How To Stop Wasting Your Mascara

by Miki Hayes

According to, the average woman will spend $15,000 on makeup in her lifetime, with $3,770 of that going towards mascara. I have to wonder how much of that cost is due to expiration propaganda. I've heard many claims that makeup is just like food. Well yes, they both expire, but not in the same way. If makeup is like food, it's more like those cans of soup you've had sitting in your pantry for years. It's not like fresh produce with a ticking, expiration time-bomb that is activated the second you purchase it. No, makeup has preservatives to help it last. In a lot of cases, much longer than you might expect.

So I went through all of my makeup to find how long the manufacturers claim the products will last (read: expiration dates). I found that, while some guru-advertised expiration timelines are accurate, others fall short. To find the expiration date, look for either an expiration month and year stamped on the product, or a little open-jar symbol with a number followed by an M or Y. These letters stand for "month" and "year" respectively, and let you know how many months or years the product is good for once it has been opened. Just remember that these expirations are averages — you won't find that your lipgloss has turned rancid exactly one year after you opened it. And there are ways to make your products last even longer than the time advertised.


Mascara is probably the product with the biggest expiration misconception. I've heard countless times that mascara should absolutely be tossed after two months; three months tops. This simply isn't true. The little open-jar symbol on most (if not all) mascara tubes show that they have six months of use after being opened. Professional makeup-artist and eponymous brand-founder, Bobbi Brown, agrees.

Lipstick and Lipgloss

Lipstick and lipliner can be good for about three years while lipgloss is usually only good for about one year.

Powder Products

All-over-face powders are good for about three years, while eyeshadows and cheek powders (bronzer, blush, highlighter) are good for about two years.

Liquid and Cream Products

Foundations, concealers, and primers can be good for about two years. Cream eyeshadows and cheek products can be good for about one year. Eyeliners and shadows in pencil form can last about three years. Liquid eyeliner has the same expiration as mascara — six months.

Sanitize To Extend The Life of Your Makeup

Of course, these expiration dates are considering average use of the products. Your makeup will last longer than these expiration suggestions if you take measures to keep it sanitary. Wash your hands before handling your products, and wash your brushes often. Try not to share your makeup, but if you do, use sanitizing products and/or disposable applicators.

And keep in mind that products used around the eyes and mouth are most likely to be contaminated if used during an illness or infection like the flu or pink eye. Try to refrain from busting out your beauty products when your health makes your makeup vulnerable. But if you insist, either sanitize or throw away products after use during these times.

Images: shesarii, James Gardner, pawpaw67, Katie, Pixi, Sodanie Chea/Flickr