Makeup Expiration Dates: When To Throw It Out

Is your mascara clumpy? Your liquid foundation thickening? Can’t remember what year you bought your half-used lipstick?

Your old makeup may be causing you blemishes or even worse— dermatologists warn it could lead to a dangerous infection. That’s right, those old makeup containers may be full of more than just powder… they could be harboring bacteria.

It’s a topic I covered a few years ago in this “HealthSource with Dr. David Winter” video. And after a recent overhaul of my own make-up bag, I thought it was a story definitely worth re-visiting. We interviewed Angela Bowers, M.D., a dermatologist on medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine, and learned some pretty interesting stuff about how bad those old cosmetics may be.

Dr. Bowers says she regularly sees patients with perioral dermatitis caused by using old, expired makeup. It’s a condition that irritates the skin and causes little red bumps that look like acne.

Another warning: “If bacteria gets in old makeup, the preservatives might not be working quite as well as they were when you first opened it—and if you get some of that in your eye you’ll start to get a conjunctivitis which we know as ‘pink-eye,’” she said.

Eeekkk scary! So how do you know when old makeup is too old to use? Here’s some good advice on what to keep and when to toss:

(You can also share your own healthy makeup tips in the comments section below. I’d love to read them!)


Like the food in your fridge, makeup in your cosmetic case can expire. Some products do list makeup expiration dates. But most don’t. Experts say you should go by when you first opened the makeup. Here are the basic rules of thumb:

  • Eye make-ups and liquid foundations last the least amount of time and should be tossed out after just three months.
  • Powders and foundations opened more than a year ago should be trashed too.
  • Lipstick expires about every 2 years, while gloss will make it to the 18-month mark.

It’s a good idea to come up with an easy system to keep track of when you opened something. Keep small labels or even masking tape near your make-up drawer. Anytime you open a new product, label the container with the date.


It’s not just your makeup—but your makeup applicators that need to be replaced regularly. If you’re using sponges to apply makeup—Dr. Bowers suggests replacing those at least once a week.

Also, don’t forget to clean your other applicators that aren’t disposable. I recently came across this great online article about How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes.


Another way makeup can cause you health problems– sharing lipsticks. It’s an easy way to spread colds and flu viruses. Plus sharing lipsticks, lip glosses or lip balms with someone who may have a strain of the herpes virus could leave you with cold sores of your own. Dr. Bowers said people can harbor that virus on their lips without having an active cold sore, so you can’t always see the risk.


Experts even advise to smell your makeup. Any unusual odors means there’s bacteria in there. This may sound like a no-brainer, but if makeup looks old or changes texture—toss it! It may be painful to throw out expensive products, but not doing so could hurt worse, says Dr. Bowers.

Her parting words of advice: “If you end up in the doctor’s office with an infection, all those savings are negated. So you always want to have a clean face with some good, fresh product on there.”

About the author

Jennifer McDowell
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Jennifer is a public relations professional who assists the Baylor Scott & White Health team on numerous projects. Born in Tennessee, she came to the “Big D” by way of SMU. Prior to this gig, she was the associate producer of an award-winning syndicated medical news segment.

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Makeup Expiration Dates: When To Throw It Out