When to Throw Away Old Makeup and Cosmetics

when to throw away old makeup and cosmetics

We all wonder when you should throw out old makeup and cosmetics. That stash in the bathroom is like old friends - we loved it for a while then replaced it with something new, never quite using up the old. Could you, should you use it, or has it gone bad? It's a great question...

How Long Can You Really Keep Your Old Makeup and Cosmetics? 

What's safe and what's not?  No one knows for sure. But you can be sure that it depends on the product and how you've used and stored it.

One medical study states that,

Survey on personal toiletries show that Bacillus, Staphylococcus spp., Pseudomonas spp., Enterobacter, Aspergillus, Penicillium and Candida are more predominant species in cosmetics.

Ick! Here are some good general guidelines I recommend.

Preservatives in makeup don't last forever.

In general, to maintain a clear and attractive complexion you should discard old makeup. It can harbor germs, degrade, and become rancid. Only the most powerful preservatives might inhibit microbes. In this era of natural formulations, preservatives are not going to preserve skin care products for very long and it is best to be err on the side of caution.

Bacteria and other microbes growing in makeup will cause breakouts and infections.

A study of microbial contamination in makeup demonstrated that wearing expired makeup can welcome a wide variety of bacteria, fungi, yeast and viruses into your skin, eyes, and lips, including acne breakouts and potentially more serious infections.

Old makeup doesn't look or smell as good as fresh makeup.

Old makeup doesn't look as good as it did when it was new; it may even have a spoiled smell. Water-based liquids will evaporate, oils spoil, ingredients separate and the beautiful original consistency degrades.

You wear makeup to enhance your beautiful features. Don't hide them under crusty face powders, rancid lipstick, and dried out (possibly bacteria-infested) mascara.

Using contaminated makeup is just not worth it!

Yes, we all mourn unused makeup that we once loved. I hear it all the time, “but I spent a fortune on this makeup!” It's just not worth it. Having a skin or eye infection treated by your doctor because of old makeup will probably cost you time, money, and possibly even leave a permanent mark from the infected sore. 

Here are my general guidelines, as a trained aesthetician, for the average shelf life of most cosmetics:

  1. Powder based products (e.g., mineral foundation, eye shadows, blushes): 2-3 years
  2. Liquid foundation: up to 1 year
  3. Lipstick/gloss/liner: 2 years max for lipstick. Shelf life can be extended by refrigerating. Lip gloss with a wand applicator may have a shorter shelf life. Lip liner 1 to 2 years.
  4. Mascara/liquid eyeliner: 2-3 months
  5. Pencil eye liner: 2-3 years

Related helpful advice: read Dr. Bailey's makeup and skin care tips and best practices.

The bottom line of when to throw out old makeup:

when should I throw away old makeup

When in doubt, throw it out! If it has gone bad there may be obvious signs. Use your senses. If it feels, looks, or smells unusual, put it in the trash.

When you buy a cosmetic, take a black sharpie marker and write the date you purchased the makeup right on it. That way, you can track its recommended expiration date.

Special makeup warnings

  • If any eyeliner, mascara, or shadow was used during an eye infection, get rid of it.
  • Women have a tendency to share lip gloss in particular. Ideally don't! It can spread bacteria and viruses such as herpes. Be careful. This includes using 'testers' at makeup counters and in salons. 

Start fresh. Mineral powders and clean makeup brushes are always a good choice.

Learn more about why you should incorporate mineral makeup into your beauty regimen in my articles about the benefits of mineral makeup and mineral makeup sunscreen, foundation, and sun protection. These tips will help you make informed decisions for healthy, radiant skin while ensuring optimal sun protection.

Pro-tip: Apply makeup over your sunscreen during the day for the best results.

Makeup is the last step in your skin care routine. Apply your makeup over an excellent mineral sunscreen for the best skin sun protection and the best result from your makeup!  Learn more about why makeup goes on top of sunscreen.  


Browse Dr. Bailey's well-priced, safe, and beautiful mineral makeup powders and cosmetics collection.

Dr. Bailey has beautiful and pure mineral makeup powders, eyeshadows and an ecofriendly travel brush set for applying them. Her makeup is natural and made from minerals and botanical ingredients only. It is free from,

  • artificial dyes
  • preservatives
  • chemicals
  • fillers

    Dr. Bailey's makeup is the smart choice; it's beautiful on your skin and a pleasure to use. 


    The bottom line with old makeup:

    Never use old makeup, the risk is not worth it. Treat yourself to new makeup as your products get old and make smart makeup choices that avoid chemicals and allergens that can cause skin problems.  

    aesthetician services in Santa Rosa Area

    Authored by MaLinda, Medical Aesthetician

    "My passion is helping people look and feel beautiful. I have more than nine years of experience in the skincare and cosmetics industry; having worked as a makeup artist, as a makeup and skincare product specialist for a high-end department store, and as an aesthetician. I have a bachelor’s degree in English and history, but I have found my true calling in the world of skincare. I’ve been a licensed aesthetician since 2007. I love helping my clients achieve healthy, beautiful skin and teaching them how to get the results they’re looking for on a daily basis. Everyone is beautiful with unique attributes that make them special. Finding and highlighting these attributes in a person is my passion – and it’s what I love about my career."