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Is It Time To Replace Your Makeup? 12 Simple Guidelines

throw out makeup

Because I have such ridiculously sensitive skin and eyes, I try to avoid using old makeup that has passed its prime, but it’s easy to lose track. But I recently I came across a good tip that will make it easier in the future: when you buy a new makeup item, write the purchase date on the item in permanent marker.

But knowing when you bought a product is only half the battle. The other part of the equation is knowing how long each product you own is usable, and I’ve already got you covered there.

Just reference the guidelines below to figure out when you should get rid of your old makeup products and replace them with new ones.

Guidelines For When To Toss Your Old Makeup

throw out makeup

1. Foundation

If you dab your fingers into your bottle of liquid foundation every day, you should replace it after 6-8 months, or a few months longer if it has a pump top. And if a liquid foundation starts to separate, a cream foundation gets thicker, or a pressed powder develops a rubbery aroma, it’s time to toss it.

Your best-matching foundation shade can change at least twice a year anyway, so getting in the habit of replacing your foundation every 6 months or so will give you a chance to switch shades at the right time.

throw out makeup

2. Liquid Concealer

Liquid concealer can last up to a year, as long as you use a clean sponge or applicator. Don’t use concealer that has turned tough or elastic-like, nor if it separates, appears oily, or smells rancid.

Keeping your fingers out of your concealer and keeping the lid shut tightly when it’s not in use can save your concealer from spoiling before the year is up. But if you prefer to apply concealer with your fingers, it is best to toss it after 3 months.

throw out makeup

3. Cream Blush

In general, cream blush should be replaced after a year. To prolong its life, clean your blush brush regularly and store blush in a dark, dry place. If it gets wet, you run the risk of promoting bacterial growth. Creams tend to thicken and smell funny when they turn, so watch for that.

throw out makeup

4. Face Powder

Powder makeup can last over a year, as long as there’s no shiny buildup on the surface and you haven’t experienced any skin irritation. One reason why powders tend to be less problematic is because bacteria can’t grow without moisture present.

However, over time, powders with botanical ingredients like aloe or jojoba can become harder to blend, and are more likely to crumble as those trace amounts of moisture evaporate.

throw out makeup

5. Powder Blush/Bronzer

With proper care and clean brushes, you can squeeze up to 2 years out of your powder brush or bronzer. However, if your powder grows a white crust or starts to crumble, throw it out. You can also protect powders by keeping them dry and storing them outside the humid environment of your bathroom.

throw out makeup

6. Mascara & Liquid Eyeliner

Most experts recommend replacing liquid eyeliner and mascara every 3 months. Personally, I usually use it until it starts to dry out, which rarely takes more than 6 months. The only exception is if you get an eye infection — if that happens, you should replace all of your eye makeup ASAP.

Overall, don’t take chances with eye products — germ-ridden formulas can cause infections and styes. When you buy a new tube of mascara, keep bacteria out by closing it tightly after each use, avoid pumping the wand in and out, and don’t share your mascara with anyone.

throw out makeup

7. Eyeshadow

Powdered eyeshadow will normally last up to 2 years, as long as you wash your brushes regularly. Since my eyes are pretty sensitive, I replace my eyeshadows after about 4-6 months. Even though they are similar to other powders, they’re making more direct contact with your eyes, making bacteria more of a concern.

throw out makeup

8. Pencil Eyeliner

Pencil eyeliner can last up to 2 years if properly stored and sharpened regularly. Pencil eyeliners have a longer shelf life because you can create a fresh, clean surface each time you sharpen them. (Just be sure to sanitize your sharpener with rubbing alcohol regularly.)

throw out makeup

9. Lipstick, Lip Gloss, & Lipliner

Lipstick, lip gloss, and lipliner can last up to 2 years, if you don’t use them up before that. The risk of them growing bacteria is relatively low since they don’t contain any water. You may want to replace them if an illness or cold sore, or if you notice any changes in color or texture. 

throw out makeup

10. Nail Polish

Nail polish won’t go bad from bacteria, but eventually it will become a bit clumpy, and the pigments will settle on the bottom of the bottle. If you shake it and it remains separated, it’s time to toss. (If the polish is simply too thick to work with, you can add nail polish thinner.)

