How do you know when to throw out makeup? You might still be hanging onto that perfect shade of blush you’ve used for years, but you’re not doing yourself any favors. “There’s still plenty left,” you might argue.
But makeup does have an expiration date – even that rouge you’ve loved forever. How do you know when to toss your makeup? And why should you?
Why You Should Replace Makeup Often
Aside from a loss of quality, old makeup can potentially cause serious skin irritations. This is because of bacterial contamination. Every time you dip your fingers into a jar, or double-dip your brushes or mascara wands, or touch-up that lipstick to your lips, you’re moving bacteria from your skin into your makeup product.
And, this bacteria will then continue to multiply as bacteria love to do – especially in dark, moist environs.
Then, every time you put that product back on your skin, you’re literally smearing this bacterial build-up back across your face! Eww!1
If you’re battling blemishes despite having a solid skin care routine, your old makeup could be the culprit.
And, the thought of transferring potentially dangerous bacteria to your eye area, via mascara, is particularly unthinkable. Eye infections can be incredibly dangerous for your eyes.
Bacteria can also accelerate the visible signs of aging. This is because dirty brushes can encourage more free radicals which bring oxidative damage to the skin.2
So, you can see why it’s important to replace your makeup regularly.
The Secret Symbol That Tells You When to Throw Out Makeup
Here’s something many people don’t realize: While some makeup doesn’t come with a “use-by” date, a lot of makeup does have an expiration symbol on the label. But you probably either never noticed it (it might be tiny) or understood what it meant.
The symbol is of a little open cream jar. It’s known as a PAO, or Period After Opening symbol.
In the middle of this symbol, there is a number. Let’s say the number is 24. This means that you should use this product within 24 months of opening.3
This PAO symbol was first used in Europe in 2005, but it’s common to see it now in the U.S. Though the U.S. doesn’t require cosmetics to have expiration dates, the FDA does hold companies liable for ensuring their products are safe — and shelf life is considered part of that.4
The Cosmetics Expiration Cheat Sheet
Still not sure when to throw out makeup? Here’s a cheat sheet to provide you with some clear guidelines.5-7
Foundation – Every Year
For liquid foundation, you’ll probably notice a change in consistency, texture, shade, and smell after a year. However, a powder-based foundation should last you up to two years.
Concealer – 1 to 1.5 years
How long you keep your concealer depends on the type you use. Concealer in a tube may have a slightly longer shelf life.
But if you dip your finger straight into the product, or use a wand similar to mascara, you’re putting bacteria directly into the product every single day. Toss it.
Blush – 1 to 2 Years
Blush can come as a cream or a dry powder. The lifespan for dry powder products is two years. But for cream blush – which contains oils or water – it’s just one year.
Eyeliner – 3 months to 2 Years
Eyeliner is an important product to change often, as it generally touches your eyes directly (unless you use a pot and brush). Pencil eyeliners last longer (around a year or two), because they can be sharpened for a cleaner edge. But liquid eyeliner should only be kept for about three months.
Eye Shadows – 1 to 2 Years
As with blush, dry powder products have a longer shelf life (around two years). However, a cream-based eye shadow product should only be used for a year. Chances are, you’re using that little eye shadow brush and you haven’t cleaned it. Dead skin and bacteria are building up, so clean that brush often!
Mascara – 3 Months
Heed this advice: replace your mascara every three months. Mascara presents the most risk, because it can send bacteria directly into your eyes, potentially leading to serious eye problems. And because of the design of the bottle and wand, you’re trapping dead skin and bacteria down into the bottle permanently.
Sponges & Brushes – Every 3 months
Sponges and brushes touch your face daily. So, they should be cleaned at least every 2 weeks in order to keep both the product and your face safe.
Lipstick – 1 Year
Lipstick collects saliva and skin cells every time you use it. One great idea is to shave your lipstick down a little every few weeks (as you’d sharpen an eye pencil). This gives you a cleaner surface for longer. And never share your lipstick with anyone – gross!
Note: Pencil lip liners can last up to two years, as they will be continually sharpened.
Skin Care FYI: Expired Cosmetics Can Harm Your Beauty
Expired makeup products can often do more harm than good in your beauty routine. So, be vigilant. It can be a challenge to replace products because they’re often expensive. One way to offset the expense is to replace just one product at a time, until you eventually replace your entire beauty kit.
Make culling your old makeup a part of your regular skin care routine. Your skin will thank you for it!
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