drugs are pretty straightforward, right? Bottles come with an expiration date right on them since the FDA began that requirement in 1979. Does that mean you should (safely!) dispose of anything after that date? Well the FDA says so, but according to research, not necessarily.

The expiration, says a Harvard Health Publishing article interpreting a column in Psychopharmacology Today on the topic, is “the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug … doesn’t really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use.”

In an FDA study requested by the military, the article goes on to say, they found that “90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.” But if manufacturers had to do testing for longer periods of time, the article explains, “it would slow their ability to bring you new and improved formulations.”

So don’t be automatically assume you need to replace that several year old family size bottle of pain relief, but when in doubt, check with your pharmacist.

NEXT: Here’s how often you should replace everything in your bedroom

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Cleaning out your Make up drawer may seem like a war zone of glitter, broken powder and foundation stains. We tend to keep that tube of mascara we love way too long, or that lipstick shade we haven’t worn since high school just because it is so nostalgic that you can’t come to terms with throwing it out. But how do you know when it is time to throw or swap these items out? I’ll give you a hint,

It’s Sooner Than You think.


How Often Should I Switch Out My Mascara?

An essential that most of us who love lush lashes use almost every day is mascara. I have always been one to use a tube of mascara till it is almost dry, months longer than I should just because I’m putting off buying a new one. But, the healthy time to swap out your mascara is every three months. I know, shocking. Maybe it is so shocking because almost none of us do this.

But, the facts are the facts. Your eyes are a very sensitive part of your body and after a certain amount of months, bacteria starts to grow within that tube that can harm your eyes and can ultimately cause infection. You should also change your mascara after you have had any kind of eye infection to prevent further infection and you should never share your mascara with anyone else.

Beauty Blenders

When Should I Replace my Beauty Blender?

Beauty blenders and sponges are another common applicator for makeup and can hold dirt and bacteria over time. Because they are sponges, they absorb much more bacteria, oil, and product which results in quicker contamination.

Knowing this, three months seems to be a common theme here. You should replace your beauty blender every 3 months. Or replace it when it starts showing signs of deterioration, it remains discoloured after you wash it or you start breaking out for “no reason.” These are signs that your beauty blender needs to be replaced as well and can happen quicker than 3 months depending on how often and vigorously you use it.

Quo has a ton of choices for Blending Sponges. You can get smaller Cosmetic Wedges in bulk or specifically shaped bigger sponges sold separately like this All in One Blending Sponge.


How Often Should I Clean My Makeup Brushes?

According to make up artists, cleaning your brushes regularly can extend the life of brush bristles. This makes for better makeup application. The reason for this is those brush hairs are porous, so they hold debris, oil, and bacteria. If they are dirty, your application will be spotty and blending will be more difficult.

So when it comes down to it, cleaning your brushes as much as you can is just a benefit to your makeup routine. Brushes that are used around the eyes should be cleaned twice a month, and other face brushes can be cleaned once a month.

Quo has a couple of inexpensive options for brush cleaners including a Cleansing Balm and a Rosewater Brush Cleaner. You can always use lukewarm water and light soap and it is just as effective.

When it comes to getting rid of your brushes and buying new ones, this may vary. You may need to buy new brushes every 1-5 years depending on their usage.


When should I toss my eyeshadow?

Similar to bronzers and blushes, powdered shadows can last up to 2 years before they need to be replaced. But be sure to pay attention to your brushes if you are using these shadows every day. Bacteria build up can happen if your brushes are not clean enough and that can result in eye infections, not a good look!

Cream shadows, on the other hand, are good for a year just because of the product and the consistency of it.

Lipsticks & Lip Glosses

How long can I apply my lipsticks and lip glosses until I should toss them?

For lipstick, the preservatives in the ingredients break down after 1 year. So you can continue to use your lipstick but you may notice a change in consistency and beads forming at the top of the product after this amount of time. This results in a poor application, so I recommend throwing it out if it gets to that point.

Lipglosses are another story. If they have a wand applicator, this cuts their lifetime in half to about 6 months due to bacteria build up. But if it is a squeeze tube, your lipgloss is safe for around a year because bacteria has a lesser change of getting into the product!


How Long is my liquid foundation good for?

