Many readers have noted that they stopped wearing makeup or switched to minimal beauty routines when they started working from home, so today we thought we’d explain how to preserve makeup you’re not using during these strange times — and how long to keep particular products.
If you’re still working remotely, have you been wearing makeup lately? Are you trying to preserve unused makeup during quarantine, or have you thrown away any products you’ve stopped using?
Psst: We’ve also discussed clothing you’ve stopped wearing during quarantine and the “Zoom shirt” for women, and we shared five makeup tutorials to up your eye makeup game (for example, when wearing a face mask).
Step One to Preserve Makeup You’re Not Using: Check the “Period After Opening” Guidelines
Unfortunately, some of the makeup that you opened before quarantine and haven’t used since may already be on its last legs. Many beauty products are labeled with a PAO symbol (“period after opening” — it’s #1 on this list of symbols; also pictured below) that tells you how long it’s safe to use — but I just did a spot check of some of my makeup and only saw it on a few. In general, changes in the appearance, texture, or smell of your makeup items are always warning signs, so take a close look before you bring something back into rotation.
If you keep things beyond their recommended shelf lives (especially products that involve double dipping during application), you may be risking skin and eye infections and allergic reactions — and the items won’t work as well, anyway. Sure, there are exceptions — and it’s the rare person that adheres to all the guidelines for getting rid of makeup, of course!
On average, though, here’s how long you can keep beauty products after you’ve opened them:
Mascara: 3 months
Eyeliner: Liquid liners, 3 months; cream liners, 6 months, pencils, 2 years
Eye Shadow: Cream shadows, 6 months; powder, 2 years
Lip Color: Lipstick, 12–18 months; lip gloss, 6–12 months; lip liner, 2 years
Foundation: Powder, 1–2 years; liquids/creams, 6–12 months
Blush and Bronzer: 18 months–2 years
Concealer: Powder or stick, 2 years; liquids, 1 year
Here are some further tips to preserve makeup you’re not using:
1. When you can, use brushes and other tools to apply makeup, not your fingers — and clean them regularly to cut down on bacterial growth. For the products that you apply with your fingertips, make sure to wash your hands first.
2. For concealers and eye shadows with doe-foot applicators, you can avoid transferring bacteria from your face back into the product by first applying them to the back of your hand and then to your face with your fingers or another brush. Disposable applicators are another option (although of course not ideal for the environment).
3. If your mascara is still within its shelf life but has gotten a bit dry, add a few drops of sterile saline solution and shake the tube. (In general, don’t pump the mascara wand inside the tube to try to get more product on your lashes — this will make the product dry out faster. Using a twisting motion is better.)
4. Don’t store your makeup in the bathroom — sure, it’s convenient, but it’s too hot and humid to properly maintain many beauty products. (Condensation can lead to mold, for one.) Keep makeup out of direct sunlight, too. Some items can benefit from fridge storage, such as those with retinol or vitamin C, but others don’t do well in cold temps, like oils, serums, and lipstick. StyleCaster and Harpers’ Bazaar both had good suggestions on where to store specific products. (Anyone out there splurge on a makeup fridge? If you’re looking for a low-energy, tiny makeup fridge like the one in the stock photo, Kat’s always loved this one.)
5. Kat’s random tip: She printed tiny labels for her makeup to note the “date received” as well as the “date opened,” since — even if unopened — it’s good to know which mascara sample or tube came in 2020 vs. 2019 vs. 2021.
How long do you keep beauty products? Do you have tips on how to preserve unused makeup during quarantine? Do you think you’ll return to your regular makeup routine if/when you return to the office?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / yulisitsa.
This seems excessive and wasteful to me…
Why? Seems like good, reasonable advice. It may be too time consuming for your life, but these are def the best practices.
“Preserving makeup” seems like overkill. Since I haven’t worn as much makeup as I did in the Before Times, the makeup I’m not using is sitting in a specific bathroom drawer. When it’s time, I’ll dip back into it. I cannot imagine inventorying my makeup in this manner, much less printing labels.
+1. Opting out of all of this is so freeing.
Yep. It’ll be a cold day in hell when I throw a perfectly good tube of mascara out because I bought it three months ago.
How old some of my makeup is probably a little scary..
I used to do this until a friend had a DISGUSTING eye infection caused by old mascara. Now I toss regularly.
The only product I’m very careful with is mascara (probably buy a fresh tube 2-3X/year, and I don’t use much). I have lipsticks that are probably older than my teenager.
I totally ignore the use-by guidelines on make up. I toss the foam applicators and use a good set of washable brushes and make sure those are really clean, and don’t worry about the rest of this.
That makeup fridge is especially crazy-making. Kat, I love ya but marketers see you coming.