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When to Give Your Old Skincare and Cosmetics the Boot!

Is it Time to Breakup With Your Makeup? When to Give Your Old Skincare and Cosmetics the Boot.

Letting go can be hard! Letting go of your favorite makeup is no exception. If you have a tube of lipstick that’s seen you through college and some of young adulthood, or a foundation that matched your skin tone two summers ago, it’s probably time to wave goodbye. Knowing the lifespan of your cosmetics and skincare will help you avoid the dangers of expired products, and protect your skin from harmful mold and bacteria.

Why Is Old Makeup Dangerous?

It’s tempting to keep products longer than you should, especially when it’s an item you love. Unfortunately, the truth is that getting into the habit of holding on to expired products can put you at risk for a slew of potentially serious problems.

Makeup and skincare, especially liquids and creams, are often the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and even mold. If you’re determined to get just a few more uses out of that expired mascara, you may end up regretting it. Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria responsible for painful styes and pink eye or conjunctivitis, often thrive in old mascara tubes and can leave you with serious eye infections.

Using expired creams and liquids such as foundation, blush, or other primers and skincare can put you at risk for major irritation as well. Dermatitis, rashes and acne are all potential results of losing track of how old your products are.

This means that the same concealer you may be using to hide your breakout could actually end up making it worse. We recommend that all of our patients take the recommended lifespan of their makeup and skin care seriously in order to optimize the health of their skin.

How to Protect Your Products

Getting the most out of your products is all about what you buy and how you take care of them. Bacteria and mold are suckers for warm, wet environments. Keeping your skincare and cosmetics in a cool, dry place away from heat and humidity can extend their lives significantly. Even little things like washing hands before makeup application, using single use applicators, and shutting lids tightly after every use can help keep your products clean and fresh.

It’s worth noting that some skincare should actually be kept in the fridge to preserve and maximize the benefits of the product. Some celebrity makeup artists and skincare professionals have gone as far as to invest in mini skincare fridges. While you don’t have to go this far, it’s absolutely important to read storage instructions. Failure to follow guidelines may lead to early expiration of products and inadvertent consequences for your skin.

Care shouldn’t end when your cosmetic or skincare products end. Extend the same care and caution to your application tools as well. Brushes and applicators should be washed weekly (depending on how often you use them) with an appropriate cleanser and avoid leaving cosmetic sponges or brushes in hot places like cars or steamy bathrooms. If your foundation brush has never seen soapy water, you’re likely spreading dirt and bacteria over your skin with every use. This can lead to clogged pores, acne, dermatitis and even viral infections. Don’t spend a lot of money on “special makeup brush detergents.” I use Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo and that’s all you need.

Preservatives are Protectants!

As the natural and organic movement works its way into skincare and cosmetics, you may find yourself buying more makeup or skincare that lacks preservatives. Though natural ingredients surely have their place in makeup and skincare, not all preservatives are the enemy! These ingredients are protectors of your products, extending their lifespan and defending your cosmetics against harmful bacteria and mold that can easily grow in its absence, especially in water based formulas.

If you still prefer to buy completely preservative free natural cosmetics, it’s more important than ever to monitor your products closely. Bacteria and fungus can form and multiply quickly. One false move and your $95 eye cream becomes a petri dish.

Fortunately, there are natural alternatives to parabens and triclosans, the synthetic, harmful preservatives which are found in so many makeup and skincare items.

Natural Preservatives in Cosmetics and Skincare

If you’re looking for natural options but don’t want to compromise the lifespan of your skincare or cosmetics, researchers have developed many natural alternatives. We use natural preservatives to extend the life of our COSMINOLOGY products.

One of the most remarkable natural preservatives is rosemary extract. After deriving antioxidants from rosemary leaves via a process called carbon dioxide extraction, a small amount of oil is produced that can then be mixed into products. This antioxidant rich oil is excellent at preventing organic substances from deteriorating and is widely used in makeup and skincare products.

Also common in many makeup products is aloe vera. Discovered in 2005, researchers in Spain invented an aloe vera gel that functioned as a natural preservative for food. Since then, aloe vera’s preservative properties have been extended to the cosmetic world. Used alone or in conjunction with synthetic ingredients, it’s become one of the most pervasive natural preservatives around.

The list of naturally occurring preservative ingredients is long. Benzyl alcohol from plants, citric acid from citrus fruits, sorbic acid from berries and curcumin from tumeric are just a few examples of naturally occurring ingredients used to preserve everything from supplements to shampoo and skincare.