Liquid foundations should be tossed within 1 year. The extend their use to a full year try not to use your finger to apply the foundation, this could increase bacteria and cause your foundation not to last as long. Try using makeup brushes or sponges to increase the life of your foundation. Try buying foundations that are in a squeeze tube or bottle with a pump because these are less likely to get bacteria build up and easier to keep clean therefore they last longer.

To increase the lifetime of your foundation make sure to store it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Also, make sure the lid is sealed at all times to prevent bacteria and drying out.

Keeping and using makeup beyond its expiry date is not only gross but it’s potentially dangerous. No matter how clean you may be, natural bacteria from your skin makes its way into your eyeshadow, mascara and foundation, which can mean that you’re reapplying that bacteria (after it has had a chance to multiply in your makeup) back onto your skin. Gross. This can lead to rashes and infections, which can be particularly dangerous for your eyes. The moral of the story: don’t hold on to old makeup, no matter how much you love it.

Mascara and liquid eyeliner

Mascara has the shortest lifespan of all makeup because it not only dries out, meaning that you probably don’t want to wear it after three months anyway, but also because it’s applied to your eyelashes and very close to your eyes.

How long you can keep it: Even if your mascara or eyeliner smells just fine, you should get a new tube every three to four months.

Signs it’s no good: If your mascara smells less than fresh, toss it. It will have a vaguely cosmetic scent and that’s okay but if it has a strong alcohol scent or just smells rancid, it’s no good.


If you’re a lipstick lover, you’re in luck because lipstick lasts a long time (unless, of course, you apply it multiple times a day).

How long you can keep it: Lipstick, if it smells and looks just fine, can last up to two years.

Signs it’s no good: If it looks and feels dry or has just changed in texture. If it smells waxy or just not right, throw it out.

Liquid Foundation

If possible, buy foundation in packages with very small openings. The less you touch the actual product, the better. Bottles with wide mouths allow you to touch the inside of the bottle where the unused foundation is, possibly spreading bacteria and shortening the life of your makeup.

How long you can keep it: Up to two years.

Signs it’s no good: If the colour changes, the formula separates or it has a funky odour, it’s time to buy a new bottle.

Blush, eyeshadow and other face powders

If you keep your makeup brushes clean (wash them with a gentle shampoo weekly, then lay flat to dry), your pressed powder products will stay bacteria-free.

How long you can keep it: Up to two years.

Signs it’s no good: The powder has gone dry and flaky, it has a greyish film over the top or it smells.

Nail polish

You might think that nail polish lasts forever and that even, thick, separating polish can be fixed with a little nail polish remover but that’s not the case. If you want to extend the life of a favourite polish, invest in nail polish thinner, which is different from remover. Remover will only further deteriorate your polish since that’s what it’s meant to do.

How long you can keep it: Up to two years.

Signs it’s no good: The polish has changed in texture, colour or separates and even shaking it won’t fix the problem.

Pencil eyeliner and lipliner

Your liners generally go near your eyes or mouth so again, you should be careful about keeping products that don’t seem quite right. The beauty about pencils is that they can be sharpened and refreshed regularly.

How long you can keep it: Up to three years.

Signs it’s no good: If the texture or scent changes or you see a white dot on the end that doesn’t go away when you sharpen the pencil.

Philip Friedman Do a quick check of any woman’s bathroom, and chances are you’ll find jars of rarely used face cream, the dregs of a favorite powder blush, and at least one tube of lip gloss squeezed within an inch of its life. Whether unused, or consumed to the last drop, squeeze, or swipe, these cosmetics are taking up shelf (and makeup-bag) space because we want to get every penny out of the precious dollars we spent on them. But this hoarding habit has a catch: Beauty products do go bad. At best, they stop performing as well as they used to; at worst, they can cause irritations or infections.

“Unopened, well-formulated cosmetics can remain stable for a couple of years at room temperature,” says Ni’Kita Wilson, a cosmetic chemist at Cosmetech Laboratories in Fairfield, NJ. “But the clock starts once you bring a product home and open it. When air hits the formula, certain ingredients start to oxidize and degrade.” What’s more, every time you touch your makeup or skin-care lotions and potions, you transfer germs to them — and, subsequently, to your face. Heat and humidity, which promote the growth of mold and yeast, are factors, too. That’s one reason the bathroom, though convenient, isn’t the ideal spot to store cosmetics. (High levels of airborne bacteria can contaminate beauty products, too.) A better place: a cool, dry linen closet.

