We’ve all got our favourite eyeshadow palette or makeup brush that’s so old we can’t even remember when we bought it… but the palette isn’t empty yet… and you just can’t find another brush like that one anywhere! But did you know that just like food… cosmetics have an expiry date… and using products past these dates can cause skin irritations and infections.
Did you know that women keep makeup for an average of 6 years and 70% have never cleaned their makeup brushes? (Like come on girls… how do you put makeup on with clogged up brushes?!)
And… did you know that toxins like to live in old makeup and these toxins can cause serious infections?
So maybe we should bite the bullet and buy a replacement palette and look just a little bit harder for a new brush to replace our fave…
Despite causing infections if the makeup is out of date or has been stored in conditions which have meant it’s gone a ‘bit gloopy’, it’s not actually a legal requirement to have an expiry date on cosmetics packaging… so it’s up to you to keep track of when you opened that new mascara or just how many days you’ve used that makeup sponge for.
Most products will have a small symbol of an open jar on them which indicates how long the product lasts once it’s been opened. It looks like this:
And it can usually be found on the bottom of the packaging. The number inside the symbol tells you how many months the product will be safe to use for once it has been opened.
To keep track of when you opened each product, jot the date down in a pad, or put a sticker onto the bottle or tube with the date you opened it, written on it. If you’re unsure, or you just can’t remember when you bought the product, use your common sense… if your nail varnish is separating or your lipstick seems a little dry and smells a little funky, throw it out and grab another. I’m sure you’d rather spend a few extra pounds/dollars getting a new mascara than buying medication to treat an eye infection for over a week… I know I would!
The length of time the makeup lasts depends on the product, how it’s been stored and also if you’ve had any kind of infection whilst using the product previously.
Eye makeup products generally have the shortest lifespan from 3 months whereas nail varnish can last for a couple of years… Let’s take a look at when you should consider throwing your old stuff out and restocking with half of the contents of Sephora (any excuse for shopping… yes please!)
Mascara has one of the shortest life spans at 3 months, as have most liquid cosmetics. This is because bacteria thrive in wet environments and the risk of transferring the bacteria from the mascara in the tube onto your eyelashes (and into your eye…) is pretty high.
If you find that your mascara is starting to dry out, even before the 3 months are up, bin it. You might have heard that adding water to the tube will make it last longer… but this actually only increases the risk of infection and with bacteria already on the lashes being transferred back into the tube on a regular basis, it’s likely that the next time you pull your wand out it’ll have way more bacteria on it that it had before.
If the mascara starts to smell a bit weird, it’s probably an indication that it’s time to buy a new one.
How To Protect
Don’t pump the wand as it pushes air into the tube causing it to dry out.
The life of the foundation or concealer depends largely on the ingredients… now I’m not saying you need to start reading long lists of ingredients (most of which I can’t even pronounce) to work out how long it lasts… all you need to check is whether the foundation or concealer is water based or oil based… and it will usually tell you this on the bottle/tube (it won’t be hard to find) or ask the sales assistant when you’re buying it.
A water-based product will generally last around 12 months (I wish mine lasted that long… 2 months max and mine’s empty!) as these can dry out quicker than oil-based formulas. Oil is a natural preservative so it gives your products that little extra lifespan.
These dates are only if you keep the product out of heat and direct sunlight.
If you’ve got a bottle you haven’t touched in a couple of months, take a look at the product… if the oil looks like it’s separated, give it a good shake to mix the oils, water and makeup particles. This will prevent a streaky finish on your skin.
How To Protect
Always store in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Also, to prevent infections, don’t dip your finger into the bottle. Pour the product onto your hand and then use a clean brush or sponge to apply to your skin. ‘Double dipping’ and putting fingers/wands into the bottle increase the risk of bacteria spreading.
Powders – Bronzer, Blusher & Finishing Powder
Powders generally have a longer shelf life than foundations and concealers because they don’t contain water… so bacteria aren’t as much of a fan (bacteria can still grow on them but just not as quickly as liquid products).
So…bronzers, blushers and face powders can usually be used for around 18 months to 2 years… unless you see any change in the product to suggest it’s gone off… colour changes or changes in consistency can indicate it’s probably time for the bin.
This can happen when the oils from the skin mix with the product… you’ve probably seen it before when the powder seems a little darker in parts and you get less and less powder on your brush each time. Washing brushes or sponges regularly helps to prevent this… but can’t prevent it completely unless you wash the brush between each sweep of the powder onto your face… (Very impractical!)
How To Protect
Close the lid of the powder fully after each use. This prevents contamination and also prevents oxidation of the product (which can change the colour!). Also, try not to use greasy foundations or concealers before you apply it and keep your brushes clean.
Creme blush has a shorter life than powder blushes due to the higher presence of oils and water in the products. It should last around 12 to 18 months if you look after it.
Creme blushes should be disposed of if you notice a change in its texture or colour…or again, if there’s a bit of a funky smell.
How To Protect
Always make sure the lid is fastened tightly after use and use a clean brush/clean hands when applying.
The length of time you can keep eyeshadow for depends on the product – like with blushes – if the product is powder, it can last up to 2 years… but you should only keep creme eyeshadows for around 12 months.
If you apply the same eyeshadows everyday the build up of bacteria will be much faster so its super important that you keep your brushes and other applicators clean to prevent infection.
How To Protect
Keep away from heat and direct sunlight and only use with clean applicators.
