How Long Does Makeup Last?

A black woman with afro applies make up in the mirror by window.

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Cosmetics aren’t required by law to have expiration dates, so you can’t always consult a label to determine if your makeup is still good. Even dated items may be misleading because a product can expire long before the printed date if it's not stored properly.

From the time you open that bottle of foundation or tube of mascara, the life and effectiveness of the product decreases. While preservatives kill some bacteria, FDA studies show that a little bacteria is present in makeup even before you buy it, and whenever you open it or touch it, you’re introducing more. At some point, aging cosmetics lose their ability to fight bacteria no matter how carefully you store them.

Here are some tips that will extend the shelf life of your cosmetics and protect you from infection — plus some advice on when it’s time to replace everything from eye liner to lipstick.

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A woman applies concealer to her hand with cosmetics in the background.

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Many concealers can last for up to a year if they're kept tightly closed and stored in a cool, dark place, but experts recommend that you get a new bottle or tube every six to eight months. If the makeup's consistency changes, or if it changes color or begins to smell, it's time to get rid of it.

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A woman wearing a white blouse warms foundation up with a sponge on her hand.

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Liquid foundations are best used in three to six months, while cream foundations maintain their quality for four to six months. If your foundation is in a wide-mouthed jar, it can be exposed to more airborne bacteria and may need to be replaced sooner. If you notice any change in the color or odor of your makeup, toss it. Keep in mind that you really shouldn’t use any foundation if you’ve had it for more than a year.

To ensure your foundation stays in good condition, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. If you have a water-based foundation that dries out before its expiration date, add a couple drops of alcohol-free toner and shake it to mix it — this won’t work on oil-based foundations.

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Eye shadow

A woman with red nails dips a brush in eyeshadow palette.

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Powder eye shadows are a good investment because they can last up to two years, whereas cream shadows are typically good for only six to eight months. You can extend the shelf life of both types of eye shadow by keeping them stored in a cool area away from sunlight, which can destroy preservatives.

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A mature woman with short silver hair applies blush to her face.

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Like powder eye shadow, powder blush can last up to two years if it's properly stored away from heat and light. However, cream blushes should be disposed of every six months. Use a clean brush or sponge to apply blush to help minimize the bacteria in your makeup and ensure it lasts as long as possible.

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A young Asian woman applies mascara in a mirror.

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Never keep mascara for more than six months because it’s a haven for bacteria, and if you’ve had any type of infection, such as pink eye, don’t reuse it because you could reinfect yourself. Also, never add water or any other liquids to the bottle if your mascara begins to dry out. To get the most out of your mascara, keep it tightly closed and stored in a dark, cool place, and don’t pump the wand in and out of the tube — you’ll simply be exposing the product to more drying air and airborne bacteria.

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Loose powder on a rustic wood table with brush.

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Facial powder, whether it's loose or pressed, can last up to two years when stored properly. Keep the jar or compact tightly closed and store it away from direct heat or sunlight. If the powder's texture or color changes, or if it develops an odor, it's time to replace it.

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Eye and lip liner

Liquid and pencil eyeliner on a white table with shedding.

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Eye and lip pencils can last up to a year if you care for them properly. Sharpen the pencils once a week to prevent bacteria from being transferred to your lips or eyes. If your liner becomes dry or crumbly, or if you notice a white coloring at the tip of the pencil, toss it. Liquid liners have a much shorter shelf life and shouldn’t be used after six months.

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A muslim woman applies dark lipstick in the mirror.

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While lipsticks may last for years, experts say you shouldn’t use them for more than one year. Your favorite lip shade may still look OK, but the quality and safety of the product decreases over time. Store lipsticks and lip glosses in cool, dark places, and if you really want to make that tube last, keep it in the refrigerator.

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Brushes and sponges

A woman with nail polish picks up brushes from a container.

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Oils and bacteria can become trapped in brushes and sponges, which is bad for your makeup tools and your skin. Wash natural-bristled brushes once a month and synthetic brushes three to four times a month, using a brush cleanser, mild soap or baby shampoo. After washing, lay brushes flat to dry so the bristles don’t break or lose their shape. If you properly care for your brushes, they can last for years.

If you use cosmetic sponges to apply makeup, wash them weekly and toss them after a month or when the sponge begins to tear.