Beyond the obvious signs — dried mascara or separated foundation — it can be tough to tell when something’s past its prime. (U.S. labeling regulations don’t require an expiration date on most cosmetics.) So read on for easy, expert, beauty-protecting tips on when to throw away what.

Face Makeup

Toss-it time: Six months for liquids; two years for powders

Insider info: You increase the odds of bacterial growth — and, hence, of breakouts or irritation — when you repeatedly dip your brushes and fingers into liquid foundation. Also, as it ages, foundation can go on unevenly, creating a streaky, inconsistent finish. “Oils rise to the top, and the consistency thickens,” explains New York City makeup artist Mathew Nigara. Powders present less of a problem because bacteria can’t grow where there’s no water. However, over time, powders with botanical ingredients like aloe or jojoba can become harder to blend and are more likely to crumble, as their trace amounts of water evaporate.

Toss-it time: Three months

Insider info: “A mascara tube is a dark, wet environment — the perfect breeding ground for bacteria,” says New York City optometrist Andrea Thau, O.D. “Preservatives in a mascara only work for so long.” Dr. Thau knows from firsthand experience: She once developed a sty from a makeup artist’s mascara wand. Plus, three-month-old mascara is a nonperformer. “It’s chalky and powdery, and any lengthening or thickening fibers often separate from the fluid, so the mascara stops going on in a smooth, even coat,” says makeup artist Cristina Bartolucci. To avoid hastening the demise of your mascara, never pump the wand — that pushes air into the tube, causing it to dry out faster. Instead, slowly draw out and twist the brush to scrape the tube’s interior and pick up product.

Eyeliner and Eye Shadow

Toss-it time: Liquid eyeliners, three months; cream eye shadows, six months; pencil eyeliners and powder eye shadows, two years

Insider info: As they do with mascara, bacteria tend to flourish in liquid-eyeliner tubes, and the product dries out. Pencil eyeliners have a longer shelf life because you can create a fresh, clean surface each time you sharpen them. (Just be sure to regularly sanitize your sharpener with rubbing alcohol.) Powder shadows, like pressed powders, are less prone to contamination because they, too, lack water (if you wet them, toss after six months). But aging eye shadows have performance issues: They get packed down, making it harder to pick up pigment with your brush, says Bartolucci.

Lipstick and Lipliner

Toss-it time: Lipstick and gloss, two years; lipliner, two years or more

Insider info: Lipsticks’ water content makes them potential mini reservoirs of bacteria. No surprise, they also dry out with age, says New York City makeup artist Tina Turnbow: “They no longer look creamy on the lips.” Long-wearing formulas may have an even shorter life span since they often contain ingredients that evaporate more quickly than creamier formulas. Pencil lipliners, like eyeliners, may last a little longer since putting them through a sharpener removes the old surface.



Nail Polish

Toss-It Time: One to two years

Insider info: When polish expires, the consistency turns gooey or stringy, says Ji Baek, owner of Rescue Beauty Lounge in New York City. Formulas are especially sensitive to temperature extremes and humidity, so avoid storing in the bathroom.

Skin Care

Toss-it time: Acne creams and other over-the-counter products that contain drugs are FDA regulated and usually carry expiration dates. But cosmeceuticals (products claiming to have anti-aging and skin-changing benefits) are not regulated, and once they’ve been used, they shouldn’t be kept for more than six months — or, if they’re in pump bottles, a year — says Wilson.

Insider info: “Some ingredients degrade even more rapidly if they’re left in direct sunlight or exposed to air,” says Tina Alster, M.D., a Washington, D.C., dermatologist. Less frequently — but more alarmingly — certain products can actually become more potent over time, says Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, M.D. The reason: Active ingredients like retinol and glycolic acid become more concentrated as their bases degrade, separate, or evaporate. And when proportions change, your skin may get irritated. To prevent problems, store cosmetics properly, discontinue use after six months, and look for products that come in a pump, which helps keep air out. Another option that’s starting to hit shelves: special jars that dispense creams through a tiny hole or slit when you press the top (an internal “floor” rises with each push).


