The Shelf Life: A Guide to Letting Go

When it comes to beauty products, one thing we’ve all been guilty of is keeping a product (or many products) for far beyond their expiration date, or “shelf life”. There are many reasons why we feel compelled to keep products–they were expensive, you haven’t used it up yet, and of course the ever-nebulous “but one day I might need it” excuse. The truth is, nothing is completely immune to breakdown over time. Except, of course, the Twinkie.

When you think about all the fuss we put into makeup, and how much we splurge on the highest-quality makeup our money can buy, it should really make us think about grabbing that 9-month old mascara tube and placing its expired contents onto the nearest thing to our eyeballs. No?

So I’ve done a little research, determined to fight this problem which I happen to have personally (some would call it hoarding, I call it “my professional makeup collection” — and tend to use my beauty blog as the excuse). It occurred to me that I might not be alone in this habit, so I wanted to share what I’d found with you.


Powder, powder foundation, powder blush, powder eye shadows and bronzers

3 years

Eye Liners (Crayon Pencil)

2-3 years

Lipstick & Lip Liners

2 years

Lip Gloss

18 months

Concealer, Cream Foundations, and Cream Blush

12-18 months

Liquid Eye Liner

3 months


3 months

And remember, if you aren’t quite sure–toss it. If it smells rancid–toss it. Never use saliva to re-moisten products (it sounds obvious, but I’ve heard of people doing it). It’s always better to be safe and enjoy the thrill of picking up a new product, than to pick up an eye infection.

Oh, and if you’re ever in doubt, check the product itself. Chances are, it may have its own POA (period-after-use) recommendation. Ever wonder what the jar and the number meant? It’s the number of months after first opening that they recommend you toss the product.




Natural & Organic Products

Natural and organic products are typically preservative-free. This means you need to be even more careful, since although they are free of preservatives (alcohol, parabens, etc), it also means they are without armament against bacteria. Toss any fresh, natural, or organic product after 6 months,ย no exceptions.

Always store your products in a dry place, keeping in mind that this also means your bathroom might not be the driest place in the house, am I right? Also, remember to keep all product lids closed tightly. Keeping your makeup hygienic also means washing your brushes every two weeks with a nice mild brush cleaner or baby shampoo (I like Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, or Parian Spiritยฎ).

Don’t forget to RSVP for my meet-and-greet at the Origins in the Houston Galleria on August 22nd, from 6โ€”8pm! Click here for details and how to RSVP!

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  1. 08.14.2013 / 12:44 am

    Wow! This was an eye opening. I guess that means I should only hold onto the MAC lipstick I wore six years ago on my wedding day for sentimental reasons ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much for sharing. Looks like I have some cleaning up to do in my bathroom.

  2. 08.14.2013 / 5:32 am

    Another useful info from you. ๐Ÿ™‚ May I share the image in violate shades in my blog, too? ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks!

    • 08.15.2013 / 7:49 pm

      Thanks for loving it so much that you want to share it with your readers! You can share any images from my blog as long as you can download and host the image yourself, and please make sure the image is clickable to the blog post it comes from. Credit the image with the words Pretty Shiny Sparkly. Thanks for sharing and glad that you enjoy!

  3. 08.14.2013 / 5:32 am

    Another useful info from you. ๐Ÿ™‚ May I share the image in violate shades in my blog, too? ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks!
    By the way, I’m loving your new look! ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. Michi
    08.14.2013 / 7:52 am

    This is so helpful! I’ve never even bothered to look for an expiration date on my makeup because I get bored within three months or . . . I just continue using them in denial. I feel guilty now.. need to go and wash my makeup brushes!

    08.14.2013 / 9:56 am

    I never really go by any rules when it comes to makeup. If I haven’t used a product in a few months I usually toss it, especially a lipstick. Products that come in tubes that I don’t actually stick my fingers in I keep longer. I’ve been doing this for the past 37 yrs and probably will do it until I die, lol.

  6. 08.14.2013 / 10:54 am

    Powder foundation can last 3 years – wow that’s pretty cool to know actually.

  7. Lauren
    08.14.2013 / 1:27 pm

    This is AWESOME! I always have wondered about how long I can keep my cosmetic products before they need to be tossed. Eye makeup, I never hold on to for long due to eye infection risks, but as for some of the other product types, I was clueless. Thanks for the great info!!

    • BooBooNinja
      08.31.2013 / 4:35 am

      * It all grosses me out.

  8. Lauren
    08.14.2013 / 1:29 pm

    PS–I’m sure you may have done this at some point in the past, but if not…would you ever consider doing a post or vlog where you show us your entire makeup stash?! You must have some amazing storage area for organizing all of your various beauty products and I think it would be super fun to see! Sort of like a “what’s in my makeup bag” post on steroids!!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Dani
    08.14.2013 / 1:48 pm

    Uh oh…Looks like I need to toss a bunch of lipgloss! I just recently bought the Dior Airspray foundation, and they told me that one will last FOREVER since the contents are never exposed to air. I need to find more stuff like that!

  10. 08.14.2013 / 3:15 pm

    I’ve been contemplating buying new makeup lately, and you just convinced me to go forward with it. I don’t wear it that often, so it doesn’t occur to me to update very often.

    • 08.28.2013 / 9:30 pm

      great information! thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Elle
    08.14.2013 / 3:52 pm

    Thank you for the tip on the POA recommendation on products. Good to know!
    I also love the Blender Cleanser that comes with the Beauty Blender sponge for cleaning out makeup brushes. Does the trick quite nicely, and I really like the lavender scent.

