What is the Shelf Life of Makeup?

Profile of woman made of the shadow of cosmetics
Hiroshi Watanabe / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Many women have a pile of makeup in their drawer that they "sometimes" use. Translation: Never use, but keep just in case they finally learn how to properly apply blue eyeshadow.

Beauty products do have a shelf life, however, and chances are that the blue eyeshadow with the glimmery bits that you bought a few years ago (for Halloween?) has long expired.

To make sure you're not applying expired makeup that can irritate your skin, here's a quick guide on the shelf lives of typical beauty products.

But please keep in mind that these are estimates, no matter what anyone tells you, it's unlikely you'll go blind from using two-year-old mascara.

Concealer 

Concealer will last up to 12 months. 

Eyeshadow

Eyeshadow will last up to three years.

Facial Cleansers

Cream and gel facial cleansers will last one year. 

Foundation

Check the ingredients. A water-based foundation will last up to 12 months while oil-based will last up to 18 months.

If your water-based foundation dries out before its expiration date, simply add a few drops of alcohol-free toner and shake to mix it in. 

Lip Liner

Lip liner will last up to three years.

Extra tip: Skip the push-up lip liners. They're expensive, tend to break and you never really know how much you have left until you run out. No need to spend money on lip liners, there's no secret to greatness for this product. Save your money for powders and foundation.

Lipstick

Some experts say lipstick will last one to two years.

Others say up to four years. What everyone agrees on is that if it smells rancid, throw it out.

Extra tip: If you store lipstick in the refrigerator, it will last longer. 

Makeup Brushes

Brushes made with natural fibers such as boar's hair will last many years but you should wash them every two to three months in a mild detergent.

 

Mascara

Mascara expires the fastest: Throw it out after four months.

Mascara is one makeup product in your bag that you want to keep tabs on. It's a breeding ground for bacteria and your eyes are an easy way for bacteria to penetrate your body. Most mascaras with a tube and a wand have an antibacterial agent in them that lasts about six weeks, making you safe for at least a couple of months and likely up to four. You risk eye infection the longer you keep the product. If you notice the smell changes or the texture changes, throw it out. It's not worth it.

Makeup Sponges

Wash weekly and discard monthly. Sponges can harbor bacteria.

Nail Polish

Most nail polish will last up to one year.

Pencil Eyeliner

As long as you sharpen them regularly, your pencil liners will last up to three years. 

Perfume

Most perfumes have a maximum shelf life of three to five years from their production date. Fragrances made with quality ingredients, and those that come in dark or opaque bottles—as opposed to clear—will last longer. 

Powder

Powder makeup has great staying power and will last up to two years.