Why mascaras are a complete waste of money

I have a couple of mascaras in my stash and all of them are at least a year old! *GASP* Effectively, I have no mascara to use because industry experts recommend replacing mascara every three months. But the thing is, I hardly use mascara and so if I were to purchase a new one now, I will probably use it a few times only and then it’ll sit in my drawer and die a natural death because of being neglected and unloved!

Shelf life of eye-area cosmetics
You maybe interested to know that the shelf life for eye-area cosmetics is more limited than for other products.

“Because of repeated microbial exposure during use by the consumer and the risk of eye infections, some industry experts recommend replacing mascara 3 months after purchase. If mascara becomes dry, discard it. Do not add water or, even worse, saliva to moisten it, because that will introduce bacteria into the product. If you have an eye infection, consult a physician immediately, stop using all eye-area cosmetics, and discard those you were using when the infection occurred”. (Source: FDA)

I also learnt that we should never “pump” our mascaras because air pushes bacteria back into the tube.

Shelf life of other cosmetics
Below are guidelines for shelf life of cosmetics according to CBS News but note that these expiration dates are more like “rules of thumb,” and a product’s safety may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored. Take note of the product’s smell and consistency in texture.

Liquid Foundation: 3-6 months

Cream foundation: 4-6 months

Foundation in a bottle: 3-6 months

Concealer: 6-8 months

Powders: 1 year including pressed powder, eye-shadows, blush

Lip gloss & Lipstick: 1 year

Eye/Lip Pencils: 1 year

So going by this list, which cosmetics is a complete waste of money for you?


  1. Sherry says:

    wow I don’t know the expiration.

  2. chung says:

    It makes you wonder about all those makeup gurus who have a ton of makeup or those who like to collect… how sanitary are their collections?

  3. Soos says:

    Mascara is an every day must-have – on top of lash primer – for me. I seem to get a lot of mascara samplers, which run out before 3 months, so no problem. Eyeliners and lip pencils are all the type that need sharpening – again, no problem. The foundation I use is powder, so it’s obvious when it needs replacing – when you can see the bottom of the pan, so within 3 months. Concealers also run out quickly, so before 4 months, at least.

    It’s harder to say with lipsticks, but the original fragrance might change, and you could always shave those down, if necessary.

    Thanks for lots to think about! I think it depends on the formulations you choose.

  4. Hazel says:

    I make it a point to write in permanent ink on my product the month of expiration on the day that i open the item e.g. if i open a brand new wand of mascara today, i’ll write ‘mid aug’ on the wand. it’ll help me keep track of when i should throw out my products. i don’t wanna risk any infection or breakouts due to beauty products. they are supposed to make me beautiful not the other way round (“,)

  5. sesame says:

    Very short isn’t it?

  6. sesame says:

    I guess for those who collect, they won’t use so it’s okay. As for the makeup gurus, I believe most of them know about the expiration and very likely, they have more than enough to use and not worry about that too.

  7. sesame says:

    The only thing that I can use really quickly is foundation powder. That one always hit the pan. Other than that, others can take ages and I’ll have to replace.

  8. sesame says:

    I don’t really keep track of my cosmetics but I keep those I use on an almost daily basis in a bag so I have some mental idea how long I’ve been using them. I’m more diligent about marking my skincare items.

  9. pf1123 says:

    Wow…even though I use my powder foundation for 5 days a week, I can’t finish in 3 months. Concealer in 4 months, never!

  10. pf1123 says:

    I have quite a stash of cosmetic items. Not as much as the gurus but still sizeable. I keep rotating them and would take note of their condition. Most of them are powdered and I’ve used for more than a year. They don’t seem to change texture yet. So, didn’t throw them away.

    Perhaps I’m a slow user. Hahaha….but seriously, for simple OLs like me, who uses cosmetics for work purposes (light, simple and natural makeup) mainly and infrequent events, the product packed by manufacturers are quite huge to be finished in 1 yr.

    But I do bin my mascara before they run out because I believe that bacteria do gather there easily since its liquid. I think lip glosses should have similar expiry as the mascara, going by the same logic, isn’t it?

  11. sesame says:

    I think maybe 4 – 5 months for me? Cos they usually come in a small pan. Definitely within 6 months. Concealers are tough! That’s why I stop buying.

  12. sesame says:

    Lip glosses can expire under 6 months, depending on the formulation. They’ll smell weird…

    Anyway, I don’t buy so many cosmetics. I haven’t bought a makeup item in the past 3 – 6 months I believe. Unless I put on makeup like ICI paint, most will end up expiring!

  13. fwy says:

    I totally agreed with you on this point. Whether you use the mascaras you bought or not, they tend to dry up after a period of time. Moreever, my eye area is extremely delicate & sensitive. I remember getting eyelid infection after using eyeshadows alone for a couple of months. Any idea what is the shelf life for makeup base or BB creams?

  14. zhenling says:

    wow i have always thought that liquid and cream foundies last a year and powders much longer.

    i wonder what options there are for people like me. whom only put on make up on weekends =[

  15. Rinka says:

    ive known about makeup expiry dates for a while (especially the 3-4 months for mascara rule) but i still use mascaras that i bought last year, etc. i dont wear makeup everyday so i guess for me, it feels like a waste to throw something out so soon when ive only used it a few times…
    ive also never finished an eyeshadow palette… i guess im a really slow user lmao

  16. Lazeny says:

    I think most of us can pretty much tell if the product we’re using is going bad, just by looking, smelling and feeling the stuff on our face. I had to throw out at least 3 Coffret D’or lipsticks because they start smelling off. Then I had to discard a couple of cream eyeshadows because they look and feel off.

  17. sesame says:

    Since the makeup base and BB creams are liquid in texture, then it should be around 6 months.