Toss-it time: Six months

Insider info: Sunscreens are FDA regulated, and though they usually have expiration dates of at least one year, that date indicates the purchasing time frame, says Wilson: “When you open a tube, water may start evaporating, causing the formula to eventually become unstable. Once that happens, the ingredients are no longer evenly distributed, so you may get a lot in one dose, but nearly none in another.” Protect your tube by storing it out of the sun.

Hair Products

Toss-it time: One year

Insider info: Always close the caps of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products tightly. Otherwise, water and air can get in, breaking down the formulas or causing them to separate. (Good news for hairspray users: Aerosol cans are the best product protectors going, so sprays should stay good even longer.)


Toss-it time: Two years — or potentially many more

Insider info: “Eau de toilettes and perfumes can last for several years, as long as they’re kept out of humidity and sunlight,” says Robert Gerstener, co-owner of Aedes de Venustas, a New York City fragrance emporium. “Both of these elements can alter notes in a fragrance, which will then change the overall scent.”

Simple Stay-Fresh Secrets

  1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before putting your fingers into a product.
  2. Avoid reinfection. Stop using all eye makeup if you have an eye infection and lip products if you have a cold sore. The exceptions: lipsticks, lipliners, and eye pencils, which can be shaved clean with a knife or sharpener. (Just cleaning with a tissue won’t suffice.)
  3. Smell your mascara when you first purchase it. If you recognize that scent, you’ll know when it goes bad: Expired mascara often takes on a funny, chemical odor.
  4. Choose a cotton-tipped swab or disposable sponge to apply makeup to a pimple — and avoid double-dipping. Going back and forth from the product to the affected area with your finger or a sponge can lead to contamination.
  5. Try Timestrips,, stickers that “remember” when a product was first opened and alert you when it’s no longer wise to use it.

What About Natural Products?

For starters, they may have an extra-short shelf life, according to the FDA, because their botanical ingredients may be susceptible to microbial growth. (Think pure extract, oil, pulp, rind, or bark of plants, fruits, trees, or leaves.) What’s more, though natural preservatives like essential oils of cinnamon, orange, rosemary, and thyme can be potent, when used at low levels they may not be as strong as synthetics, says Wilson. An added problem for consumers: There’s no way to know how “natural” a product is, since the term is undefined and unregulated.

If you’re a natural fan, consider contacting the manufacturer about specific cosmetics. “Most reputable companies put their products — ‘all natural’ or not — through a microbial challenge,” says Wilson. Request the test results. (If the customer-service rep doesn’t supply them, ask to speak to the technical team.)

Your When-to-Toss-It Timeline

Every season: Toss your mascara and liquid liner

Every six months: Toss your skin-care regimen, sunscreens, and liquid foundation

Every year: Toss your hair products (except hairspray)

Every two years: Toss your powder-based cosmetics (such as pressed powder and shadows), lipsticks, and nail polishes

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Parting with your favorite lotion or mascara is hard enough when it’s past its prime (yes, beauty products expire), but the thought of throwing out makeup after any and every cold or infection just doesn’t seem fair.

So, do you really have to purge your beauty cabinet every time you get sick, or is there a simple way to disinfect your beauty products? TODAY Style asked the experts to weigh in.

The ingredients (or lack of certain ingredients) makes a big difference.

Do beauty products harbor germs?

Beauty products are made with preservatives that keep them fresh for a certain period of time. Can those preservatives protect them from spoiling after you’re sick? Can beauty products harbor germs and, if so, for how long? Like many matters of beauty, the answers are a bit complicated.

“Color cosmetics that involve you applying the product directly to your skin from the package can harbor germs. How long depends on the microbe, but you should assume that they can last as long as you own the product,” Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist who co-founded the website The Beauty Brains, said.

Long story short? Every time you apply a product — like lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, etc. — directly to your skin, you expose the products to your skin’s microbes. That means that any germs you’re harboring, including the nasty flu virus, can end up in your products.

Do you know when your beauty products expire?

Sept. 7, 201701:20

“Depending on the bacteria or virus and depending on the type of product and its ingredients, beauty products can remain contaminated from a range of a few hours or days to much longer,” said Dr. David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and the CEO and founder of Curology.

Although some preservatives get a bad name, they’re helpful in this case, working overtime to make sure your favorite lipstick doesn’t get you sick.

