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Holding on to that mascara? Here's how to know when it's time to throw away your makeup products

Image: Getty Images

We know it’s hard to let go, but sis, makeup wasn’t made to last forever. It’s time to brush up on when to keep or throw out those old favourites. 

Here's what you need to look out for when it comes to keeping or trashing your makeup products. 

Know your numbers: To be 100% sure when products are due to expire, look out for the icon of a tub with an open lid accompanied by a number and a capital M next to it, for example; 6M, 12M, 24M, 36M, on any product packaging. This indicates the number of months, from the date of opening, that the brand recommends the product will be at its optimal efficacy before it’s time to re-evaluate or, sadly, consider chucking it.

Start with a clean slate: Any expired makeup, empties or products you haven’t used in the last three to six months has to go on the chopping block. Separate products into “keep” and “trash” piles. Immediately trash any products in which the formulas have split, such as old foundations, are dried up or clumpy like mascara, or have a rancid smell. Don’t even try to save them as expired products can carry bacteria that can cause skin breakouts and eye infections. 

Examine your formulas: Liquid formulas are the most vulnerable to quick expiration, followed by creams and then powders as they have less oil and liquid content, which bacteria thrive in. As a rule of thumb, mascaras and liquid and gel eyeliners should be kept for three months, while oil-free foundation, lipsticks, and lip liners can keep for up to one year. Cream blushes, eyeshadows, and concealers should be in use for 12-18 months — 18 months for cream foundations. Lip gloss, powder blushes, bronzer, and eyeliner pencils should be kept between one and a half to two years.

Track and label: To quickly see and flag makeup due to expire, stick some printed labels (if you have a label maker) or create makeshift paper labels marking the date of purchase, if brand new, or mark the date at which that certain item needs to be used by or chucked.

This article first appeared in the 2021 August print edition of S Mag.