Beware Old Makeup!

Don’t let beauty products become a source of skin problems

Lipstick - Masterfile

Resist the temptation to keep cosmetics beyond their life expectancy, even if you need to save money during uncertain economic times. “It’s important to clean out the cosmetic closet to be sure products that are old and hazardous are discarded,” says Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., a cosmetic and research dermatologist in High Point, NC. “You shouldn’t skimp, especially on mascara,” she warns, because it can become colonized with bacteria such as staph and strep.

“Products with wand tubes, such as mascara and lip gloss, dehydrate quickly, which affects hygiene and performance,” Dr. Draelos adds. “Try lower-price products, and replace them more quickly.” Keep beauty products in a cool place away from sunlight, and part with items that have separated, changed color or have an off odor.

Here is a short guide to when to toss it:

  • Sunscreen: 6 months—SPFs have expiration dates after which they lose efficacy, Dr. Draelos says.
  • Powders: 12 months—Powder shadows and blushes as well as mineral makeups last longer than their creamy counterparts because powders have no water to support bacteria growth.
  • Lipsticks: 3 to 6 months—Wand glosses should be replaced every 3 months; lipsticks, after half a year.
  • Eye makeup: 3 to 6 months—Mascara should be changed most quickly; eye pencils last longer.
  • Pump products: Use until empty—Pump cleansers, moisturizers, etc., have valves that protect the product.
  • Treatment products: Follow instructions—Products with active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoids have expiration dates on the tube.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 23 Aug 2010

Last Modified: 03 Nov 2014