When To Throw Away Your Makeup

It's time to get rid of that tube of chunky mascara and throw out that old lipstick.

Your mascara from last summer? Time to toss it. That hot red lipstick you bought for that special occasion a year ago? You probably shouldn't reapply. That dramatic eye shadow you haven't worn in a year or so? Look again. Just like the drugs in your medicine cabinet, your makeup has an expiration date. Here's our guide to what you should keep and when you should toss and replace it.


Average life span: four to six months

Switch out your mascara every four to six months or as soon as it starts smelling funky (think: burning plastic) and depositing more clumps than color, said Jeannette Graf, MD, a dermatologist in Great Neck, New York.

Take no chances with eye products—germ-ridden formulas can cause infections and sties. When you buy a new tube, do all you can to safeguard it from bacteria. Close it tightly after each use, avoid pumping the wand in and out, and never, ever share your mascara with anyone.


Average life span: one year

Immediately part ways with your pencil liner if the tip starts oozing an oily substance or forms a white film. Hang on to liquid liners for no more than six months, and dump them sooner if they thicken or smell like decaying roses.

Little can be done to extend the life span of a liquid formula since the applicator tip is in constant contact with your eyes and can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria. But you can shave away germs on pencils by sharpening them every few days.


Average life span: one year

Most formulas—liquids, creams, and compacts—can last up to a year if kept out of direct sunlight and away from heaters. But once your liquid starts to separate, your cream thickens, or your compact color develops a rubbery aroma, it's time to toss it.

To extend the life of your foundation, use a cotton swab when dipping it into bottles. If you use a compact, wash the puff or sponge every few weeks.


Average life span: one year

If you use a pan or stick formula, you'll know it's gone bad when it cracks or turns tough and elastic-like. It's time to throw out your liquid concealer if it separates, appears oily, and/or smells rancid.

Keeping hands out of your concealer's pot or pan and tightly screwing on the lid can save it from spoiling before the year is up.

Blush and Eye Shadow

Average life span: one to two years

Expect creams to last one year, powders about two. If your powder grows a white crust or starts to crumble before that time, chuck it. "Creams tend to thicken and smell funny when they turn," said Dr. Graf.

Other life-extending tips apply too—use cotton swabs, tighten lids, and avoid heat and sunlight. You can also protect powders by keeping them dry and storing them in a place other than the bathroom, where humidity can alter their texture.


Average life span: eight months

Unless it turns gooey, smells rubbery, or no longer applies to your lips, you can safely use lipstick for at least eight months. Of course, if lipstick comes into contact with a cold sore or another type of infection, kiss it goodbye.

Makeup Brushes

Average life span: a year or longer, depending on the type

Natural hair brushes—the ones you use for powdered products—can last almost a lifetime, if taken care of. Wash them once a week with gentle soap and warm water, and then set them on a table to dry with the brush end hanging off the edge.

Synthetic brushes, used for creams, last only about a year and need to be cleaned at least twice a week with an alcohol-based cleaner. Toss when they start shedding, become rigid, or stop applying color evenly.

Let's Refresh

If you want your makeup to highlight your best features and hide your blemishes, remember to inspect the products you're using before applying, especially if you have had them for a while.

If you notice any changes in appearance, consistency, or smell, that's a good sign that it's time to pitch it: out with the old and in with the new.

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