In my bathroom, I have two cabinet drawers overflowing with old makeup: glitter eye shadow from my high school prom, vibrant shades of lip gloss that I keep promising myself I’ll toss, and bronzers that have turned mostly into powdery dust. My motto has always been “waste not, want not” (after all, who knows when I’ll need those fake eyelashes again?), but it’s important to remember that makeup can expire and collect bacteria over time.

So, how can you tell when your makeup has expired, and how dangerous is it to use expired products? Here’s what you need to know.

Does Makeup Expire?

Yes, makeup does expire, often sooner than you might expect. Here’s a guide to the shelf life of common makeup products:

  • Foundation: 1 year
  • Cream blush: 1 year
  • Cream bronzer/contour: 1 year
  • Powder blush: 2 years
  • Powder bronzer: 2 years
  • Eyebrow gel: 18 months
  • Eyeshadow: 1 year
  • Eyeliner pencil: 2 years
  • Liquid eyeliner: 3-6 months
  • Mascara: 3-6 months
  • Lip balm: 1-3 years
  • Lip gloss: 12-18 months
  • Lipstick: 12-18 months
  • Nail polish: 2 years

How To Tell If Your Makeup Is Expired

First, check for an expiration date. Unlike the milk or eggs in your fridge, cosmetics aren’t required to have one. According to Koestline, “For cosmetics, there are no FDA requirements on labeling expiration dates. Some brands add expiration dates for consumer safety and liability issues, but most brands don’t because they don’t have to.”

To add to the confusion, the date on your mascara might be a PAO (Period After Opening) date instead of an expiration date.

Even without a clear expiration date, you can rely on your senses and a bit of common sense to determine if your makeup is expired. Look for changes in texture, color, off odors, and any separation of the product, as Koestline suggests. Additionally, if eye products are causing irritation or watering, it’s a sign they need to be discarded.

Should You Toss Expired Products?

While you might not notice immediate issues from using old products, it’s not advisable to use expired cosmetics. Koestline explains, “Expired skin care can not only cause sensitization or allergic reactions but also major infections if there is microbial growth in it.”

Expired products lose effectiveness, may pill, and lose pigment. If your expired makeup contains active ingredients, like sunscreen in some foundations, you risk sunburn and rash.

Studies have found salmonella, E. coli, and other pathogens on old sponges, expired lipstick, and mascara, potentially leading to skin and eye infections. Since our skin naturally harbors bacteria, products like lipsticks and mascara that come in contact with it should be discarded after three to six months, according to Koestline.

How to Preserve Your Makeup

Store Properly: Keep your makeup in a cool, dark place to maximize its lifespan. The bathroom might not be ideal due to heat from showers, which can affect preservatives and alter texture.

Pay Attention to Packaging: According to Koestline, packaging plays a significant role in a product’s shelf life. She notes, “Exposure to light, air, and moisture can shorten a product’s shelf life. Airless containers generally extend the lifespan of products more effectively than jars.”