“If your product isn’t properly preserved, the microbes can continue to persist,” Romanowski said. But he added, “Even with proper preservation, the microbes can exist in a spore form ready to regrow when conditions are right,”

Not every beauty product is a breeding ground for germs, though. Those that you dispense into your hand —think shampoos, conditioners, body wash and some skin lotions — aren’t directly exposed to microbes, so they’re safe to continue using.

Lip products and eye makeup should be the first items you toss.

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When should you throw out makeup?

It’s just not practical to toss your favorite beauty products every time you have a little sniffle. But are there certain instances when you should cut your losses and just throw out your makeup?

“If you just had a common cold, I wouldn’t toss all your makeup, but I would consider replacing or setting aside any lip products that you used throughout the illness.”

Dr. David Lortscher

“For the most part, you don’t have to toss your beauty products after being sick. I would recommend getting rid of any natural products because they are likely not preserved well enough, but for most products, the germs that do get back into your products will not represent a problem (unless someone has a compromised immune system),” Romanowski said.

That’s because your immune system develops antibodies to fight infection and recognize a particular pathogen in the future. “So even though there may be some residual spores in your products, your body can already stop any future infection from these specific microbes. Reinfection is unlikely,” Romanowski said.

At the same time, it’s always good to toss your lip products, especially those with a wand applicator, after you’re sick or experience a cold sore since they come in direct contact with saliva. “If you just had a common cold, I wouldn’t toss all your makeup, but I would consider replacing or setting aside any lip products that you used throughout the illness,” Lortscher said.

“Pink eye is a sneaky virus that can live on objects. I recommend throwing away any eye makeup you used while infected … ” said Dr. Melissa Peck Piliang.Getty Images

What about pink eye, styes and skin infections?

Pink eye and styes are the gifts that keep on giving … in the worst possible way. That’s because after you’re in the clear and have gotten rid of your eye infection, you still have to worry about reinfecting yourself by using contaminated beauty products.

“Pink eye is a sneaky virus that can live on objects. I recommend throwing away any eye makeup you used while infected, especially anything with a wand applicator that you dip into the tube or bottle (think mascara, liquid eyeliner, etc.),” said Dr. Melissa Peck Piliang, MD, FAAD, associate program director of Dermatology Residency at the Cleveland Clinic. “When you put the wand back in the tube, you contaminate all of the product.”

Eye infections are typically highly contagious and can easily come back if you reuse contaminated products, so do yourself a favor and just toss your eye products, including those roll-on eye gels!

Skin infections can also wreak havoc on your favorite beauty products, so you should always make sure to clean your makeup brushes frequently to nix any lingering bacteria. “Makeup brushes should be washed with antibacterial soap once a week and allowed to dry thoroughly. Do an extra washing after you have been ill,” Piliang said.

You’d think that facial cleansing sticks might need to be tossed after an infection, but you can actually use the same quick-and-easy alcohol cleanser method. Sponge applicators, on the other hand, are better off in the trash after an infection.

How to properly clean your makeup bag, lipstick, hairbrush, more

March 28, 201603:39

Can you clean your beauty products?

Is there any good way to disinfect your beauty cabinet? Turns out, it depends on the product type.

“Unfortunately, if your makeup has a wand applicator (mascara, lip gloss) there is no way to fully disinfect the product because the wand has been exposed to the bacteria and has most likely infected the rest of the tube,” Lortscher said.

At the same time, certain beauty products can be more easily cleaned. Powder eye shadow, eye pencils and lipstick tips, for instance, can be sprayed with alcohol. You can also shave the tip off your eye pencils or traditional lipsticks.

“Wipe each product with rubbing alcohol after each use to prevent product contamination and germ spreading,” said Regine Berthelot, director of spa education at Caudalie.

Do yourself a favor and just toss your eye products, including those roll-on eye gels!

You can also easily prevent contamination just by applying your products using this sanitary method. “Always use a spatula for products in jars and avoid double dipping. It’s best to wash the spatula after each use,” she suggested. “When squeezing a product from a tube, do not place your finger on the tube opening, rather squeeze on a clean surface so you are not pushing germs into the tube.”

Makeup tools and skin care devices — like those popular facial cleansing brushes — should also be treated with care. “If you use a Clarisonic brush, it should be cleaned with soap, hot water and alcohol after each use. The brush should be changed at least every three months,” Berthelot said. “If there is an acne flare up or skin infection, try to avoid the area to prevent spreading the infection.”

