Even if you know better, it can be hard to throw out older makeup—whether it’s a high-end mascara or that perfect shade of lipstick. But when you start to think about bacteria that can build up when you use a product repeatedly for months or years (and who hasn’t been guilty of the later?) and the risk of irritation or infection, periodically replacing your makeup makes a lot more sense.
It’s still tough to part with a product you really like, even though you suspect it’s healthy lifespan may be up. So we’ve gathered some guidelines to help you know when it’s time to say goodbye. You’ll see that different types of cosmetics have varying ages when they’re considered risky, and it’s up to you to keep track of when you purchased or first opened and used a product. When in doubt examine your makeup for changes in color, smell, and texture, as these alterations can be a sign that the product might no longer be safe to use.
- Eye Shadow
Your eyes are particularly sensitive areas and can be more vulnerable to irritation and infection. It’s therefore a good idea to replace eye shadow about every three months. Powdered shadows are less inviting for bacteria than cream or liquid shadows, but because your eyes are mucous membranes and contain more bacteria than, say, your cheeks, be especially careful with products you use around them.
Like eye shadow, we apply eyeliner to the extra sensitive eye area, so similar precautions apply: exchange your old eyeliner for new about every three months. Definitely toss a liner at the first sigh of redness or itching.
That mascara you’ve been applying for the past 10 months? It has to go. These elegant cylinders may be the most menacing item in your cosmetic bag. Each time you use the wand on your lashes, which naturally contain bacteria, and place back into the tube, you’re adding more bacteria to the contents. Replenish your mascara every three to four months.
- Liquid Foundation
Foundation has a shelf life of up to one year when it’s stored away from heat. But you’ll want to keep it as clean as possible, especially if you’re prone to acne. This means keeping your fingers out of the jar or bottle and instead using a clean brush or sponge. Some foundations are powder based, but most are water based, which is very hospitable to bacteria.
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- Lip Gloss and Lipstick
Replace lip gloss after six months and lipstick after one year. Even in perfect health, your mouth carries bacteria!
Powders, such as blush and powder foundations, may have the longest lifespan of your cosmetics and can be used for up to two years. Just pay attention to their smell and color; if you notice any changes, it’s time for them to go.
- Makeup Brushes
Cosmetics are only as clean as the tools with which you apply them. And though your brushes don’t need to be replaced as often as makeup, they do require proper care. Keep brushes clean by wiping them with a dry paper towel or washcloth after every use and a deeper clean every two weeks (a gentle hair shampoo works well here). Also watch for bristles that are frayed or falling out—this means it’s time for an update. Store brushes where they can air out and not be crushed, namely upright in a glass or jar. Be especially careful with disposable makeup sponges, which should be used no more than twice.
- Wash Your Hands
Your hands are constantly picking up bacteria. So make sure you wash them before applying makeup, especially around your eyes.
- Don’t Share!
No matter how much you’d like to help out a friend asking to borrow a lipstick, avoid sharing makeup. Your friend may be completely healthy, but her bacteria is different from yours and could cause a problem is it makes it into your products.