When you think about decluttering, the first thing that probably comes to mind is cleaning out the garage or a closet. But there are other areas of your life that might need a cleanup too, namely, your makeup drawer!

Like many other beauty products, makeup has a shelf life. Using old makeup can actually cause problems not only with your skin, but also your overall health, so it’s important to know how long your new mascara is safe to use, or when to dump that blush you bought months ago.

While some makeup products have an “open jar” symbol on them to indicate how long they will last once opened, there are no current regulations in the U.S. about expiration dates on cosmetics. The FDA, however, has issued recommendations on when to discard makeup, and you might be surprised at just how often some of your favorite products might need to be replaced. Take a look at this list of beauty products and how long they last, then take a look into your own makeup bag and see if it’s time to ditch some of those very old favorites:


Liquid foundations, which are usually cream or oil based, are good for as long as 12 – 18 months. After that, the product begins to break down and can become discolored, and the oils in it may start to separate. Using old foundation can result in breakouts or rashes, and you might notice that it doesn’t go on as smoothly as it did when it was new. You’re in luck if you use loose powder foundation, as those tend to last about two years, as do hard powder compacts.


The eye area is one of the most delicate parts of our face, which is why keeping tabs on the age of your mascara is important. A tube of mascara expires after two to three months, and using it beyond that timeline could result in irritation, sties or eye infections. 

And even if your mascara is new, if you’ve had a recent eye infection, especially something contagious like conjunctivitis, you should throw away any makeup products you might have used while your eye was infected.

Eye Liner

Like mascara, liquid eye liners should be discarded after about three months. Pencil liners have a longer life, lasting for up to one year, primarily because people tend to sharpen them regularly, which helps keep them clean. Always remember to clean the sharpener, however, or you run the risk of your pencil liner becoming contaminated as quickly as a liquid liner.


Liquid or cream blush has the same shelf life as liquid foundation, lasting 12 – 18 months. Because liquid blush contains oils similar to the oils in foundation, as they get older, they can start to noticeably deteriorate. Powder blush lasts longer, but after two years, you might see a loss of pigment, with the color going on unevenly and looking faded.

Eye Shadow

While eyeshadows are good for about two years, the pigment that makes the color pop tends to fade over time, so even before that two-year mark, your favorite shadow may not look as great as it originally did. 

Cream based shadows in pots should be discarded after about a year, and you should never add saliva or water to dried up shadow in an effort to make it last longer. Using fingers to apply shadow should also be avoided, as the bacteria on your hands is easily transferable, and especially with cream-based shadows, that makeup pot can become a hotbed of infection.


Lipstick is safe to use for about a year, and if you’re a fan of lip gloss, you can get about 18 months out of a tube. Like many beauty products, you may notice a change in the color/pigment before that year is up. 

Lipstick or lip gloss should never be shared, as it can transmit bacteria, and if you notice a difference in the texture or smell of your lipstick, it’s time to throw it out.

Other tips

While your makeup brushes and applicators can last for years, not cleaning them regularly can cause makeup, and the bacteria that goes with it, to build up. Brushes should be washed at least twice a month, and makeup sponges at least once a week, using a mild soap and warm water. Also, consider changing where you store your makeup. 

Keeping makeup in the bathroom is actually not recommended, because humidity and heat can cause products to break down more quickly. Storing makeup in a cool, dry space, or even in the refrigerator, is best for preserving and extending the life of your products.

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About Jody Ellis

Jody Ellis is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, health, travel, fashion and social justice. She is currently part of a fellowship with Community Change, a non-profit focused on writing about social policies that impact low-income families. Her work has appeared in publications such as LennyLetter, Huffington Post, BBC Future Planet, Civil Eats and Eater.

View all posts by Jody Ellis

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