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Throw That Old Make Up Away!

By HERWriter
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Ever wake up with an irritation on the outer corner of your eye, or worse, with swelling of your entire eyelid? If you have been using the same mascara for longer than 3 months, it may be the culprit.

Make up is a reservoir for all types of bacteria, fungi and even viruses, plus it is hard to know how long it is safe to keep cosmetics around. Some products can be safely used for a year or longer but items with wands or brushes that are constantly dipped and stored into a tube are most at risk for contamination.

How long you can keep make up depends on the type, but throw away anything that smells or separates or if you develop an infection while using it. Cosmetics do have preservatives which help extend their life but remember natural products may need to be discarded sooner. It goes without saying, never share make up with someone else, especially eye make up.

Mark the date on all newly opened products to help remember when you started using them by keeping a sharpie pen handy in your cosmetics bag.

How long they last:

● Mascara: 3 months. Pumping the brush can push bacteria farther into the tube.

● Liquid eye liner: 3-6 months
● Pencil eye liner: 2 years if you sharpen it regularly to keep it fresh

Eye shadow
● Cream: 12-18 months
● Powder: 2 years

● Concealer: 12-18 months with stick concealer lasting the longest.
● Oil-Free Foundation: 1 year if using a sponge, not fingers to apply
● Cream blush: 12-18 months
● Powder blush and bronzer: 2 years

Lip products
● Lipstick: 1-2 years, discard if the taste changes.
● Lip liner: 2 years
● Lip gloss: 18-24 months

● Nail polish: 1 year

Now that you know how often cosmetics need to be discarded, it is time to think about how best to dispose of all these expired products. Some towns will allow you to toss your old cosmetics in their recycling bins because the containers are usually made out of plastic #5 or glass.

The other alternative is to check at the cosmetics counter, if you bought your make up in a department store, and see if they have a recycling program. According to Earth911.com, Origins, M.A.C. and Aveda all have recycling programs.

I contacted Clinique, which is indirectly connected to Origins, and they said that the Origins program will take any company’s empty cleaned out make up bottles for recycling. I checked at my local Origins counter and the woman there said they will even take old mascara containers (not washed out). www.origins.com/about/index.tmpl?page=recycle

It can be hard to part with a favorite lipstick or shadow but not too hard if you find yourself with repeated infections from using expired cosmetics. This is as good of a time as any to print out this list and go through that stash in the back of your make up drawer and make a clean sweep.



Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in women’s health care and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment3 Comments


I am not a big make up user either. I do wear contact lenses though and anyone with lenses should be extra careful to get rid of old eye make up to avoid problems.

September 15, 2009 - 4:06am

sounds like it's time to keep a sharpie in the bathroom. Put your own date on it.

September 14, 2009 - 4:20pm

I am guilty of keeping make up longer than I should. The good thing is that I hardly ever use anything other than a bit of eyeline (sometimes) and lip gloss. And those 2 never go bad because I actually use them.

I think a lot of women tend to forget when we bought this or could that be expired? It would be nice if manufacturer's had expiration dates on their items but sadly most make up goes bad after you've opened it and used it. This is a good article to keep handy for those wondering how long each item lasts for.

My husband had a bad stye 2 weeks ago-- I wonder if he has been using my old make-up...Hmm...

Just Kidding. :-)

September 14, 2009 - 8:50am
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