Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ask Tara: When do I need to throw my makeup away?

Last week, Couture Carrie asked me how long she can keep using her makeup before she needs to throw it away. This is such a great question and one that I feel many people have! Thus, today's post is all about helping you decide which items you need to throw away, and which ones still have some life in them! Get out your makeup bag (or if you're like me, makeup drawer) and get ready to say buh-bye to some dear old, but not so good friends.

First, let me tell you that the main reason I would suggest throwing away cosmetics is to prevent breakouts, skin damage, and clutter. While cosmetic companies often suggest very short life-spans, I would never suggest you throw something away if you like it and it doesn't pose a health concern. Below is a list of cosmetic items with their true shelf lives:

  • Mascara- Mascara unfortunately has the shortest shelf life- only 3 months. This is because the tube is a breeding ground for bacteria (they love dark, moist places), which can be very hazardous to your gorgeous eyes!  Though I hate parting with mascara if it's not dried out, this is one shelf life that I don't like to exceed.
  • Liquid Eyeliner- Like mascara, liquid eyeliner is prone to bacteria growth.  Replace your liquid liners 3-6 months after opening.
  • Pencil Eyeliners & Lipliners- Pencils are the longest lasting of all cosmetics. As long as you sharpen your pencils regularly (about once a week), you can expect these babies to last 3 or more years!
  • Eyeshadow- Powder eyeshadow should be good for at least 2 years (sometimes I use them longer) and cream eyeshadow will last between 12 and 18 months.
  • Blush- Like eyeshadow, powder blush will last about 2 years, while cream blush will only last for 1 year.
  • Lip Stick- Lipstick is another workhorse in the cosmetic world.  You should be able to use your lipstick for 2-3 years before it needs to be tossed.
  • Lip Gloss- Since lip gloss contains more moisture than lipstick, it won't last as long.  Toss after 18 months- 2 years.
  • Face Powder- Although I go through face powder pretty fast, if you don't use it as often, then keep in mind that you should replace pressed powders after 1 year, while loose powders will be good for about 2 years.
  • Foundation- Water-based (oil free) foundations should be replaced ever year. Oil based, cream, or compact foundations can be used up to 18 months.
  • Concealer- Like other types of makeup, concealer that contains less moisture, such as stick concealer, lasts the longest- up to 18 months.  Liquid concealer should be tossed after one year.
  • Nail Polish- Although separate will usually reveal when your nail polish needs to be tossed, polishes that are too thick or dry should also go in the garbage.  If you keep your polishes closed tight and out of sunlight, they should last about 1-2 years.
  • Brushes & Sponges- To get the most out of your brushes and sponges (and prevent breakouts and irritation), wash your them regularly.  Sponges, lip brushes, and eyeliner brushes should be washed with a little shampoo and warm water every week, while blush, powder, and eyeshadow brushes should be washed once or twice per month.
If you have items that are older than their suggested shelf life, or if they smell off, it's time to say goodbye! Also, there is no point in keeping makeup around that no longer goes on smoothly, that has changed color, or that you simply don't use. While I like to mix things up and try new looks, I also make it a point to go through my collection every few months and get rid of any items that are too old or simply unwanted.

To get the most out of your makeup, make sure to store it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Also, always be sure to wash your hands before applying makeup, and never use your cosmetics on broken skin (you don't want bacteria getting in, nor do you want to redistribute bacteria from broken skin the next time you use your makeup). Finally, if you use all natural makeup, beware that these products do have shorter shelf lives than suggested above because they lack the preservatives found in other types of cosmetics.

If you have a question you would like me to answer regarding beauty, health, or fashion, leave a comment or send an email to I love to hear from you and am always happy to give advice to my wonderful readers!


  1. Awesome post, darling!
    Such important info. -- there are some mascaras and such that I definitely need to retire!

    Thanks for the mention ;)


  2. I have to do this, I have such a hard time- only getting rid of beauty products

  3. Thanks for the reminder. I do have to go through my stuff and discard. The problem is since I do not wear much make up ... i always feel bad about throwing it away!

    from ©

  4. Tanvi,

    I know what you mean! I definitely feel bad about throwing away shades that I don't wear very often, but I suppose it's better than having a break out. I wish mascara lasted longer especially, because I don't always use the same one everyday!

  5. great suggestions. since i don't wear a lot of make-up, i should certainly think about getting rid of items that have just beeing hanging-out in my drawer! sad though...

  6. Thank goodness you can keep lipstick that long because I'm terrible about throwing it away!

  7. Great advice! I too also hate parting with my mascara so soon! lol