Toss any nail polish you haven’t used in the last year. Chances are if you haven’t used it in 12 months, you’re not going to be using it any time soon, so toss it to make room for something you’ll use and enjoy!

throw out makeup

11. Makeup Brushes

If cleaned and stored properly, good makeup brushes can last for years. But when the bristles start to fray or fall out, it’s time for a new set. Check out more tips about cleaning and caring for your makeup brushes here.

The Takeaway

Generally speaking, the better you take care of your makeup, the longer it will last. The above guidelines can help, but make sure to use your senses (and common sense) as well. If anything looks or smells off to you, you’re better off tossing it. Better safe than sorry!

Did any of these guidelines surprise you?


Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • Suggestion for liquid foundation so you’re not dabbing fingers all the time also. I don’t get the stuff with the pump, mostly because I’m broke and can’t afford it. But I also can’t afford to be replacing drying out or icked up makeup a lot.

    If you use a mirror or other flat slick surface, you can pour a tiny amount of foundation out and then use your fingers/brush, introducing no bacteria into it by touch! Or you can drip a little bit onto the back of your hand but I am not fond of doing this as I feel I “lose” more makeup that way sticking to my skin… and sometimes forget to wipe it off after, then later realize I’m running around with a makeup splotch on my hand.

    Just be careful because thin foundation can run away from you and you don’t want to pour the whole bottle out! Conversely, if it’s a really THICK foundation, use something like a disposable chopstick, makeup paddle, or whatever fits in there to scoop a little out. Doesn’t matter so long as it’s clean.

    • Side note!! This is also handy for mixing a custom face color if you have multiple foundations that all aren’t “quite” right, just pay attention to how much of which you use (three drops light, one drop medium, etc) to make it easier to remember if you happen to mix your *perfect* shade.

    • Great idea about the mirror. I wouldn’t have thought of that. I buy those cheap sponge wedges at the dollar store and use them to apply my foundation; but I think it probably does soak up a bit of it too.

  • I’ve found that with pressed eyeshadows, blushes, bronzers etc., you can spray the surface with 90% alcohol until it’s visibly wet and then let it dry. It completely disinfects the top few layers, so if you do it every month and clean your brushes weekly, you can stretch the life of your cosmetics. Some of that stuff is expensive..and I can’t bear to just toss it after an eye infection! So..I spray it all down and voila! Good as new! I guess it could also work for loose powders too, but I haven’t tried it.

  • Sorry, but your statement about food expiration dates is, unfortunately, incorrect. Recently, our local TV station carried a story about the so-called expiration dates on food, to wit: it is NOT the law, it was conceived by the food industry to encourage people to discard and replace items. Yes, I do agree that having those dates is a good idea but so far it is NOT a law for it to be placed on anything.
    BTW, thanks to you, I’ve managed to save money and time since I’ve been receiving your emails…

    • Amen! If you were on a desert island with nothing but canned food wouldn’t you eat it? Unless the can is visibly bulging or severely dented, have at it. Brenda’s right. This is a ruse from the food industry. I’ve been stocking up on mega things since ’09, getting ready for hyperinflation and just finished the last of a case of cranberry sauce I got on sale back then for .25 a can. No one in this house has ever gotten sick from food products.

      A friend sent me a blog piece (I’d link, but my computer crashed a couple weeks ago and I lost all my bookmarks) about freshness dates on food and the lead article was about a home remodeling project in California. In the basement, they found a can of corn that expired in 1964. they opened it and ate it. No difference between it and one bought currently.

