Emily MacCulloch
Emily MacCulloch

Here’s the 411 on Expired Makeup

We’ve all been there before. You want to wear your all-time favourite lipstick (y’know, the limited-edition shade you’ve had for a few years that you reserve only for special occasions) but when you go to apply it you notice it smells…funky. And the colour and texture look a little off too. And just like that, you need to find a whole new (and hopefully permanent) shade to call your fave. During my days working at a counter doing makeup, I was asked on a daily basis how long makeup lasts. Unfortunately all cosmetics have a shelf life, and I’m here to tell you exactly how many months of wear you can get out of your beauty products. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t swapped out your mascara in a while you might want to toss it pronto.

Product: liquid foundation/concealer


Toss after: one year
You’ll be able to see right away if your foundation and concealer have hit the brakes when they start separating. But even if a product still looks OK, it’s probably best to toss it after about a year; especially if it has sunscreen in it (after a year or so it has most definitely expired). If you’re the type to poke your fingers inside and around the neck of the bottle there’s likely more bacteria in there so you might want to replace it after six months to be safe. Moral of this story? Pour your foundation out onto a palette or your hand when you apply it and keep your fingers out of there.

Product: brow and/or eye pencil


Toss after: one year
These are everyday-wear products so usually you’ll run out of them before they expire. If not, they should be good for a year. Pencils are usually sharpened often which helps keep bacteria at bay. Eye pencils in particular shouldn’t be used after a year as they’re applied right onto your eye so they have a higher chance of picking up nasty germs.

Product: eyeshadow


Toss after: one – two years
If your eyeshadow is in powder form, you’re probably safe for closer to two years as powders don’t contain water; therefore, bacteria doesn’t have a chance to grow. But when you’re applying shadow onto your eyes there’s a chance something nasty can transfer over. For cream shadows, they contain water and are used on the eyes so I’d say you have a year, tops.

Product: mascara


Toss after: three months
This guy is the one you want to replace on the regular. It’s constantly getting air pumped into it when you take the wand in and out of the tube, and then going directly onto your eye, so bacteria can fester pretty quickly. If you notice that it’s smelling off that’s a solid indicator it’s time to try a new formula.

Product: lipstick/lipgloss


Toss after: one – two years
Lipgloss doesn’t last as long as lipstick and it tends to get extra sticky once it’s done. It’s usually a goner after about a year. Lipsticks have a very distinct ‘off’ smell and go dry when they’ve expired. Most have a shelf life of about two years or so, depending on the texture (matte usually lasts a bit longer than shiny).

Product: powders (blush/foundation/bronzer)


Toss after: two – three years
This is the marathoner in your beauty routine. Powders don’t contain any water and neither of these are being applied onto your eyes, so the germ factor is low. A way to keep these clean is to avoid using your fingers in the product. If you want to get hands-on make sure your hands are squeaky clean before going in.

And here are a few handy tips to remember when you’re dealing with makeup:

  • Try and store items in a cool, dry place (i.e. – not your steamy bathroom) to increase their shelf life.
  • As often as possible, keep your fingers out of your products to avoid transferring germs into your makeup.
  • Clean your makeup brushes often! Your brushes go in and out of your makeup so if you get the germs off your brushes on a regular schedule you won’t be transferring them to your makeup.
  • Telltale signs any of your products have gone bad: the texture, colour and smell have changed.