Women are notorious for clinging to their beauty products well past their expiration dates, but over time, makeup can become a breeding ground for infection-inducing bacteria. Makeup containing water, like liquid foundation, is particularly risky as warm environments (like your humid bathroom) increase the danger of bacteria growth. While some products, particularly skincare items, are now labeled with expiration dates, many aren’t, so it’s important to know when it’s time to replace them. As a rule of thumb, solid products tend to last longer than liquids, so choosing an eye pencil over liquid eyeliner or powder over liquid foundation will give you more time between replacements.
To help you get a sense of which products you should keep and which you should toss, we’ve rounded up the shelf lives of most of the items lining your vanity. Keep in mind, if you notice color changes, texture changes, new smells or anything that feels different on your skin — don’t wait, throw it out immediately.
After three months, mascara will start to dry out and become clumpy. Even if it doesn’t, throw it out as you want to be safe with any product applied around your eye area (it’s also aqueous, which increases the risk of bacterial contamination).
These typically last two months.
Most polishes will keep a year before color fading and drying starts to occur.
If there’s one product that women will keep for years, it’s eyeshadow. Do not keep eyeshadow for more than a year, though, since the eye area is very sensitive and you are needlessly risking an infection. If you’re working with cream shadows, toss them nine months after opening.
Powder Foundation or Blush
Keep an eye out for texture changes or if these start to feel different on your skin, but these should last a good two years.
Liquid Foundation or Blush
Toss six months after opening. These last considerably less than their powder counterparts because of how quickly they can grow bacteria — do not risk breakouts or irritation, especially with something you apply on a big portion of your face.
Keep an eye out for color, texture and any changes in feel, but these should last two years, after which you’ll start to notice that the texture is dried out. Long-wearing lipsticks should be thrown out after 12 to 18 months as they have ingredients that tend to evaporate quicker, so after about a year, they won’t look creamy on your lips.
Eye and Lip Pencil
These can keep about a year, just make sure to sharpen them regularly.
This is the product most commonly labeled with an expiration date. You’ll be happy to know, however, that according to dermatologist Dr. Schultz, you can use it up to a year or two after its expiration date. The date on the packaging reflects the length of time the manufacturer demonstrated and tested that the sunscreen still works, but in fact, for weeks, months or maybe even years after the expiration date, you can still use that sunscreen and it will give you the same protection as when it was first manufactured.
Opt for creams in a container with a pump when possible to limit the amount of bacteria that is introduced every time you apply. You can keep face cream for up to a year if it’s in a pump; six months after opening if it’s in a jar. The same timetable applies for serums.