  • Sorry, nail polish NEVER goes bad. They sell nail thinner at places like Sally Beauty supply, just add a couple of drops to a bottle that has become thick and it will be good as new. (never use acetone to thin polish)

    • I agree, I was going to post the same thing. The nail polish “thinner” is different than nail polish remover – and it works wonders to bring back to life polish that’s gotten a little thick. If you have the storage space to keep it, don’t throw away your polish, you never know when you might want it for adding artwork to your nails – an accent stripe, dots, etc. Very trendy these days.

  • Oh my gosh.. I am just shocked at the comments left on here. Seriously readers? You need to practice that old saying ” If you dont have anything nice to say then DONT say anything at all!”
    Heck Jillee is not telling you to take this to the bank she is merely given suggestions or what she has researched to bring us readers a cheaper way to get by. Or possibly some helpful tips for everyday.
    If you dont like her tips or you think she is not “correct” then by all means find you something else to read AND dont comment with your hateful comments or smart remarks!!!
    I LOVE YOUR PAGE JILLEE, KEEP ON DOING WHAT YOUR DOING “)

  • I just read a little blurb in Real Simple that suggested gently wiping down the surface of your lipstick with rubbing alcohol after you’ve been sick. It might save you a few bucks, or in my case, a limited supply of a favorite but discontinued color.

    Thanks for all the great tips, Jillee!

  • I used to sell mineral makeup as a career. I can tell you that some brands can last a lifetime if they are pure minerals, such as Bare Escentuals. It has no preservatives. It never goes bad because it pure “dirt”. Which is natural earth. . You need to sprinkle it out and not double dip into the jar. So, check your labels first before tossing out a 30.00+ jar of makeup

    • Right on! I’ve worn Bare Minerals for years and have had some of the blushes and eye shadows for longer than I can remember. lol Never had a problem with any of them. However, I do have some lipsticks that need to be thrown out. Just never think of it.

      By the way, I store my nail polish in a small tray (I think it was originally an egg container) in my refrigerator. It doesn’t get thick or separate. Just throwing that info out there for anyone that doesn’t know. ;)

  • I like the idea of using a marker to date things. It’s also a way to find out how long it takes to use up a product. (put the date on open cartons of broth and jars of spagetti sauce otherwise I have no idea when I first opened it.)

  • Ohhh Heather, please reread your post. Not every comment that disagrees is nasty or hateful. This is how we learn from each other. The whole point of a blog like this is for us to share and exchange, not to accept as gospel whatever is printed. I don’t happen to use nail polish but I am sure going to pass on the tip from KD/Violet to my daughter. And also get her to rad Jillee’s whole post….I think she has makeup in her collection that should certainly be reviewed!!

  • Great idea about writing the date on makeup containers. I’ve been doing that with cans and packages of food for years, so I can see the (disputed) expiration date easily. It reminds me to use it up. No point in saving it for years. I also store leftovers in recycled glass jars and use the Sharpie to write the contents and date on the jar.
    But I hadn’t thought of doing that with makeup. Makes even more sense because I don’t use makeup every day so it lasts a long time. I realized one day I needed to chuck my concealer because I had probably contaminated it when I was trying to conceal a pimple that was probably slightly infected. Concealer is one thing that I should use an alternate applicator for, rather than the handy applicator in the container. Or clean it off with alcohol before reinserting it??? Good ideas here to ponder.

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  • Great ideas. I use my makeup brushes for applying my makeup. I don’t really worry about replacing my foundation or blush because I’ll use up the liquid formulas long before the guidelines. I love the Mineral makeup if it wasn’t so expensive. I use a tiny blank sticker and write the date on it or even to keep track of shades on some things like my cream blush – when it’s not easily visible.

  • Jillie, you have so many great and effective tips. Being retired, I buy my clothing from second hand stores. Tops often come with sweat stains. Your tip on how to get rid of the stains is great but what about the residual odour?? Any tips?

  • I’ve started writing the dates that I purchase them too. I use some blank label type stickers- my mom has a ton . I mainly did it to see how long products will last me. l have to replace my mascara every 2 months because of wearing contacts. I’ve never been able to use the Cover Girl mascara, just irritates my eyes. I’ve been using Loreal mascara.

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