    You had an eye infection just using eyeshadows? Then it’s really important to be cautious. Better to err on the safe side.

  18. sesame says:

    It depends on the storage too…some can last longer. The list given by CBS News is more like a guide. But I would give it around 6 – 8 months max.

    Not much options…for me, I just buy less of them.

  19. sesame says:

    I know what you mean…but it’s better to be careful with eye products…

  20. yay says:

    occasionally i do buy the mascaras only because it’s on sale… but i never finished using them in 3 months… i only applied for special occasional… it does pop the eyes… most of the time i got them for free when i buy other beauty products @ the department stores.. i’m feeling too cheap to throw them out even though it’s past 3 months already…

  21. sesame says:

    Smell is a good gauge but mascaras smell the same to me even 1 year later! So do my liquid concealers after a few years. I keep them but do not use. Lipstick and lip glosses are more telling because of the waxy smell going rancid.

  22. stella says:

    i only throw stuff out if they look/smell bad. i don’t use mascaras everyday too and since they’re capped most of the time with no daily exposure to the open air, i don’t see a problem throwing them out far later than the 3 months recommended; in fact, i think i throw out mascaras once in 6 months if not more, and i still use eye shadows 4-5 years old; no problems~ i think as long as you keep your makeup well, fairly airtight in a dry area, it’s fine

  23. sesame says:

    I like to retain my cosmetics too even if they’ve expired. ?

  24. sesame says:

    6 months should be okay for some pple but I guess it depends on how sensitive your eye area is. Some pple have sensitive eyes and are better being careful.

  25. pf1123 says:

    I don’t think I finished one within 6 months. ?

  26. pf1123 says:

    Why leh?

  27. pf1123 says:

    I think for liquid foundations and makeup bases, we should note if it is from a pump and not opened to expose to the air. Mine are and I think that helps to last longer.

  28. Dee says:

    Foundation is s waste of money for me. I purchased 2 and I’ve only use them a few times. I use drugstore mascaras so replacing them every 3-4 months isn’t so bad for me.

    I hear that if you don’t open certain products much, they tend to last a bit longer? Not sure how true that is though. Thanks for this article, I never knew that eye/lip pencils have an expiration date.

  29. Crystal says:

    Thanks for the update… I hate using beauty products that don’t have expiration dates on them…and only the batch codes!

  30. Gwen says:

    I feel exactly the same way about mascara. Also, I’m not sure it really enhances Asian eyes that much compared to say, eyeliners.

  31. Rennie says:

    Hahah. I don’t really keep track of the expiration dates of my makeup. Now to think of it, I really don’t use a lot except for concealer and the occasional eyeliner. Mascara to me is definitely not a necessity, I hate the uncomfortable feeling it has on my eyelashes and it’s a pain to take off. Its realtive short shelf life is just another reason not for me to use mascara. ?

  32. sesame says:

    Most of the time it’s because they are hardly used and I find it such a waste. I won’t use them but can’t bring myself to throw them away. Anyway, I don’t have a lot so I have space for them. Plus I maybe able to use them for photography. ?

  33. sesame says:

    Oh that’s a good point! If it’s a pump, probably can last a year or so.

  34. sesame says:

    Eye and lip pencils can last longer if they’re always sharpened. But I guess the CBS article quoted a period as eyes and lips are considered as sensitive areas.

    But you’re right, if the products aren’t open much, then chances of contamination are lower so the products can last longer.

  35. sesame says:

    Completely concur. Especially when the batch codes are alien to us!

  36. sesame says:

    I guess it does to an extent especially with all the fibre extensions and what nots. But some of these cause eye infection for some, even when they’re brand new.

  37. sesame says:

    It’s good not to need a lot of makeup. I would love to know my skin can go bare but unfortunately, I need some powder at the least.

  38. fwy says:

    Thanks for the reply. I once used a facial cleanser from an organic brand for more than 7 mths. However, the scent & texture of the product remains the same so I guess organic products should have longer shelf lives.

  39. astrorainfall @ beauty box says:

    Hmm, do you think these reports are a conspiracy by cosmetics companies to make women buy more?!

    Kidding… I think the liquidy stuff does go off within a year and it really is a good idea to replace them.

    For me, I use foundation and powder daily so I can use them up in a jiffy, but lipsticks and lipgloss I find hard to finish up before it’s wise to throw them out. I am just not the type of girl who re-applies and re-applies lip products throughout the day. Maybe one touch up max. lol!

  40. sesame says:

    Organic should have shorter shelf life cos they lack the commercial synthetics. But it depends on the packaging and how well you store. The one you have probably has a more stable formulation. I’ve tried some creams that can only last 3 – 4 months and they go rancid after that.

  41. sesame says:

    Well, your guess may be right. Obviously, giving a shorter expiry would make us buy more.

    But I would still think it’s better to be careful with something like mascara. I’ve had problems even with new ones. It could be the ingredients but they do hurt our eyes.

  42. Siew Ying says:

    I usually prefer buying powder cosmetics as they are mess-free and have longer lifespans (saving my money). I don’t use them often anyway, so I buy from inexpensive brands. I normally won’t throw out my cosmetics until at least one year later for liquids and creams(concealers and lipsticks) and powders around 2-3 years after opening. I tend to take note of manufacturing dates as freshly manufactured products can last a wee bit longer. I’ve never bought a mascara in my life as I think the short expiry makes it a waste of money. Plus, I wear glasses.

  43. sesame says:

    You haven’t bought a mascara? I haven’t bought a blush. ?

  44. s says:

    I disagree. I love mascara. My eyes look naked and smaller without it. My eyeshadow looks don’t look quite right without it. If I was to forgo mascara,I might as well run around naked! LOL!

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