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  • Writer's pictureMichaela A de Guire

When did makeup get an expiration date?

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

Did you know make up has expiration dates? Being a brand loyalist (accidentally really, but now intentionally), I really only know about one brand inside and out. So I’ll be speaking mostly on that one brand. However, I have conducted some research into other brands and will touch on them as well.

Mary Kay’s goodies have a three year shelf life, which means it is good unopened for up to three years. However, once opened then the following expirations ensue.

Makeup and brushes
Blush brush with bright pink rouge and liquid foundation brush with beige foundation.

Lipstick, lip gloss, foundation, concealer, and cream products are good from the date of opening to the date of 12 months. Mascara and liquid eyeliner are good for 3 months. And, powder products are safe to use from the date of opening till 18 months.

Although lipstick expires after a year, if you have a shade you only wear in the winter months, and it is still relatively full, there is no need to waste it. Take a paper towel and clean off the used part to remove any bacteria. Then close as usual and store in a cool place and you'll have it for next season!

Makeup that has not been opened, but is past its expiration date, is probably going to appear dried out, have a different consistency, color, smell, or appear separated. However, makeup that you have opened and used once or twice, and then tossed aside for a year or two, pulled it back out and found it expired a while back could contain harmful bacteria, along with the above appearances. Thus, it is best to get rid of any makeup that has expired or has been opened and used once or everyday for the past twelve months.

Woman applying mascara
Woman applying mascara.

If you are looking at mascara and wondering when that expires, because it is applied on your lashes, right next to your eyes, it should be tossed after 3 months of being opened. No matter how much is left in the tube. If you try to stretch the wear of your mascara then disease and bad bacteria can set in and you could cause unnecessary eye damage. That wand goes in and out of the tube two, three times, sometimes more each day. So, of course bacteria is going to build up in the tube over time. And please, do not EVER add water to your mascara to make it work better. Just get a new one. They are not expensive and last as long as they should. End of story.

The general rule of thumb when considering makeup goodies is anything liquid and creme is good for 6-12 months after opening. Powder has a slightly longer life span and could be good for up to 1.5 years after opening, and when stored correctly closer to two years. However, when you are not certain how long something is good for, simply look for a symbol printed on the jar, usually is will be a number (e.g. 12, 18, 24) with the letter ‘M’ beside it. This symbol will indicate how long the product is good for from opening, to tossing. If you are using makeup past its expiration you will notice how the performance has declined.


Once more, your makeup has expired if it becomes dry, crumbly, the color may not appear as vibrant as it once was, powders may seem packed down and difficult to use. Expired makeup can harbor bacteria, bad bacteria. And, this bacteria could cause irritation, rashes, eye infections, and so much more. So, please stop using the old stuff.

Anything with sunscreen has an expiration of two to three years. However, once it is opened, stick with the toss after 12 months, rule of thumb, as the product could change in texture and color, and I have found it even smells different.

How to toss your old makeup?

Empty cosmetic containers
Do you have lots of empty (or half empty) cosmetic tubes, containers, etc. and don't know what to do with them?

Now that I have thoroughly grossed you out, how do we toss the makeup out?

The “greener” the product the easier it will be to dispose of because it does not (or rather, should not) contain the unsafe chemicals that most makeup is filled with. Once some of these personal care products get in the water table they don’t come out. So, beware of what you are rinsing and dumping down the drain. Thus, eco-friendly products are not just eco-friendly goodies, but the packaging design is taken into consideration too, thus, proper disposal is easy to do.

TerraCycle has partnered with a number of brands to help consumers recycle their makeup goods. However, some companies have taken the initiative, and created refillable packaging to reduce the bulk and waste packaging. A great personal example is my Mary Kay compacts, I personally have one of each size because I can travel as light or heavy as I want and bring as many eye shadow, blush, highlighters, or crème foundations as I want!

If you have a lot of product in the container and it hasn’t expired you could offer it to a friend, but it’s best if it's new, because of bacteria. However, if they are expired or what not, now is the time to wipe them out and clean them using a paper towel and toss the old makeup into the garbage. That way you can recycle as you would anything else, the empty tubes, containers, etc.. Most cosmetic packaging is made of one of two things, glass or plastic #5. So, yes it is most likely safe to recycle.

And with that, you’ve got this! So, go change your makeup out if it's older than 12 months and recycle to packaging. If you want a cheat sheet to post in or near your vanity for the expirations and to know when you need to swap and toss something (such as your mascara) you can get that here!

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