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It’s an exciting adventure for some and a dreadful series of tasks for others — but regardless, it’s spring cleaning time again. While many might focus on dusting places that haven’t seen the light of day in a long time, folding away winter clothes, and cleaning out pantries, when was the last time you considered cleaning out your makeup drawer?

Especially at a time like the present when many of us haven’t been super preoccupied with our makeup products and tools since quarantines started happening — and we’ve stopped having as many places to go — it’s actually quite possible that some of the beauty-related things you’re holding onto might have expired and/or have been for some time now. With that in mind, makeup artist and beauty expert Saffron Hughes of FalseEyelashes.co.uk gave us the inside scoop on how long we should be holding onto seven of the most common makeup items in our drawers before we give them the bin.

Mascara

According to Hughes, mascara should be switched out every three months. Even though it might seem like a short time frame, the makeup artist emphasized that the risk of getting a bacterial infection is far greater with mascara than any other makeup product. Because the tubes can harbor bacteria — which can result in eye infections such as conjunctivitis, styes, or pink eye — it’s best to stick by this rule as a way to keep your eyes protected.

Relatedly, if you’re one of those beauty lovers that “pumps their mascara” to try and get more product out of it, you’re actually running the risk of introducing more air into the tube which forces in bacteria that can then become trapped. Since Hughes noted that the inside of your mascara tube is the perfect habitat for bacteria to survive and reproduce, the expert emphasized the importance of purchasing a new mascara every three months unless your product dries out, clumps, or changes in texture — which at that point should be replaced immediately.

Brow Gel & Eyeliner 

Anything that is dipped into a product, such as eyebrow and/or eyeliner gels, have a higher risk of bacterial contamination. Hughes noted that if the color of your brow products have changed, the gel has dried out, or they smell different — don’t take your chances using them because the expired products can lead to eye infections just like old mascara and cause annoying breakouts around your brows. The expert gave products like the aforementioned a longevity of six months after using them for the first time.

As an important distinction, eyebrow pencils can last two years and the reason for their longer life span is because they’re constantly being sharpened and kept sanitary. As a best practice when it comes to all eye products in general, Hughes emphasized always ensuring the cap is closed tightly to avoid them drying out.

Foundation 

According to the makeup artist, liquid foundations should last up to a year after the seal has been broken. As she explained, using an expired foundation can cause the product to oxidize and its pigments to change. Essentially, the product might appear a shade or two darker — or more orange — when applied onto the skin. As a side note, using expired foundation can also cause skin infections, rashes, and/or eczema flare-ups. Hughes says, you’ll know it might be time to switch out your liquid foundation when the product isn’t applying well anymore and it’s separated in the bottle.

Lastly, as a rule of thumb for powder foundations, the expert noted that if the product dries out and crumbles it’s lived past its prime and should no longer be used.

Lipstick

Surprisingly, Hughes says that lipsticks don’t hold much bacteria and can last up to two years. That being established, keep in mind that if the tubes are left opened and/or taken to the bathroom frequently for touch-ups, bacteria can come into contact with your skin and lips — something nobody likes the sounds of.

As a way to avoid those realities, the makeup artist suggested cleaning the top of your lipstick with a makeup wipe to prevent bacteria growth regularly. If you are sick or have a cold sore, she suggested you spray and sanitize your lipsticks with alcohol after each use and letting them dry before covering them back up.

For liquid lipsticks, the lifespan is cut in half compared to that of regular ones as they only last around a year. The motion of dipping the wand in and out of the products can lead to more frequent bacteria contamination, so as a standard tip, if you notice any changes to the lipstick’s texture, smell, or if it dries out, it’s time to throw it away.

Sunscreen

As we all hopefully know, sunscreen should be part of your everyday regimen. If you’re using it as much as you typically should, you probably won’t have to worry about the expiration date of the product.

Still though, nobody’s perfect and unfortunately, many of us forget to apply sunscreen daily. Subsequently, we’re often left with old bottles of the stuff lying around from previous purchases and/or vacations. Hughes specified that if the bottle is unopened and kept in a cool area, sunscreen can last around three years. That being said, if the product has been opened or kept in a warm area, it’s best to throw it out after one year. The makeup artist shared that the easiest way to tell if your sunscreen has expired is to check if the formula has separated — or if there are any changes to its color. Since expired sunscreen has a significantly reduced SPF efficiency anyways, you’re better off just investing in a new bottle altogether.

False Eyelashes

Who doesn’t always have a collection of wispies sitting somewhere in their makeup collection? As Hughes noted, it’s easy to subconsciously keep collecting lashes in different designs, styles, and lengths. According to her, if you store them in a cool, dry place and don’t open them until you plan on using them, lashes can last up to four years.

Once you wear your lashes, cleaning and drying them in between uses prevents bacteria from growing. If they don’t stay on or if they have clumps of mascara attached, Hughes said that it’s time to let them go. If you don’t, the makeup expert noted that they can acquire dirt and debris which can cause eye infections. Relatedly, the expiration date for your falsies will be different from the expiration date of your lash adhesive — and the latter typically has a maximum lifespan of only three months.

Makeup Brushes

Makeup brushes have a longer life span because we can wash them — and according to Hughes, we should be doing so once a week. Based on that timeframe, brushes have the ability to last five years if they’re regularly sanitized. Hughes noted that the deep clean of brushes helps avoid a build-up of bacteria which often causes acne and skin irritation. As she encouraged, if you wash the brushes “as you go” the task will become less and less of a chore.

Finally, Hughes emphasized always remembering to dry your brushes with the bristles pointing down so that the water doesn’t seep into the brush and loosen the tool up over time.

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