Expired Beauty Products: How to Banish Your Beauty Ghosts

By Erin Donnelly

collection of makeup that may or may not be expiredThought the ghosts and goblins of Halloween were scary? Just wait ‘til you’ve looked down the gunked-up barrel of a mascara tube way past its prime. Yes, we know the economy stinks and you’re tempted to hang on to that Lancome Virtuose for as long as possible to avoid having to buy another. Unfortunately, expired beauty products go bad for a reason—not only do they lose their effectiveness over time (as anyone who’s worn expired sunblock on a hot summer day can attest), but lingering bacteria can cause a number of nasty infections. Bottom line: It’s time to grab your makeup bag for some clean-up duty.

Because every product type varies, Single Minded Women has rounded up this helpful guide so you know when to toss what. Sure, break-ups are hard—especially with that perfect red lipstick—but in this case, it’s definitely for the best. You wouldn’t keep expired milk in the fridge, so why put anything that’s gone bad on your face?

Mascara: Keep for three months. Consider this the fruit fly of the cosmetics world. Mascara tubes are great hiding places for bacteria, which can cause eye infections; mascara also tends to get clumpy and ineffective over time.

Lipstick and Lipgloss: Keep for two to three years. Lipsticks can dry out and loose their lustre over time, going from creamy to cadaver-esque in a couple of years. The high water content also encourages bacteria production, something you do not want anywhere near your pucker.

Sunscreen: Like eggs or milk, sunscreen comes with a labeled expiration date. Toss it once that date passes, or you could be seeing red.

Nail Polish: Keep for one to two years. Polish can change consistency over time, making your manicure a mess. You may also notice the color in the bottle breaking up, which is a sign that it’s time to take out the trash.

Skincare: Keep for six months. Note that some products (such as acne treatment) may list expiration dates, and products that come in a pump container—which releases less air into the product and thus incites less bacteria—may hold up for up to a year. Generally speaking, however, replace your skin creams and serums twice a year to avoid skin irritations due to bacteria or harsh ingredients.

Liquid Eyeliner: Keep for three months. Smoky eyes are sexy, but not at the risk of a sty or other eye infection. Most other eye pencils, however, can be kept for three to four years, as they shed bacteria-laden “skin” when sharpened.

Foundation: Keep liquid foundation for six months to a year; powder foundation for two years. Liquid foundation—and any other water-based product—is more prone to bacteria, and you may notice the oil rising to the top of the bottle.

Eye Shadow: Keep for two to three years. But toss out any questionable lime green shadow immediately.

Perfume: Keep for two years. To prolong your perfume’s staying power, store the bottle in a non-humid area away from sunlight.

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