When Good Makeup Goes Bad

Makeup Expiration DatesQuestion: When exactly did you open that tube of mascara you used this morning? And that trendy blue eyeshadow? If your makeup bag is as packed as ours are, chances are you have no idea.

The reality is that makeup and skin care products have shelf lives that affect safety and effectiveness. Here, Kelly DeRuosi, esthetician at our Monterey store, shares her expert advice on recommended discard dates and ways to keep cosmetics safe.

Should it stay or should it go?

Where cosmetics are used and what they’re made of make a difference in their longevity. Products used near your eyes need to be replaced more often since bacteria and other microbes can grow in the product containers, causing eye irritations or infections. Likewise, liquid- or water-based products, and those labeled preservative-free, are more likely to allow bacteria growth. Some products, especially those rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, become less effective when exposed to light or heat.

Here’s a general rundown of how long your favorite cosmetics will safely last after opening:

  • Mascara: 3 months
  • Gel or liquid eyeliners: 3-6 months (pencils last a bit longer, but need to be re-sharpened often)
  • Cream blush or shadow: 1 year
  • Water-based liquid foundations or concealers: 9 months
  • Powder based cosmetics: 2 years
  • Lipsticks and glosses: 1 year
  • Nail polish: 1 year

Proceed directly to the trash can! 

Watch for these tell-tale signs that mean a product has gone bad and should be thrown out:

  • Off-odor or funky smell
  • Discoloration in liquid products
  • Powders that have become so caked and hardened that they won’t budge
  • Change in texture, e.g. liquids or creams becoming runny or separated
  • Packaging that bulges or shows signs of deterioration
  • Any eye products used when you’ve had an eye infection. Products could still harbor microorganisms and re-infect you. Toss now!

Play it safe 

These good housekeeping practices help products stay fresh and limit bacterial contamination.

  • Keep makeup brushes clean. Wash them at least once a month. Caveat: If you toss brushes in your purse they can come in contact with a host of germ-laden items. Wash these weekly. (Check out the chic Sweet Dreams Cosmetic Bags—because a new bag can inspire you to toss old makeup and keep your brushes clean!)
  • Disposable makeup sponges can be used once, washed once for a second use, then thrown out.
  • Apply creams and lotions from jars with cotton swabs, not your fingers.
  • Don’t “pump” mascara in the tube or add water if it dries out.
  • Never share mascara or cream-based eye products—you’re setting yourself up to contract eye infections like conjunctivitis (a.k.a. pink eye). Ditto for trying these on in sampling areas at Pharmaca or other retail stores.
  • Store products in cool areas, and out of direct sunlight.
  • Write the date you opened a product on the bottom of the container.

Finally, Kelly says, there is an easy way to be sure your products are fresh—buy a new set of your favorites each summer and winter. Your coloring and clothing are different, so get new makeup and reflect the right seasonal look! A Pharmaca esthetician can help you choose the products that work best for you.

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