How else can you keep your beauty products safe?

For starters, sharing makeup isn’t a great idea.

“You can get sick from someone else’s makeup and they can get sick from using yours. This is also why it’s advisable to avoid product testers at stores unless there is a disposable applicator,” said Romanowski.

Could store sample makeup make you sick?

Nov. 27, 201705:18

Shared lip and eye products, in particular, are most likely to get you sick. “Lipstick and eyeliner are applied in areas on or next to mucosa (this is the tissue inside your mouth or on the inside of your eyelid). This skin is a direct port of entry for many bacteria and viruses,” Piliang said.

Storing your makeup in the right conditions can also help prevent nasty microbes from growing. “Temperatures over 85 degrees F (like in a hot car) can break down the preservatives and help bacteria to grow. Storing cosmetics in a cool, dry place is the most safe behavior,” Romanowski said.

Clumping and smudging aren’t the only mascara woes you need to worry about: There’s a good chance the mascara you’re using right now is laced with infection-causing bacteria, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.
For the study, researchers from two Brazilian universities tested 40 mascara samples from real women and found that 79 percent were contaminated with staph bacteria. One explanation: The moist, dark environment inside the tube is an ideal place for nasty bacteria to proliferate—especially after the three-month mark, when mascara expires. No big shock, 86 percent of women in the study admitted to using past-its-prime mascara. (Who wants to throw out a half-full tube?)
As much as it might hurt to throw away your expired eye makeup, you should: Mascara that’s older than three months old can increase your risk of pink eye and other inflammatory conditions. “Our eyes are a vulnerable area for infection,” says Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., a germs expert and assistant professor of public health at the University of Arizona, who was not associated with the study. Although the research was conducted with Brazilian women, Reynolds says that results would likely be similar if researchers were to test the makeup of women in the U.S.
“There are lots of open pores where the eyelashes come out, plus glands and tear ducts.” If you wear contacts, you may also transmit fungus—which can grow on your lenses—from your peepers to your mascara wand, and then into the tube where, in that moist, dark environment, it can proliferate.
Mascara’s not the only cosmetic that women use longer than they should, either. Women in the study also reported using eye pencils, lipsticks or lip glosses, eye shadows, face powders, foundations, and concealers past their expiration dates—but mascara was the most common item used after it had “gone bad.” Unfortunately, it’s also the most dangerous. ” for the eye area merit special attention because of the proximity and contact with this region, and thus, the higher probability of causing irritation or, if the product is contaminated, ophthalmic infections,” say study authors.
So how can you shield your eyes from bacteria and achieve awesome lashes?
Watch the Clock The FDA doesn’t require cosmetics companies to print expiration dates on makeup. So Reynolds suggests tracking it yourself: As soon as you open a new tube, program a “toss my mascara” reminder onto your smartphone for three months later. Then do it—even if it hasn’t dried up yet.
Don’t Share This is one time you should be stingy—even with your BFF. She may have bacteria on her skin that doesn’t make her sick but that could cause a nasty infection in you. Reynolds warns that sharing makeup is a prime way to transmit scary germs. So stash your makeup where your gal pals least expect it: your bedroom drawer. As an added bonus, it’s also less conducive to bacterial growth than your bathroom drawer.
Buy Travel-Size Tubes It’s tough to throw out a tube that still delivers on its curling, volumizing, non-clumping promises. So make sure your mascara runs out faster: Pick up a mini tube, such as the travel-size Benefit Cosmetics BADgal Lash Mascara, sold at Sephora ($10). Sure, it’s a little pricier per ounce than supermarket stuff, but “expensive products can have preservatives that aren’t as irritating,” says Reynolds. “If a chemical causes irritation, you’re going to rub your eyes, increasing vulnerability to infection.”
Rethink Your Regimen Never apply your mascara before slipping in your contact lenses. “If bacteria from your makeup gets in your eye, then you cover it with a contact lens, the bacteria can grow more rapidly,” says Reynolds. Plus, it’ll be that much easier to see where you’re applying your mascara if you put on your lenses and then grab your wand.

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How Often Should You Throw Away Makeup? The Answer Depends On The Product

If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t think too much about the expiration date of your makeup. I’ll make sure to change my mascara at least every three months, but often use my foundation and lipsticks until they run out, which usually takes longer. And I certainly keep my brushes for a couple of years, as long as I’m cleaning them properly. But how often should you actually change your makeup products? The answer may surprise you.