  12. I SOOOO need to go through my old makeup! I’m really going to just get a trash bag and clear it because it’s true…it’s mostly rotten according to your chart and I haven’t used any of it since the last time I talked myself into keeping it! Makeup hoarding is a serious issue. LOL.

  13. 08.14.2013 / 5:53 pm

    Mascara is the only thing I really throw out regularly, the rest I’m no as concerned about.

  14. 08.14.2013 / 8:52 pm

    I have the biggest problem getting rid of my mascaras after 3 months! I keep them for much longer!

  15. 08.15.2013 / 6:37 pm

    I’m sooo guilty of keeping makeup past the expiration! ๐Ÿ™

  16. 08.15.2013 / 11:49 pm

    Whew! I have a bunch of eyeliner and one lipstick to get rid of! But at least I’ll be clean and safe from germs.

  17. 08.16.2013 / 8:37 am

    I knew mascara didn’t last long, but I wasn’t aware of how long the powders would last. Definitely can save some money now!

  18. kellybeanmckinney
    08.16.2013 / 6:48 pm

    Oh no, I’m not going to have any make-up left, I hope Ulta has a good coupon out…

  19. 08.16.2013 / 8:40 pm

    This is excellent! Thanks so much for posting. I always see different numbers, so I tend to do a haul about every year just to be safe. But I never knew that about the backs of the labels!! SUCH a great tip! I’m totally going to go check everything I own. I’m sure I have some scary old stuff hiding in there somewhere… haha ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. 08.18.2013 / 2:47 am

    Good to know! I had no idea. more reason to use up my make up more regularly and it seems I need some tossing out to do!
    Ms Dee Kay

  21. 08.18.2013 / 6:21 pm

    I completely and absolutely with you Kristina ๐Ÿ™‚ I think that I have a shelf full of expired products.

  22. BooBooNinja
    08.31.2013 / 4:35 am

    I’m surprised lipgloss doesn’t go off sooner. I think about the double-dipping, the gooeyness, the proximity to a mucous membrane… It’s all to gross me out! ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. 09.06.2013 / 4:38 pm

    Wow! Great post. I’m gonna follow this advice and perhaps be able to throw out some of the old make up.

  24. 09.06.2013 / 9:09 pm

    I often forget makeup has a shelf life…. thanks for the reminder!

  25. 09.10.2013 / 10:17 pm

    Thanks for this handy chart! I never knew that’s what those symbols meant or how long things were good for… So handy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. 09.11.2013 / 4:52 pm

    great post; I knew about mascara (know doesn’t always mean do anything about it though!) but not the others, thanks for sharing the knowledge ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. 09.11.2013 / 5:06 pm

    These are good tips. When in doubt throw it out, as with food in the refrigerator.I will look for the little icon that suggests how long to keep makeup after opening it.

  28. 09.11.2013 / 6:30 pm

    I have blush that is about 18 years old. What is the danger in using it? (I still do use it whenever I wear makeup a few times a year.)
    I understand getting rid of things that go on my eyes or mouth or are liquid- but what will happen if I use an ‘expired’ dry product on my cheeks?

    • 09.11.2013 / 5:22 pm

      Ah, so good to know! Thank you!

  29. 09.11.2013 / 7:04 pm

    I’ve been living in denial. It’s time to let go… Thanks for the great info! xo

    • 08.14.2013 / 5:18 pm

      Oh boy! I’ve definitely broken the rule on powder eye shadows! Whoops!

  30. 09.12.2013 / 9:40 am

    Really usefull ! Thank u ! ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. 09.12.2013 / 2:00 pm

    I’ve never realised that this in fact is so important! From now on I’ll know to replace my mascara by a new one every 3 months! Thanks so much for sharing this info!

    • Edna
      08.14.2013 / 1:15 pm

      Thank you for the information and advices ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. 09.13.2013 / 9:02 am

    hanks for the info. I once saw a documentary that talked about this issue, and some false beliefs about these issues. Very useful!

  33. 09.13.2013 / 2:25 pm

    This was certainly very helpful! I’m terrible with throwing out makeup, I’m insanely sentimental, and I use the whole “But I’m a beauty blogger” excuse all the time. Thanks for the great post!
    Emily xoxo

  34. Nuria
    09.13.2013 / 3:30 pm

    It’s amazing what we can “forget” for the sake of our collection. While reading your post I was mentally checking my collection and I realized most of it I will not be able to finish before it expires. This may not prevent me of buying new and unnecessary items, but pushing me to use my stuff more often instead of just special occasions^^.

  35. 09.13.2013 / 4:54 pm

    Such a good post.I am definitely guilty of keeping things past their use by date, especially if they are special edition or discontinued!

  36. Momo
    09.13.2013 / 9:38 pm

    Mascara is good for 6 months according to the “open lid” label, but most of us will use it up well before the 6-month mark is up. Powder products properly cared for lasts forever! DON’T throw out you blush that borders on 2 or 3 years, if you have taken care of it – used clean tools, never store makeup in your damp/bacteria-filled bathroom etc -there’s no reason it shouldn’t last you longer! Clean your tools, wash your hands before applying makeup and do not store makeup in the bathroom and you’ve got a good chance of prolonging the shelf-life of most makeup items.

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