When Should You Replace Beauty Products?

Although most of us throw out milk when it’s past its prime and swap an out-of-season bag for a new style, when it comes to skin care and cosmetics, many of us hold onto products for far too long. To help you figure out when it’s time to replace beauty products —expired products can potentially loose their efficacy or become contaminated—check out our suggested dos and don’ts, as well as a convenient guide below.

DON’T store a product for a significant period of time before opening it. Depending on how and where it’s stored, the clock starts ticking on the shelf life of the product once it is purchased.

DON’T keep a product for longer than two years from the purchase date, whether opened or unopened. When a product is opened and air hits the formula, certain ingredients start to oxidize and degrade.

DO remember to keep your hands clean before applying anything. Each time you touch your makeup or skin care products, your hands transfer germs to them—and, subsequently, to your face.

DO store products in a cool, dry place, like your linen closet. Heat and humidity promote the growth of mold and yeast—a major reason the bathroom, though convenient, isn’t the most ideal place to store cosmetics.

DO check for expiration dates. Every one of our products notes the number of months that you can expect it to be safe for use. Look for a tiny period-after-opening (PAO) symbol of an open lid pot with a note like “12M,” which means the product’s lifespan is about 12 months from the time you open it if it’s been stored and used properly.


Skin Care

WHEN TO REPLACE: six months to one year

Products that contain water (or aloe) need to contain preservatives to prevent microbial growth. (Some companies claim not to use preservatives, even in water-based products, which is likely untrue.) Even with preservatives and especially without them, we recommend that you toss skin care products that are approaching a year on your shelf. The best way to dispose of unused product is to empty it into the garbage (not down the drain) and recycle the container.


WHEN TO REPLACE: one to two years

Most sunscreen products will have an expiration date printed on the packaging. Just remember that bringing your sunscreen along to the beach or pool, where it’s exposed to the sun for long periods of time, may shorten its shelf life.

Foundation and Concealer

WHEN TO REPLACE: six to 18 months

Toss liquid and cream formulas six months after opening, especially if you use your fingers to apply. Powder formulas last longer, around 18 months. If you notice your liquid foundation or concealer separating or changing color or your powder formula turning dry and chalky, ditch them.

Blush and Bronzer

WHEN TO REPLACE: one to two years

Cream formulas are past their prime after one year, and powder formulas, which contain zero or very little water, expire after two. If you use a brush to apply, make sure you clean it at least once a week. Oils from your face can cling to bristles and transfer to the product. (See our instructions for cleaning below.)

Eye Shadow

WHEN TO REPLACE: one to two years

Follow the same guidelines for blush and bronzer, but pay close attention to eye shadows since they come into daily contact with a mucus membrane—where there’s more opportunity for bacteria to contaminate the product. If you’ve had an eye infection, like pinkeye, germs may have contaminated your products before you even noticed any symptoms. You may want to be extra vigilant to avoid developing another infection.

Eyeliner and Brow Pencils

WHEN TO REPLACE: one to two years

Because you must regularly sharpen wax-based eyeliners and brow pencils—revealing a fresh, new surface every time—they tend to last longer. Though liquid eyeliners and mascara aren’t part of our cosmetics collection, if you have them, consider tossing after two to three months. Why? They contain water, which makes them more prone to bacteria, and even with preservation, this is a concern because of the extremely sensitive nature of the eye.

Lipstick, Lip Balm, and Lip Gloss

WHEN TO REPLACE: one to two years

Keep an eye on your lip gloss and any lip product in jars—both of which are exposed to the elements more often than lipstick in a tube. Avoid spreading bacteria by not sharing lipstick with your friends, as tempting as it may be to have them try your favorite shade.


WHEN TO REPLACE: two to five years

If cleaned regularly and stored properly—propped upright so bristles aren’t flattened or distorted—brushes can last for years. But once you notice bristles fraying or falling out, it’s time to invest in a new set. To wash, pour some Clean Everyday Shampoo into the palm of your hand. Dampen the brush and then rub it in the shampoo using circular motions. Rinse and repeat until the brush is clean. Finally, blot with a towel and leave it lying flat and uncovered to dry.

DISCLAIMER The information contained on Beautycounter’s website, in connection with a Beautycounter product or otherwise, is general information and does not constitute medical or health advice. None of Beautycounter’s products constitute nor should be considered medical products. Please consult a physician or other health care professional before using Beautycounter products if you have any allergies, known conditions, or doubts about the suitability of any product to your needs, body type, skin type, or other conditions. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.