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Shelf Lives: How Long Can You Keep Makeup?

Get the scoop on lipstick, eyeshadow, foundation & more

Every woman I know has a pile of makeup in her drawer that she 'sometimes' uses. Translation: Never uses, but keeps just in case she finally learns how to properly apply blue eyeshadow.

Beauty products do have a shelf life, however, & chances are that blue eyeshadow with the glimmery bits that you bought a couple years ago (for Halloween?) has long expired. Here's a quick guide on the shelf lives of typical beauty products. I've listed them in alphabetical order.
  • Concealer Up to 12 months.

  • Eye liner Should be sharpened regularly. Will last up to 3 years.

  • Eyeshadow Will also last up to 3 years. Extra tip: A dark eyeshadow can double as eyeliner, in fact, most makeup artists swear by eyeshadow used as eyeliner.

    You'll need a super-flat eyeliner brush for this (MAC & Aveda have the best brushes). Get the brush a little damp & dab in dark eyeshadow (black, brown or deep jewel-tones work great). Wiggle the brush into your lash line focusing on the space between your lashes, then sweep the color just above your lash line.


  • Foundation Check the ingredients: A water-based foundation will last up to 12 months, oil-based will last up to 18 months. You may find you need two different shades of foundation each year: One for summer when your skin is naturally darker & one for winter when you're lighter. Extra tip: If your water-based foundation dries out before it's expiry date, simply add a few drops of alcohol-free toner & shake to get rid of clumps. No need to do this to oil-based foundations. Because they contain oil, they will tend to separate. You have to shake anyway.

  • Lip liner Up to 3 years. Extra tip: Skip the push-up lipliners. They're expensive, tend to break & you never really know how much you have left until you run out. No need to spend money on lip liners, there's no secret to greatness for this product. Save your money for powders & foundation.

  • Lipstick Up to 4 years, but if it smells rancid, throw it out, it's spoiled. Extra tip: If you store lipstick in the refrigerator, it will last longer. Bonus tip: Want your lipstick to last longer during the day? Shade in lips with lip liner before applying lipstick.

  • Mascara This product expires the fastest: Throw out after 3 months. Extra tip: If you don't want your mascara to expire faster than its fresh date, don't pump the wand in & out, you're only exposing the product to drying air.

  • Nail Polish Up to 12 months, depending on the quality & how many times you take it on a plane (the cap always unscrews on me during flights, leaving my purse a -- fume-y -- mess!)

  • Powder Up to 2 years.

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