When to Throw Away Old Makeup and Why You Should

If there's a woman out there who's vigilant about tossing her mascara every two months on the dot, I haven't met her yet. My friends and I commit many beauty sins (see: not cleaning makeup brushes), but clinging to old makeup is one of the greatest. I'm not saying I have a one-inch stick of eyeliner that I bought in college, but... it's the perfect shade of glittery pale yellow, okay?

Unfortunately, it may also be a breeding ground for all sorts of creepy eye infections, like pinkeye and sties. Overall, makeup that contains water (liquid foundation, liquid eyeliner) is at a higher risk for going bad than powder makeup, because water provides bacteria with a friendly little home in which to thrive. Warm environments increase the risk for bacteria growth, too, so keep your makeup in a cool, dry place if possible. 

In the US, there's no FDA regulation of makeup expiration dates, so you're on your own — many products won't even have an expiration date. Here are five reasons to suspect that your makeup has gone bad:

1. You've recently had an eye infection or been sick

I'm not saying you should replace all your makeup at the first sign of the common cold, but if there's a chance your makeup got all germy from your sick little self (example: your lipstick touched your cold sore), toss it.

2. It smells different

Aging lipstick can smell like stale oil. You know what your products should smell like — the second they start smelling different, toss. 

3. The color has changed

If your foundation suddenly looks off on your skin, either you just got a tan or the product is going haywire on you. If there's any inconsistency in color, get rid of it.

4. The texture has changed

Lip gloss that's now gooey and clumpy? Foundation that's separated? Goodbye. 

5. It feels different on your skin

If that cream blush just doesn't feel like whipped mousse on your cheeks anymore, it's probably time to get a new one. 

But don't wait till your makeup has visibly curdled to switch it out. Here's a handy makeup-tossing timeline for your perusal! Please note that these dates fall on the conservative end of the spectrum, so if the budget is tight, you can probably get away with holding on to that eyeshadow for an extra month or so.

After 2 months: Throw out your mascara. I know it hurts, especially if you're a high-end mascara type of girl (goodnight, Diorshow, parting is such sweet sorrow). Either switch to a cheaper classic, like Maybelline Great Lash, or deal with the expense. Healthy eyes are prettier than thick eyelashes.

After 3 months: Exchange your liquid or gel eyeliners for new ones. Like mascara, the brush is constantly carrying bacteria from the eye back to the warm, wet bottle. Ack!

After 6 months: People seem to disagree on when you should toss eyeshadow. Since it's a powder, it should last forever (or at least for a year or two), but since it goes on right by your eye, it's at higher risk of contamination. I'm giving it a middle-ground expiration date with the understanding that you'll use your own judgment. Same with cream eyeshadow: pass it forward more frequently than other cream products. 

After 6-12 months: By now, you should have used up any liquid foundation, cream blush, facial serums, or face creams, but if not, it's time to replace them anyway. Anything that you apply with your fingers is at higher risk for contamination than products that come in pump bottles, since your fingers can carry bacteria into the jar. You can keep pencil eyeliners for this long if you're sharpening them regularly. 

After 1-2 years: These are the lucky little buggers that never seem to go bad: powder foundation, powder blush, lipstick, lip gloss, nail polish. Just keep an eye on them for any change in color, scent, or consistency. 

When it comes to makeup, sharing is definitely not caring, so don't even think of "handing down" your favorite shades to your little sister. And to the people who are always donating used makeup to my local Village Discount — cease and desist. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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