Take a look in your makeup bag: Are you still using the same blush you've had for a few years now? What about your foundation? Concealer? When's the last time you bought a new mascara? Chances are, many of your makeup products are out of date or should have been replaced by now. Even if the products don't look bad, they definitely could be, says Ronald Cruz, head of scientific affairs at Happy Farm Botanicals. Out-of-date products don't just pose a risk of poor performance, but can also be a health risk due to bacteria growth. "Over time, cosmetics start to degrade for a number of reasons," he says. "Dipping fingers into a product adds microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. They're controlled by preservatives, but preservatives can also break down, allowing bacteria and fungi to grow. This is especially true when you leave the container of your product open. Applicators, especially mascara wands, are exposed to bacteria and fungi each time you use them."
Makeup products all feature expiration dates, and these stand true if your beauty-must haves are kept in a compatible environment. They can go bad more quickly if not stored properly, Cruz adds. "Exposure to moisture, such as in a bathroom, may make it easier for bacteria and fungi to grow. Products can dry out, causing them to harden and crack. Temperature changes and exposure to sunlight and air can cause changes in color and texture and may cause the products to smell, and UV exposure can change products," he says. "Leaving products inside of a car under the sun can cause them to deteriorate." He recommends storing products in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat. Keep containers and applicators clean, put the lids on tightly after each use, and don't share products. That way, your products will work just as well from the time you buy them to the time they expire.
In short, it's important to pay attention to the expiration dates on your products. "Even if you haven't opened something, sometimes the formula can settle or change due to lack of use," says celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg. If you use completely organic products, Greenberg says nothing should really last past three months. "In that case, they're like perishables at a grocery store," she says. But Cruz adds that it may depend upon the composition of the organic product. For example, formulas that don't contain water—like body oils, oil cleansers, balms, and waxes—might have a longer shelf life. Otherwise, there's a general guideline you can look to in order to tell how long you can use a product, which we share here.
Your mascara should be changed every two to four months. "Eye cosmetics tend to have shorter shelf lives, as they could cause serious eye infections," Cruz says. "Each time a person uses mascara, it's exposed to bacteria and fungi."
Cream-based beauty products, like creamy concealer, eye shadow, highlighter, and blush, are more prone to gathering mold and yeast. One year is the rule of thumb here, says Lauren Serra, a senior makeup artist at Blushington. After that, it's time to toss these products.
Powder-based beauty products, like foundation, blush, bronzer, and eye shadow, can last up to two years, Cruz says, but it's important to pay close attention to the eye shadow. If it goes bad more quickly, you definitely don't want to put it on your eyes.
Here's a little good news: Greenberg says liquid foundation can last up to two years if it's in a pump.
Pencil eyeliner should be replaces after six months, but an eyebrow pencil can last up to a year, Greenberg says. She adds that eyebrow gel and gel liner can also last up to a year.
Lipstick and Lip Gloss
Serra says that most lipsticks lasts about two years, but lip glosses are generally only good for about a year. Since these products go directly onto your mouth, you want to make an effort to keep these products clean, replace them as necessary, and avoid use when sick.
Nail Polish and Fragrance
Both your favorite nail polish and fragrance can last up to two years, Cruz says.
Greenberg explains that facial cleansers and moisturizers can last from one to two years, but serums should be used up in six months as they usually contain many active ingredients that won't work after that amount of time.