There’s no shame in hanging onto your favorite (or not-so-favorite) beauty products. At some point, we’ve all splurged on a promising face cream or been seduced by a lipstick far outside our comfort zone, but allowing products to become a breeding ground for bacteria and then using them on your face and body is simply not a good idea.

Whether you’re trying to stretch a beloved product or you’re rediscovering forgotten treasures buried in the back of your makeup drawer, the question remains…

How do you know when a product has got to go if it doesn’t come with an expiration date?

Here are a few guidelines and tips to help you decide which items you need to toss.



Most color cosmetics can last for years, but that doesn’t mean you should keep them for that long. Bacteria can build up, increasing the chance for contamination and infection, especially when it comes to your eyes (eek). Here are a few simple rules to live by to minimize the risk and keep your skin looking healthy…

  • Powder makeup (blush, eye shadow, bronzing powder) = Three years max
  • Cream blush or cheek stain = Up to one year
  • Liquid or cream foundation = Six months to a year
  • Lipstick and gloss = Two to three years
  • Eyeliners (liquid, pencil) = Four months
  • Mascara = No more than three months[/column]


If any of your products change in terms of performance, texture, color or scent, it’s time to toss it out—regardless of how long you’ve had it or how long you think it should last.



Sunscreen, anti-acne treatments and prescription products come with expiration dates, but what about moisturizers, cleansers, serums and other basic components of your skin-care routine? Those types of products typically have a “best used by” date, also known as the period after opening, or PAO. You often can find the PAO symbol on the back of the packaging, and its number indicates how many months the product should last once you’ve opened it.

In general, most skin-care products are good for six months to one year after opening, but longevity also depends on the packaging and the formula. Because many active ingredients and antioxidants begin to lose their effectiveness once they are exposed to air and light, a delivery system that properly preserves ingredients by guarding against germs and environmental degradation often can be as exciting as the product itself.

Whenever possible, shop for beauty items that protect the benefits of their active ingredients by utilizing product-appropriate packaging, such as an air-tight pump or applicator.”

8 Tips to make your products last LONGER:

  1. Wash your hands before using products.
  2. Close lids securely after each use. Use single-dose, sample-sized products  immediately.
  3. Don’t expose products to extreme changes in temperature.
  4. Write the date you opened a product directly on the product packaging (use a permanent marker). Remember your “best used by” date starts the moment you open a product.
  5. If you’ve had an eye infection, immediately toss out any eye products you’ve used.
  6. Don’t share your products with others. You are exposing your products to their germs.
  7. Clean your makeup bag at least once a month, either by hand or in the wash.
  8. Keep your makeup brushes and tools, such as lash curlers and nail clippers, clean. Otherwise, they can contaminate any product you use with them.
makeup brushes

Brush Cleaning 101:

  1. Wet the bristles in warm water.
  2. Gently massage in a mild shampoo or hand soap. (Tip: I prefer to use a bar of gentle soap so I can rub my brushes directly onto it.)
  3. Rinse out the lather, and gently squeeze out any excess water.
  4. Reshape and lay the brush(es) flat on a cloth to dry overnight.

Use one brush per product to avoid cross-contamination. And wash brushes weekly!”

Bottom line: Making a few simple changes to the way you think about products can mean the difference between healthy-looking skin or a bacteria bonanza. Trust me, if you don’t remember how old a beauty product is, then it’s simply time to toss it.