Use an antibacterial spray on the shadows if you want to be extra safe.
Eyeliner pencils can last up to 2 years. Make sure you sharpen the pencil regularly to keep the tip clean.
But… if you’ve had any eye infections then make sure to replace the pencil just to be on the safe side – sharpening might not remove all bacteria and you don’t want a repeat of the infection do you…
How To Protect
Regularly sharpen the pencil and keep the sharpener clean by using an alcohol cleanser to wipe it down (be careful not to cut your skin!) – this will prevent the build up of bacteria.
Liquid eyeliner is pretty much the same as a mascara in terms of bacterial growth so it should be thrown out after 3-6 months to prevent infections.
Lipsticks will last around 12 months. Any longer than this, the preservatives in the product start to break down. Always replace your lipsticks if you notice any change in texture even if its before the 12 months.
If you’ve got any break outs on the lips, use a cotton bud or a clean makeup brush to apply the product to prevent contamination.
How To Protect
Avoid heat and direct sunlight as with all makeup! Make sure the cap is replaced after each use to prevent it drying out.
The lifespan of lipgloss depends on the type of product you have… a lipgloss in a squeezy tube can last up to 12 months but any longer than this should be thrown out. Lipgloss in a tube with a wand applicator will have a much shorter lifespan as it’s much easier for bacteria to get to the product… risking infections every time you apply it. It’s much harder for bacteria to get inside the squeezy tubes… but it’s still possible… so if any lipgloss starts to smell a bit strange or the colour starts to look different… you know what to do… bin!
These are pretty similar to eye pencils… and can last up to 2 years if they are regularly sharpened and the sharpener is cleaned regularly.
You might think that these guidelines don’t apply to nail varnish because you’re not applying it to your skin, so it’s okay… right?
Well whilst there isn’t a high danger of infections, the life span of nail varnish is around 1 year. That’s it (I know… I was shocked too! I have tonnes of nail varnishes… time for a clear out!).
The chemicals inside nail varnish start to break down after 12 months… you’ve probably seen it before… have you ever picked up your fave nail varnish and found it’s really gloopy and hard to apply? That’s the breakdown of the chemicals. Ugh it’s so annoying!
How To Protect
ALWAYS keep your nail varnishes out of heat and sunlight… both of these make the chemicals separate even more easily and they even change the colour of the nail varnish!
If you’ve found a colour you LOVE then stock up on a few bottles and keep them in a cool dark place (back of the wardrobe is perfect!) and only open a new one when you get rid of the old one.
Wait… don’t these last forever?
Well… yes… and no.
Makeup brushes can last between one and five years depending on use, quality and how well they are looked after!
Quality brushes (usually indicated by the price… Iconic London, Zoeva, Spectrum are a few of my faves) will last longest as these are made to a much higher level of quality, meaning bristles are secured and less likely to fall out. (We’ve all been there when we’ve finished our makeup, take a closer look in the mirror and there’s a big bristle just chilling on the face. No thanks!)
But… the most important thing with brushes is keeping them clean. Not only will this prolong their life but it will also prevent infections as bacteria sits in the bristles and if they aren’t cleaned regularly the bacteria is brushed all over your face every single time you use the brushes.
It’s best if you wash your brushes after every use. But we know that’s not practical for most people… so once a week will probably suffice to prevent infections.
Plus… makeup goes on SO much better with clean brushes! It makes makeup application faster and blending smoother!
How To Protect
Regular cleaning with a makeup brush cleaner, alcohol or shampoo! If you Google ‘What to clean makeup brushes with’ you’ll find loads of ideas from shampoo to washing up liquid to baby shampoo! But… be careful not to fully submerge them in water as this loosens the bristles.
Makeup sponges should be kept for no longer than 1 month… even if you wash them every single day. Sponges should be washed after every use (you can use shampoo or washing up liquid) not only to keep bacteria from growing inside it but to keep the sponge in good condition for applying your next makeup.
How To Protect
Always wash hands before using the sponge to prevent bacteria from transferring to it. Wash it after each use and let it dry fully before using it again.
Cleaning your sponges and brushes regularly will actually make your makeup last longer!
So to make sure you get the longest possible life out of your products, make sure that you…
- Only buy brand new products that are sealed and unopened. Don’t buy used products from eBay or from your friends… you never know just how long that makeup has been sitting there gathering dust before being passed to you.
- Always store your products in a cool dry place away from sunlight. Bacteria love warm cosy places to grow and that lipstick on your sunny windowsill is perfect for them to multiply!
- Make sure you close lids after using the products so they are essentially sealed again until next time you need them.
If you’ve had any kind of infection around the eye area, it’s super important that you clear out all of the applicators you used to apply makeup before you developed the infection. These applicators might still have some of the infection on it so even when the infection has cleared up, that pesky bacteria is still living on those applicators and ready to strike again!
Make sure you regularly clean your brushes and sponges and ALWAYS have clean hands when applying makeup.
Take note of when you buy each product to you know roughly when it will expire.
Watch out for separating formulas, funky smells and change in texture in products… if you see/smell any of these then throw them out!
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is purely guidance. Always consult the packaging for each product for information on how to use it and how long it lasts. Infections can happen at any time for various reasons but cleaning products regularly and sticking to the guidelines on the packaging can prevent this. I am not responsible for any loss or damage as a result of following these dates as these are only guidelines.