When to Throw Away Makeup and Skin Care Products


A study from 2015, carried out by the cosmetics brand Stowaway, revealed that 89 percent of women hoard old makeup ‘just in case’. This is hardly shocking. It’s always fun to peruse the latest line of gorgeous products and be tempted to add to your collection. If you open any woman’s makeup bag or cabinet, you’ll find the remains of discontinued face creams, jars of rarely used skincare products and a favorite lipstick, still barely clinging to life.

Naturally, we want to get every penny out of the money we spend on beauty products and cosmetics, but hoarding expired makeup can have serious side-effects. Bacteria and germs affect the products sitting on your shelves and might be causing the very skin problems that you’re trying to solve.

Using ineffective or expired skin care products can also have a serious effect on their youth preservation abilities. If you’re taking the time to apply a consistent, daily skin care routine to arrest the signs of aging, you need to be sure your efforts aren’t being damaged by out-of-date, or even dangerous products.

Beauty Best Practices:

Before we take a look at different types of makeup and when to bid them adieu, I want to establish a few ground rules and best practices. I’m sure you’re already well aware of these, but it never hurts to refresh what we know.

Firstly, using fingers to apply makeup is a contentious issue. The case for using brushes claims it provides a more consistent finish, whereas, according to some makeup professionals, using your fingers delivers a natural, rosy, fresh look. The number one rule is to make sure your fingers are clean to stop the spread of germs to your face. Also, watch out for any cuts or scratches on your fingers.

Once a product is opened, bacteria will begin to form. There is no escaping this, as every time you open the jar or container, you’re exposing the product to air and airborne germs. As a general rule, look for the Period After Opening symbol on the packaging, which tells you approximately how long the makeup will last once the seal is broken. However, these dates are simply a guideline, and if a product hasn’t been properly stored, its safety may expire before the date shown.

Mould, germs and bacteria can cause unpleasant skin reactions, and they thrive in warm and humid conditions. This is why it’s important to store your makeup in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Heat can also cause makeup to deteriorate quicker. Bathrooms are usually damp environments, so try not to store your products there.


Guidelines for When to Replace Your Makeup:

Mascara – 3 Months

According to optometrist, Andrea Thau O.D., “A mascara tube is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.” Plus, preservatives in mascara only work for so long. After three months it’s time to say goodbye, especially if it’s becoming clumpy or has started to dry out – this means any thickening or lengthening fibres have separated from the liquid. You should smell your mascara when you first open it. Expired mascara often has a chemical scent, so if you know what it smells like new, you’ll recognise the changes. Throw your mascara away immediately if you get an eye infection, as re-using the brush can cause recurrences.


Liquid Eyeliner – 3 Months / Cream Eye Shadow – 6 Months / Pencil Eyeliner and Powder Eye Shadow – 2 Years

Liquid eyeliner tubes suffer from the same problems of bacteria growth and drying out as mascara, so make sure you toss it after three months. Pencil eyeliners last longer because every time you sharpen them, you’re creating a clean surface. Just make sure to disinfect your sharpener with surgical spirit regularly. If your pencil starts to crumble, that’s a sign it’s gone bad. The good news with powder eye shadow is a lack of water reduces the amount of contamination, but if you do add water, then you should get rid of them after six months.


Lipstick and Gloss – 1 Year / Lipliner – 2 Years

“Because of the high oil content in lipstick you can use it for around a year,” says renowned beauty expert Abigail James. “Bugs don’t like oils and won’t grow in an oil, so it only becomes unhygienic if the oil goes rancid.” An early sign of problems with your lipstick is a loss of color. You should also give it the sniff test – a change in your lipstick’s scent could be a sign of bacterial growth. Pencil lipliners have the same shelf life as an eyeliner because you’re using a sharpener to remove the old surface.


Skincare – 6 Months+

Most moisturizers and facial cleansers can be kept for about six months unless they have certain types of acid in them that can prolong their usage. Look for products that contain beta hydroxyl, glycolic acid and salicylic acid. You need to be careful, though; active ingredients become more concentrated as the product degrades, and when changes like this occur, your skin may get irritated. “For a cream in a pump-topped bottle, you can use it for a year before you need to throw it away,” Abigail James again, “In a pot, the cream is more exposed, so chuck it after around six months. Apply pot products with a cotton bud also, to minimize contact with your fingertips.” One final tip, storing eye cream in the fridge keeps it out of direct sunlight, and it feels great on tired eyes.


Sunscreen – 6 Months

Storage is an important factor when it comes to sunscreen because it usually goes in and out of high temperatures. This temperature change can cause sunscreen to lose its effectiveness, exposing you to health risks. Once your sunscreen has been opened, water evaporation causes the formula to become unstable eventually. Why risk not getting the same level SPF as it says on the bottle? Board-certified dermatologist, Dr David Bank, says, “One way to see if sunscreen has gone bad is through testing its colour and consistency. If the product is too runny or has a yellowish tint, it’s probably best to throw it out.”

If your product doesn’t have an expiration date on it, get a marker pen and write the date which you first used it on the bottom or the back. You can also use Timestrips, stickers that use technology to remember when a product was opened and alerts you when it’s no longer wise to use it.

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