What to do with old makeup


After a year mostly spent at home, that drawer of concealer, blush, eye shadow, mascara, and brow pencils has remained largely untouched.

Unfortunately, old makeup stubbornly refuses to stop deteriorating just because we haven’t bothered to use it, and as long as we yearn to keep these makeup products out of the landfill, we sometimes have no other choice. But do you have to throw away an entire unused bag of old makeup even if those cosmetics are essentially new? We have some tips on how to deal with old makeup.

Because makeup traps bacteria, its shelf life is relatively short – especially for products that contain creams and anything that you put on your eyes or lips. We have learned how to make more life out of old makeup – and we also have tips on which cosmetics you really need to be.

The expiration date of makeup products depends on the day you first used each beauty product. So if you haven’t opened a bottle yet, unless you notice the texture has already separated or there is a foul odor, consider extending the shelf life. Even unopened products should never be stored for more than three years, as the preservatives in makeup wear off over time, says Toby Dash, blogger at Five Star Skin Care.

“To make sure your makeup lasts longer, wash your hands before applying, clean your makeup brushes regularly, and avoid sharing,” says Dash.

Make-up has an expiration date

Not all makeup is created equal. Some will do their job for years, but other makeup starts to fade in just three months. Do you use it or lose it?

Look at the back of your makeup container and you might see a little icon that looks like a jar of old school night cream. The lid is slightly open and there is a number followed by an m, like 6m or 3m, with an arrow symbol next to it. This means that the makeup inside will last 6 months or 3 months after opening. For pens or smaller containers, the information may be on the box they came in. Check this before throwing the box in. If you’re a real penny hoarder, write down the date you opened the container with a permanent marker.

If that’s too much organization for you, our handy makeup durability guide will help you get the most out of your daily makeup.


Durability: 3 to 6 months

What to do with old beauty products Since eye shadow is used around your eyes, you need to be careful. If bacteria builds up and gets into your eye, you could be in a real problem (pink eye is a big problem). But you can scrape off the top layer and spray it with 70 percent alcohol to sanitize the rest, says Felicia Graham of Felicia Graham Beauty in New York. If your eyeshadow is cracked, crush it, put the dust in a small jar, and use it as a loose powder, suggests Graham. Loose powders tend to last longer than pressed powders, and that’s exactly what eyeshadow is.


Durability: 3 months

What to do with old beauty products Make sure the lid is tightly closed so no air can escape, says Graham. This will prevent the mascara from drying out prematurely. However, you should stick to the expiration date as mascara can easily spread eye infections. If you spot lumps in your mascara or notice a funny smell, remove it right away.

Foundation and concealer

Durability: The liquid foundation lasts about a year

What to do with old beauty products Add a few drops of beauty oil (vitamin C or rose hip oil) to your foundation to give it a little more life, says Graham. “It will actually give you a nice, damp finish,” she says. Also, keep your fingers away from the bottle’s lips to prevent bacteria from getting into the products. Instead, pour the foundation directly onto the back of your hand. Keep it away from direct sunlight, moisture (i.e. outside the bathroom) and in a dry, cool place. When buying a new foundation, look for one with a pump as it is harder to contaminate so you can extend the life of the product.

Lipstick / lip gloss

Durability: 1 year

What to do with old beauty products You can store lipstick and lip gloss for a little more than a year, but if they smell rancid or if the texture changes (gets drier or lumpy), Graham says they’re expired. Keep these beauty products in a cool place other than your bathroom.

Gel eyeliner

Durability: 2 months

What to do with old beauty products These catch bacteria easily, hence the short lifespan. However, you can bring them back to life by sanitizing them with 70 percent alcohol and mixing Medium or Duralin, a liquid compound that extends the life of makeup. This will thin them out and make them easier to use, says Graham.

Makeup pens

Durability: 1 year

What to do with old beauty products Since you can sharpen these products to zap bacteria, they have a relatively long shelf life. Extend it by storing the pens in a cool, dry place so they don’t rot prematurely.

Powdered blush

Durability: 2 years

What to do with old beauty products Powdery blushes last the longest of all makeup because it doesn’t get anywhere near your eyes or mouth. Extend the life of your brush even further by cleaning your brushes (rinsing with soap and warm water) once a week so you don’t mix your brush with bacteria and old makeup.


Durability: ten years

What to do with old beauty products If only all of our products would last as long as perfume. You can still extend the life of the perfume by keeping it out of the sun. UV light can damage the structure of the liquid and change the smell. Put the bottle in a dark, dry place other than the bathroom. Make sure you leave your perfume in the original packaging as the box is designed to optimally hold and store the perfume. There is some debate about whether or not to keep perfumes in the refrigerator, but most experts are well aware of this idea because high-end perfumes are sensitive to extreme temperatures.

Danielle Braff is a Penny Hoarder employee.


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