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We know you don’t want to throw away your favorite blush or lipstick, but abiding by makeup expiration dates is actually incredibly important. Why? Cosmetics trap bacteria, which means replacing them regularly is necessary to avoid skin irritation, breakouts, eye infections, and styes. (And it's not just your makeup formulas—check out what happened when we tested bacteria levels on makeup brushes.)
But here's a caveat: Unlike the contents of your fridge, the use-by date on your makeup products relies on the first day you use them, not the purchase date. So how do you know when to toss that foundation or mascara? Separation or changes in texture or smell are dead giveaways the product has gone bad.
The more moisture the product has—or the closer it comes to your eyes—the shorter its life span.
While it's crucial to look out for those telltale signs, it's still helpful to get a general idea of how long each product is meant to last. Click through our slideshow for exactly how long you can use your favorite products without worry.
Shelf Life: six months to a year
Tips: Keep your foundation germ-free for longer by keeping your fingers away from the neck of the bottle. Instead, gently drip the formula onto the back of your hand before you apply. If you notice your foundation starting to separate, it’s definitely time to toss it.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals, reduces hyperpigmentation, boosts collagen production, and prevents premature aging of the skin.
Shelf Life: eight to 10 years
Tips: Fragrance is the longest-lasting product in your beauty routine—by far! Max out your perfume’s shelf life by keeping your scents out of direct sunlight. (Some brands like Le Labo even suggest storing them in the fridge.)
Lipstick, Liner, and Gloss
Shelf Life: one year
Tips: It’s time to toss your favorite lip products when you notice a change in their texture—whether that means they dry out or they get goopy. Make your favorite red last longer by keeping it in a cool, dry place. (Read: Don’t leave it in your hot car!)
Brow Pencil and Kohl Eyeliner
Shelf Life: one year
Tips: Pencils last longer than most eye products since they’re constantly being sharpened. Keep your liners away from your steamy bathroom to extend their life.
Shelf Life: three months
Tips: Replacing your mascara regularly is incredibly important to avoid eye infections. Switch out every three months (or sooner if you notice the formula getting clumpy or starting to smell funny, which means it’s gone bad). And, of course, don’t ever share mascara!
Shelf Life: three to four months
Tips: Just like mascara, don’t share your liquid eyeliner—germs are your biggest enemy in this part of your makeup bag.
Blush and Powder
Shelf Life: two years
Tips: The longest-lasting color cosmetics you’ll ever buy, powder-formula blushes last around two full years.
Cream Blush and Multiple Sticks
Shelf Life: 12 to 18 months
Tips: Toss cream blush and “multiple” sticks (as in, products you can use on your cheeks and lips) if you notice a change in their texture.
Always use clean hands when applying any product to help keep the tubes and pots germ-free.
Shelf Life: three to six months
Tips: While powder shadows can last as long as powder blushes (about two years), they should be replaced more often since they’re used around your eyes.
Shelf Life: one to two years
Tip: Heat and direct sunlight will make your polish separate and become discolored faster, so store your lacquers upright in a cool, dry place.
Shelf Life: two months
Tip: Unfortunately, a pot of gel eyeliner should only be used for a few months since it easily traps bacteria.