How Long You Can Safely Keep Your Makeup

Even though makeup doesn’t have expiration dates printed on its labels the way that food does, it still isn’t safe to use forever. Sure you might have plenty of mascara left in that tube but it’s not worth holding onto if it might possibly give you an eye infection or other skin irritation. Here are some guidelines for how to know when you’re due for a dumping of your makeup bag and what’s cool to still hang onto. Now you just need to figure out a way to keep track of when you actually bought that eye shadow.


Opened mascara should only be used for about four months. Any product where you place the applicator back into the tube is a total breeding ground for bacteria, particularly when the makeup is a liquid like mascara. If you’re under the few month mark and your mascara starts to dry out, you can actually liven it back up again by adding a couple drops of sterile saline solution like the kind you might use for your contacts. To prevent the drying out in the first place, avoid pumping the wand which just pushes more air into the tube.


Liquid eyeliners should be kept for around the same amount of time as mascara. Pencil eyeliner on the other hand can be used safely for about three years if you are sharpening it to keep it fresh before use. Same goes for pencil lip liners.


Liquid foundation can stay usable for about a year as long as you are not sticking your fingers into it all the time. Try using a sponge or a makeup brush if your skin is sensitive to breakouts to reduce the transfer of bacteria from your fingers to your face. Oil based foundations will never dry out but the water based kinds can, and a quick fix for that is to shake in a couple drops of alcohol free toner to mix it up again. (Of course only do this if you’re within the safe time zone.


Powder is one of the longer lasting makeup items since it’s dry. (Dry stuff is way less appealing for bacteria.) Unless your powder starts to smell funny you can usually use it for up to 18 months to two years. You might however, want to replace the applicator you use to apply it about monthly to keep things fresh. If your best friend has a tendency to forget her own powder try to resist sharing…it’s super generous but it’s also asking for trouble.


There are some conflicting ideas about how long to keep lipstick, but somewhere between one year and four years. (Big difference obviously.) One certain rule to keep is to never use lipstick if it has started to change colors or if it smells weird. If you know you won’t be using up a certain shade any time soon you can actually store it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life. But we can’t guarantee that your roommates won’t snatch it up.


What are your thoughts? How long do you use your makeup items? We love hearing from you, let us know in the comments section below!

Kate Ferguson Author: KateFerguson

More Every College Girl


  1. Pali Pali says:

    This is really good to know :)

  2. andje raytcheva andje94 says:

    I definitely need to go through mine & toss some things out

  3. Paige Paige says:

    I seriously need to follow these! I keep my makeup for wayyyy too long!

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