Dermatologist Jessica Wu, MD, explained to Everyday Health, “Most beauty products are designed to stay fresh and stable only for a limited period of time. After that, they start to break down, so your cream might not work as well, your makeup may streak or change color, or — worst case scenario — you could develop a terrible infection.” Basically, if you don’t want to risk the chances of getting an infection, be super in-the-know about when you purchased your makeup — and when you should throw it away.

While there isn’t a certain overall time span for your entire makeup bag, each product has a different expiration timeline. To be safe, it’s probably best to never use makeup that you’ve had in your bag for more than a year. More specifically, here’s the breakdown of when you should toss out the most common products:

1. Foundation

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

According to Everyday Health, foundation should be tossed after one year. “Within just months, foundation can start to grow bacteria that present health risks to your skin. Some analyses of old makeup have found traces of staphylococcus and streptococcus, both of which have been known to cause potentially serious infections,” Wu told the publication. Yikes! Better late than never, right?

2. Lipstick

Ian Waldie/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

OK, so I’m really bad at keeping the same lipstick for more months than I should. Since I don’t use lipstick too often, I’ll usually just keep it in my bag until there’s nothing left. But actually, you should be changing your lipstick every year, according to Byrdie. If it starts to smell though, definitely toss it ASAP.

3. Eyeliner

Kristian Dowling/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Usually I never really have a problem with buying new eyeliner because of wearing cat eyes on the daily, but to avoid infection, be sure to throw out and switch your eyeliner after three months.

4. Mascara

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Just like with eyeliner, make sure to throw out your mascara after no more than three months of use. Life Hacker suggests applying saline solution to extend your mascara’s shelf life longer, but if you can, try to purchase a new tube altogether to avoid bacteria.

5. Eyeshadow

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Eyeshadow can be a bit tricky, but it all depends on the ingredients. Powder eyeshadow can last up to two years, according to PopSugar. Creams should be tossed after 12-18 months because it can be easier for the formula to harbor bacteria.

Just remember if you’re having a weird reaction, or the color/scent starts to change, it’s better to just throw your product out immediately.

Want more fashion and beauty tips? Check out the video below and subscribe to Bustle on YouTube!

Images: Courtesy of Brands

According to general makeup hygiene rules, you’re supposed to toss your old mascara out after six months — keeping makeup past its expiration date or neglecting to regularly bathe your beauty tools is a recipe for bacteria and other nasties. The internet is not convinced that’s necessary, but what do the experts have to say?

According to a post on Reddit’s Makeup Addiction thread, old mascara might not actually be the bacteria farm we imagine it to be. User Semicolon_Expected posted a photo of a 5-year-old tube of Maybelline’s limited edition Blink of Blue Great Lash Mascara along side a petri dish where the vintage formula had been swabbed. A series of what appear to be microbiologists then weighed in in the comments, saying the bacterial growth we’re seeing really isn’t all that bad —especially considering the tube has been around since the advent of the accent nail.

The reason for the surprisingly clean swab is likely the low water content of mascara, reports New Beauty. “I’m not surprised by this at all,” cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson told the outlet. “Mascara has a very low water content, and what water does exist is preserved.”

So does this mean it’s safe to hold on to your limited edition favorites for years? We asked Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, for his take.

“Generally speaking, if you are regularly using your mascara it should be replaced every three to six months,” he told Allure. “While the water content in mascara is low, making the risk of bacterial contamination low, you should still exercise caution on any product applied around the eye area.” The issue is that dirt, oil and bacteria can easily accumulate around your eyes and hitch a ride onto your mascara wand — not really a risk you want to take with a product that’s applied to a sensitive area.

“If the mascara does not look, feel, or smell the way it did when you bought it, or if you’ve used it after having an eye infection, discard the mascara even if it is before the three to six month recommendation,” Zeichner says.

The bottom line, pay attention to your makeup formulas. If anything seems funky, toss it — no matter how old it is.

For more makeup hygiene habits:

  1. These Pictures of Dirty Makeup Brushes Will Make You Run to Wash Yours
  2. How to Clean a Beauty Blender With What’s Already In Your Kitchen
  3. Used Makeup Is Apparently All the Rage—And It’s Gross

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