Does Makeup Really Expire?

Dr. Janet Zand

April 2, 2021

Lots of women hang onto makeup because they’ve barely used it.

And that’s especially common right now, when many of us have been staying home and wearing less makeup than usual. It just feels wasteful to toss a barely-used lipstick that you really like. Plus, it looks and works just fine!

Turns out, 89% of women hang on to old makeup like that, "just in case." And fewer than one in five of us toss mascara within the recommended three months.

The problem is that even though you may not be using a product, for the product, time marches on. And during that time, preservatives in your makeup are breaking down, leaving it susceptible to dangerous bacteria.

I know it sounds crazy, but it’s been proven in studies.  In one study, up to 90% of the products tested were contaminated with bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli!

So how do you keep your makeup germ-free?

Here’s a good rule of thumb: Most makeup shouldn’t celebrate a birthday.
That said, some products have a shorter shelf life than others, so here’s a quick guide:

• Liquid eye makeup, such as mascara and eyeliners, have the shortest shelf life. Replace them every three to six months.

• Liquid foundation lasts six months.

• Powder products (such as pressed powder and shadows), lipsticks, and nail polishes can last one to two years.

One way to remember when to replace a product is to write the “open date” on it in permanent marker. Another option is to set an alert on your phone.

And if you really hate tossing products, consider switching to formulations that last longer.

For example, you can swap liquid formulations for sticks or powder. Sticks are nice because you can sharpen or shave off the top layer of stick products. You can also lightly wipe them with alcohol to kill germs.

For loose powders, sprinkle some out onto a brush, instead of repeatedly sticking a brush or sponge directly into the container.

Besides expiration dates, there’s another way to keep your makeup germ-free ... and it has to do with where you store it.

Do you keep your makeup in your bathroom?

Lots of women apply and store their makeup in the bathroom, and that’s a big problem.

Why? Because the bathroom has lots of wet surfaces, steam from the shower, higher humidity, and close proximity to the toilet, creating the ideal conditions for bacteria to grow!

So ideally, apply and store makeup in another room. But if that’s not practical, here’s what you can do:

First, wash and dry your hands immediately before applying makeup.  When you’re done, put the makeup in a bag and store it in your bedroom or closet.

Finally, make sure you’re cleaning your brushes and sponges. 

Try these tips, and let me know how it goes!

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