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When should beauty products be discarded?

How long can you safely use your beauty products - a guide

Author: Charlotte Kuchinsky October 22 2008

array of beauty products

The problem

It never ceases to amaze me the number of women that I know who keep make-up in their kit for years. While I understand that make-up can be expensive and that it is sometimes difficult to find just the right shade a second time, the practice definitely needs to stop. Make-up can be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can have serious repercussions for the skin, eyes, and lips, and for that reason it is important to know how often make-up should be replaced.

The factors affecting shelf life

Much of the shelf life of make-up is dependent upon its type. Liquids, creams, and cakes often tend to become contaminated more quickly than certain types of powders or mineral make-ups. However, that isn’t always the case; the ingredients of the make-up can also have an impact on how quickly it needs to be thrown away.

Packaging plays in role in the shelf life of makeup as well, since some styles of containers are inherently safer than others. Tubes like those used in mascara, certain foundations, and lipsticks often result in more bacteria than glass bottles, jars or compacts. The type of material used for the container can also have an impact on how well it wards off dangerous bacteria. Taking all of those factors into consideration, we can create some basic guidelines for when to discard old make-up products.

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Cream, liquid, and cake foundations on average last about nine months. Some mineral foundations can last longer as long, as long dirty applicators are never dipped directly into them. With proper monitoring and cleanliness procedures, minerals can be stretched up to two years. However, those that have chemical additives and preservatives should be discarded much earlier than those containing all natural ingredients.

Pay close attention to a foundation’s color and odor. If the color of the foundation begins to alter or it develops an unnatural odor, it is time to discard it no matter how old it might be. Some may also alter in consistency; either thickening or become slimy. Those are sure signs it is time to give the products the old heave ho.


Concealers should be discarded every six months even if they still look, smell, and feel the same. Those that develop any unusual properties, however, should be immediately discarded. As with foundation, it is important to look for changes in the concealer’s color or consistency.

Blushes and face powders

Blushes and other face powders should be discarded at least every 12 to 18 months, no matter the type (cream, cake, gel, or powder). However, those that experience a change in consistency or color should be discarded right away. For some reason, these types of products are prime culprits for the breeding of blackheads.

Eye shadow

There is a lot of disagreement over how often eye shadow should be kept. Many believe that anything that rests near or around the eye should be discarded every three to nine months. Others argue that eye shadows can last longer - as much as two to two years. I tend to go with the more conservative point of view. I don’t think anything that is applied around the eyes should ever be in question as far as its cleanliness and safety is concerned, and for that reason, I think shadows should be discarded at least once a year.

Things to look for as a sign that eye shadows might be going bad include changes in color or consistency as well as a change in the product’s smell. Powder and mineral shadows always tend to last longer than creams or stains. They may not require replacement as frequently.

Eyeliners and mascara

When it comes to eyeliners and mascara, both of which can come directly in contact with the eye area, caution is imperative. Mascara should be replaced every three to six months. In the meantime, however, be sure to watch for changes in the consistency of the product; pay attention to how well it applies, and note any change in smell. Those are signs that it may require immediate replacement.


Lipsticks, no matter their form - balms, glosses, stains, creams, etc. - also need to be replaced regularly; at least every three to six months. Although these products tend to remain intact for much longer periods of time than other make-up items, that doesn’t mean they are safe. Since these products come in contact with the mouth, it makes since to take greater precaution.

Watch out for changes in lipstick color, consistency, and smell as well for changes in how it applies. Lipstick that suddenly becomes flaky or dry needs to be dropped right away.


In all instances, make-up should be discarded immediately whenever the protective seal is broken or if the container becomes damaged. Also, do not use other people’s make-up, no matter how close a friend they might be. You have no idea how old their products might be. Since it is your skin, eyes, and lips at stake, protect them by taking every precaution.

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