So for those concerned about synthetic preservatives, it’s important to know that there is another way and you don’t have to avoid preservatives altogether. Many of our favorite preservatives are also good for your skin are derived straight from nature and are safe to use in high quality cosmetics and skincare.

How Long is Too Long? Some Guidelines:

Liquids and Creams

6 months to 1 year

The high moisture content of most liquids and creams mean they have the potential to become hot beds for bacteria, mold, and other harmful agents. Because of this, expect your liquids and creams to have a place in your makeup bag for no longer than a year before it’s time to change them out.

Spot problems in your liquid and cream products by looking for new or strange scents, changes in texture like clumpiness, and separation of the products. If your product has notably changed in any way since opening, there’s a good chance that it’s spoiled, or is beginning to turn, and should be replaced immediately.


18 months to 2 years

Powders tend to have the longest lifespans of any cosmetic products, as they contain very little to no moisture. This lack of moisture means it is very difficult for bacteria or mold to multiple but it does NOT mean that it’s impossible! Old powders can cause breakouts, clogged pores, and other skin irritations. If you have a powder blush or eye shadow palette that’s been with you longer than your last relationship, it’s probably best to say your goodbyes.

Mascara and Liquid Eyeliner

3 months

If you’re going to keep on top of any cosmetic product, make it your mascara and liquid eyeliner. These products are at high risk for contamination due to their liquid and cream formulas and constant transfer between the eye area and the tube. Make sure to switch your mascara after 3 months, or when it begins to dry. It may be tempting to add a little water and stretch your formula, but this is a recipe for disaster - and bacteria! Adding more moisture to your products can encourage the growth of microbes and leave you paying the price with an eye infection.


1-2 years

Unlike other products, cosmetic pencils are easier to refresh. Each time they are sharpened, new product is exposed. This doesn’t mean they’re invincible to mold or bacteria, though. Look out for oily or white residue accumulating on the tip of your pencil, which can indicate that the product is past date and should be tossed.

Lipstick, Lip Gloss, and Liner

1-2 years

If you’ve been hanging onto your favorite shade for years, now is the time to lay that discontinued lipstick to rest. Lipsticks, glosses, and even liners all contain levels of moisture that can promote bacterial growth. These products are applied directly to the mouth, and ingesting out of date lip cosmetics can make you ill. If your product shows clumping, beading, separation, or any change in texture or application, it’s probably time to part ways.

Sunscreens, Masks and Peels

As a general rule of thumb, sunscreens typically last a year while masks and peels should be used quickly after opening. Keep in mind that oxidation of ingredients can occur quickly. That turn in color from white or clear to rusty brown is the oxidation process. In short, oxidation means the taking away of electrons. This chemically alters products essentially decreasing their effectiveness or, even worse, making them bad for your skin. As an example, Vitamin C is a great antioxidant for skin. But applying it after it’s been oxidized can actually cause blackheads! As always, be vigilant and never apply any product if you note a change in smell, texture, or color.

Don’t Risk It!

If you’re ever unsure whether or not your makeup or skincare is still good, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Eye infections, skin irritation, rashes, and acne are never worth one more application. When it’s a question of should it stay or should it go, choose your health first.

Common FAQs

Where is the expiration date on my lipstick and eyeshadow?

“There are no U.S. laws or regulations that require cosmetics to have specific shelf lives or have expiration dates on their labels. However, manufacturers are responsible for making sure their products are safe. FDA considers determining a product’s shelf life to be part of the manufacturer’s responsibility” (source: FDA). Unless it is a drug, expiration dates are not required on cosmetics. Even more reason to be careful and clean.

How long should I keep my makeup brushes?

If they are high quality synthetic brushes and you wash them once a week, they can last you a couple of years. Natural brushes are porous and absorb makeup more making them more prone to bacteria buildup and wear and tear.

I left my makeup bag in my car overnight in hot, humid weather. Can I still use it?

Time to toss! Your makeup bag is a petri dish. Your face doesn’t deserve that.

I’m a cosmetics "whorder." How do I keep track of all this?

Use a sharpie. Write the purchase date or date of first use on everything then use the guidelines above.

My mascara dried out. Can I add a little water to it to make it last longer?

Simple answer is no. By adding moisture, you’re creating a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. Toss it and don’t look back.


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