How to Extend the Lifespan of Your Makeup
Your Guide to Tossing and Preserving Your Makeup
Between bacteria and defective products, everything in your makeup bag has a lifespan, which, if ignored, can lead breakouts and other skin problems. Follow these spring-cleaning guidelines to protect your skin and extend the lives of your favorite shadows, lipsticks, foundations, and beauty tools.
The expiration date: Two to three months
Why it goes bad after that: While pumping the mascara wand into the tube helps to use more product, it also drags more air and potential germs into the products. This causes it to dry out or go bad.
Signs you need to replace it: If your mascara flakes, clumps, dries out, or smells, it’s time to toss it.
How to clean it: There is no way to clean or preserve your mascara, so your best bet to just replace it. “These days, with the amazing drugstore brand mascaras, you can afford to buy them more often,” says Gita Bass, celebrity makeup artist and Simple Skincare Advisory Board member.
The expiration date: One to two years
Why it goes bad after that: The combination of using potentially dirty brushes and applying the product so close to the eyes brings along the risk of contamination.
Signs you need to replace it: If your eye shadow crumbles, dries out, or seems to lose its pigmentation, it is time to replace it.
How to clean it: “Wipe your eye shadow cases regularly to help keep them clean,” says David Bank, M.D., director for the Center of Dermatology in Mount Kisco, New York. And never use your fingers to apply anything, since it puts bacteria directly into the product.
The expiration date: Up to two years
Why it goes bad after that: Like with to eye shadows, applying liner so close to the eye can lead to the spreading or catching of bacteria.
Signs you need to replace it: There are really no indicators for whether a liner has gone bad, so if it starts to smell or does not work properly, consider it expired.
How to clean it: Sharpening your pencils frequently can help to keep them clean. And “try to keep pencils in a cool dry place to prolong the shape and texture of the pencils,” says Bass. “If they melt, stick them in the fridge for a few minutes.” Make sure you're cleaning out your sharpener too!
The expiration date: Two to three months
Why it goes bad after that: Just like mascaras, the pumping motion required to get product on the liner brush can make the tube a breeding ground for bacteria. “Makeup traps bacteria,” says Bass, “so using old makeup can cause irritation, breakouts, sties, and eye infections.”
Signs you need to replace it: Your liquid liner will dry out or smell if it has gone bad.
How to clean it: There is no way to clean or preserve your liquid liner, so it is very important to consistently check for signs that it should be replaced.
The expiration date: Six months to one year
Why it goes bad after that: Using your hands, dirty brushes, or sponges can cause foundation to spoil sooner.
Signs you need to replace it: Once your foundation starts to separate, smell, or change color, it should be replaced for the sake of your skin.
How to clean it: This is another product that cannot be cleaned. In order to preserve its shelf life, only use clean brushes or sponges as applicators.
The expiration date: One year
Why it goes bad after that: You very likely cover blemishes in the least hygienic way—by touching the spot with your brush and then dipping back into the product. We all do it, but it puts bacteria directly into the concealer.
Signs you need to replace it: Concealer has the same indicators as foundation, so if you start to see separation or drying, it’s time to trash it.
How to clean it: There is no way to clean your concealer, but mastering the proper application technique can keep it bacteria-free. “Apply the concealer to the back of your hand first when covering so that you’re not touching a blemish and then going back into the concealer,” says Bass. (Learn How to Apply Makeup, According to a Makeup Artist.)
The expiration date: Powders last two year; creams last one year
Why it goes bad after that: Using dirty brushes or applying on top of wet foundation can cause it to go bad.
Signs you need to replace it: If your cream or powder blush becomes hard and chalky, it's time for a replacement.
How to clean it: “To prolong your powder blush, use a clean brush and allow your foundation to set for a few minutes,” says Bass. “That way, you’re not transferring oils onto your blush, which can encourage bacterial growth and cause the blush to harden.” Unfortunately, there’s no Rx for creams.
The expiration date: One year
Why it goes bad after that: Lipsticks contain oils that will go bad after a while, leading to uneven application.
Signs you need to replace it: Drying is an indicator of expiration, but a telltale sign is smell—if your lipstick is expired, you certainly won’t want that odor anywhere near your face.
How to clean it: “Most products can be cleaned with a wipe so that you are removing the surface layer, which would remove bacteria or particles sitting there,” says Bank. Lightly wipe off the top layer of lipstick with a makeup removal cloth. “It never hurts to clean them once a week, but it you’re being careful and observant, you can stretch that to two or four weeks.”
The expiration date: Whenever a brush breaks, looks overly dirty, or does not work as well as when originally purchased, it is probably expired.
Why it goes bad after that: It’s all about the aesthetics—brushes with broken or missing bristles won’t apply your makeup as smoothly.
Signs you need to replace it: When trying to determine when to replace your favorite tools, use weak bristles and general wear and tear as your timeline.
How to clean it: “Good quality brushes can last for years if treated with love,” says Bass. Brushes should be cleaned at least once or twice a week, either with a specific brush cleaner, facial cleanser, or baby shampoo. We like Sephora’s Daily Brush Cleanser ($8.50; sephora.com). Make sure to let the brushes thoroughly air dry before using them.
The expiration date: If it starts to smell or fall apart, it's time to replace your sponge.
Why it goes bad after that: Repeat use without proper cleaning causes makeup sponges to deteriorate quickly.
Signs you need to replace it: If the sponge is permanently stained by your foundation, starting to smell, or falling apart.
How to clean it: “I wash my makeup sponges every time I use them, but for the average woman, I would suggest at least once every two weeks,” says Bass. Use sponge cleaner, facial cleanser, or baby shampoo to de-gunk your sponges. We like Beauty Blender Cleaner ($18; sephora.com). When cleaning, remember to be gentle, as not to rip the sponge. “Just rub the sponge over the soap to create a lather, rinse well, repeat is necessary, and place on a clean surface to dry,” says Bass. (Now, keep up with the spring cleaning by learning 7 Things You’re Not Washing (But Should Be).)