Yes, You Should Throw Out Your Old Makeup

5 min read  |  July 20, 2023  | 
Disponible en Español |

It’s time to dump out your makeup drawer and see what’s hiding in there. Your new favorite eyeliner is a keeper. You recently replaced that lipstick that disappeared from your bag. But when was the last time you even looked at the expiration dates on your foundation, blush, mascara and eye color pallets?

If you’re holding onto products longer than your last relationship, here’s your makeup wake-up call.

“Older makeup products can contain certain pathogens that pose a risk of rashes and infections,” says Alyx Cali Rosen Aigen, M.D., a dermatologist with the University of Miami Health System. “The preservatives in makeup degrade over time. More natural products may not have preservatives, so they have even shorter shelf lives. People are always touting the benefits of preservative-free products, but preservatives actually allow a product to maintain its integrity for a longer time without growing certain pathogens.”

What’s the risk of using expired or contaminated makeup?

Older makeup products are more likely to trigger skin irritation or acne-like breakouts. They can also contain bacteria and oils that can clog pores, encourage acne, or lead to infection. When applying makeup, “the biggest risks for infection are an open wound (like a popped pimple), scrape or cut (even a small one) and using contaminated products around the eyes,” Dr. Aigen says. 

Products used near the eye can spread bacteria, causing infections like pink eye (conjunctivitis), redness or inflammation. “Pathogens and bacteria can get into your eye from contaminated eyeliner, mascara or eye shadow.”

When should I replace my makeup?

Many cosmetic products come with an expiration date. That date is typically based on the consistency of the product (liquid, cream or powder), its potential exposure to contamination based on the design of the packaging and applicator, and the tested longevity of its preservatives. You should also consider how makeup and its preservatives can degrade with exposure to heat and humidity.

Typical shelf-lives for opened beauty products:

  • Liquid eyeliner: 3 to 6 months
  • Pencil or gel eyeliner: 1 to 2 years
  • Mascara: 3 to 6 months
  • Cream eye shadow: 6 months
  • Powder eye shadow: 1 to 2 years
  • Liquid or cream foundation: 6 months to 1 year
  • Liquid primer: 6 months to 1 year
  • Powder foundation or blush: 1 to 2 years
  • Cream blush: 1 to 2 years
  • Lipstick and lip gloss: 8 months to 2 years
  • Makeup brushes: 1 year
  • Makeup sponges and blenders: 3 months 

How to tell if your makeup isn’t good anymore

It’s best to throw away any makeup product that:

  • starts smelling differently or rancid
  • gets clumpy or gooey
  • thickens
  • oozes an oily substance
  • forms a white film or crust
  • starts to separate
  • cracks
  • crumbles
  • came in contact with a cold sore, skin infection, or conjunctivitis
  • is no longer effective

Tips to extend the life of your makeup

Check the expiration dates. 

Every cosmetic product has a shelf-life because their preservatives can’t last forever. Many products include a printed expiry date, but some don’t.

“Even though a product might look, smell and apply okay, you’re not testing the bacterial load microscopically,” Dr. Aigen says. “It’s just not worth the risk of applying bacteria or pathogens to your face.”

Store your products in a cool, dry space. 

Bacteria multiply quicker in warmer temperatures and humid environments. 

“If you do your makeup in your car, take it with you so you’re not leaving it in the hot sun,” Dr. Aigen says. “At home, keep your cosmetics out of sun-exposed areas. If you have a window in your bathroom, store your makeup in a drawer or cabinet.” It may be best to store makeup outside of a bathroom, as the heat and humidity from the shower can also degrade it.

Use a makeup brush, poof or beauty blender. 

When you repeatedly dip your fingertip into a product, you increase the risk of contaminating the makeup and its container with bacteria. If you use a clean application tool — like a brush, sponge or disposable swab instead — you lower this risk. 

“Compact powder formulas typically grow fewer bacteria because they tend to be applied with brushes. They can also be cleaned with rubbing alcohol intermittently to increase longevity,” Dr. Aigen says. 

“With loose powders, every time you use a makeup brush, you introduce pathogens and bacteria into the whole powder mix. Therefore, cleansing your brushes is an integral part of preserving your makeup.”

Clean your makeup applicators like you wash your face. 

“If you’re using makeup sponges or beauty blenders every day, rinse them out daily and let them dry. Wash them with gentle soap at least once a week, and disinfect them more thoroughly with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol every three months. 

“Otherwise, your foundation is just sitting and collecting on that sponge,” Dr. Aigen says. “I recommend washing makeup brushes with gentle soap at least once a week.” 

Replace them when they lose their shape or show damage.

Apply makeup to clean skin with clean fingertips. 

Starting with a freshly washed face and sanitized hands reduces the risk of introducing your makeup to bacteria, dirt and oils. 

“Not everyone always washes their hands or their face before doing their makeup,” Dr. Aigen says. Don’t share your products and applicators, especially those applied near the eyes and to the lips.

How you remove your makeup matters. 

Your makeup can affect the health and clarity of your skin, and how you take it off is just as important, especially if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. “I recommend removing your makeup with micellar water and then using a gentle hydrating cleanser to wash away any other debris,” Dr. Aigen says. “Ensure that you take it all off and don’t ever sleep with makeup on.”

Dana Kantrowitz is a contributing writer for UHealth’s news service.

Tags: Alyx Rosen Aigen, bacteria growth, bacterial growth, cosmetics and personal care products, expired makeup, eye makeup

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