How long will your make-up last? A product by product guide

How long will your make-up last? A product by product guide

It’s early and you’re getting ready for work in a desperate rush. Your hair might look amazing, but you're already running late, and now there’s just time to smear on some war paint before you dash out the door. But, in a way that only sod’s law will allow, you can’t find your mascara. Leaving the house without it is not an option. But there’s one thing that might save your face … the stash.

Most of us have “the bag”, the one where make-up goes to die: eyeshadows that we’ve had for the last two years but never used, lipsticks in colours that didn’t quite suit you but you can’t quite bear to throw out, maybe even a slightly crusty mascara you wouldn’t dare put near your eyes. On the days where we do dare to dip into the reject pile, it can be a lifesaver, but just how bad is it for our face? And how long ago should we have let them go?

Foundation and Concealer

Fortunately, your face base has a fairly long shelf life, lasting between six months and two years depending on the type, with pump versions lasting considerably longer than those in a pot. To be fair, if you can stretch either out to longer than six months, then you’re a better woman than me. You can spot the signs of expiration by looking for oil settling on the top and a thickening consistency, leaving you with a streaky and uneven finish. And chuck out the ones that didn’t suit your skin type now - you’re only ever going to regret dipping back into them.

A selection of make up products Credit: Pixabay


Unfortunately, your secret weapon is the one you should be hanging on to for the least amount of time. With everyday use, mascara should be changed every three months, although will last for six if you’re only using it here and there. Why the urgency? Because mascara harbours bacteria like nothing else, taking it from the world into our eyes and vice versa, and hibernating it in that little wet tube. Oh, and pumping it to get more out will actually have the opposite effect, drying it out even more quickly and jamming bacteria further in. Lovely. 

A close up of a mascara wand on a blue background Credit: Pixabay

Liquid eyeliner

Just as mascara gets wet and grimy, so too does liquid eyeliner. You wouldn’t let them double dip at a waxing salon, would you? Think of it in the same, if slightly safer, way and be sure to throw it out after three months or so. Hey, at least you can use it as an excuse to try a new brand; the search for the perfect (and annoyingly elusive) cat flick is only too real.

A tube of liquid eyeliner Credit: Pixabay

Pencil eyeliner

The good news is your eyeliner pencil should last considerably longer, due to the fact that you’re constantly sharpening it and therefore removing the lingering layer of bacteria. Still, look out for a layer of muck that just won’t budge and take it as a sign that it's too far gone. Even without this, it’s best to swap it for a new one every year or two, but keep your peepers extra clean by taking the time to clean the sharpener with rubbing alcohol regularly.

Purple, green and black eyeliner pencils Credit: Pixabay


Generally, powdered eyeshadows should be good to go for a couple of years, although wetter forms such as cream shadow will have a shorter expiration date, of around the six-month mark. In the same way you would with food, if it smells a bit funky, changes in consistency or becomes discoloured then it’s time to let it go.

An eyeshadow palette next to some makeup brushes Credit: Pexels

Eyebrow pencils

They say eyebrows can make or break a face - admit it, we all know someone we look at and just think “eeeech”. But there’s no point in spending money getting them plucked, waxed or threaded to perfection if you’re just going to ruin them with a dodgy pencil. Brow pencils can last up to two years and benefit from the same sharpening tricks as liquid eyeliner, but when they start messing up your power brows, it’s time to say goodbye.

A woman's face, focusing on her eyes and eyebrows Credit: Pixabay

Blush and Bronzer

You’ve probably got the message by now - powder lasts longer than cream - but after 18 months or so it’s still time to ditch the blush powder. In the meantime, look out for a hard surface developing on the product, which means that oil from your cheeks has transferred into the pot. The same goes for cream blush; keeping it for too long will not only spread bacteria, but cause it to develop a dull tinge, which is probably the opposite of the dewy, glowing look you were aiming for.

A hand holding bronzing powder Credit: Pixabay


Ahhhh, the one we’re all most guilty of keeping for too long, convincing ourselves that the deep wine shade we purchased on impulse will look great one day. Fortunately, lipsticks are so packed with so many preservatives that they can last between one and two years, although the quality does start to reduce. Watch out for a chalky and uneven finish or an odd scent, but keep them tip-top by giving them a wipe with a little rubbing alcohol once in a while.

A pile of lipsticks Credit: Snapstock

Lip gloss

That pesky wet tube effect makes an appearance again here, with lip gloss generally only lasting a maximum of a year or so. A funny smell, taste or a super sticky texture will likely be the first indication that it’s time for a refresh. Liquid lipstick may stay on your lips forever, but the same rule applies for it too. 

A woman has lipgloss applied Credit: Pexels


Well kept, make-up brushes can actually last a surprisingly long time, so always store brushes with the bristles up and don’t forget to clean your brushes regularly - 70 per cent of women admit to never doing this, despite the fact that they can spread bacteria and lead to breakouts. Unsurprisingly, bristles falling out and leaving a trail of hair over your face is a sign that it’s time to invest in a new collection.

A pot of makeup brushes Credit: Pexels

The truth is most of us have at least one thing in our make-up bag that’s been hanging around longer than our last boyfriend did. And just like that old boyfriend, keeping your mangy products around is doing you no favours, no matter how much you might love them. And the same may just go for your skincare products. Either way, the verdict is clear: now is the time to break up with your old make-up - and to flirt with that new brand or shade you’ve been secretly eyeing up.