Have You Been Using Expired Beauty Products this Whole Time? Here’s When to Toss Them

Updated: Apr. 22, 2021

Is it gross and germy now? How about now? Here's the timeline for when to clean or toss the key tools on your vanity.


Let go of your loofah every few weeks

We all have our beauty besties. Whether it’s a love connection with brushes or a match made in heaven with mascara, saying goodbye is never easy. But it’s important—especially when we’re talking about spoilage, expiration dates, or skin infections. One potential hotbed of bacteria is the loofah you use in the shower, which collects your dead skin cells and literally redeposits them—dirt, grime, and all—right back onto your body the next time you use it. Be prepared to replace that body sponge every few weeks, or sooner if it smells or changes color. Or skip the loofah entirely and just apply a cleanser with a chemical exfoliant, such as glycolic acid, using your fingers, as Anjali Butani, MD, cosmetic dermatologist and founder of ANJALI MD Skincare advised SELF. Here are other ways you could be showering wrong.


Mix up your mascara every three months

As much as you love your lengthening, feathering, dramatically lash-boosting mascara, you have only one pair of eyes and you can’t afford to lose them. That’s why you’ll need to chuck your mascara every three months, or face risks from contamination with bacteria and cold viruses. “Anything moist that’s touching wet parts of the body—eyes, lips, open skin—lasts a shorter period of time,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. A good rule to follow: If the product can’t be sterilized, toss it. These are the beauty products you should be storing in the fridge for maximum shelf-life.


Swap your beauty sponge every three to four months

“If these disposable sponges are not replaced every few months, or if there are any color changes, they could be a breeding ground for mold,” Dr. Zeichner says. Always wash and thoroughly dry your Beautyblender after each use to minimize the bacterial buildup that could cause breakouts. And definitely chuck the sponge sooner than three to four months if it starts to crack or crumble, or if you used it when you had a bad cold or an infection. These are the non-negotiable rules for keeping your beauty tools sanitary.


Re-up your eye cream every three months

Once you open a jar of any cosmetic product, the active ingredients are exposed to air and begin to break down. You’re also inviting contamination with every dip of your finger, which is probably not sterile even if you just washed it. Expect to switch out your eye cream every three months—unless it comes in a pump. Dr. Zeichner says pumps are a better option because they can last several months to years due to the lower likelihood of contracting bacteria. Here are more non-food items you didn’t know had expiration dates.


Turn over your toothbrush every three months

To keep up with your dental hygiene, you need your toothbrush to be in good working order. “When bristles are not standing straight anymore, they don’t clean as well, so you should throw it out,” says Dr. Zeichner. These are the other toothbrushing mistakes you’re probably making.


Kiss lip balm goodbye every six months to a year

Licensed esthetician Jennifer Aimi, LE, cautions lip balm lovers to part with their lip treatments every six months to a year, especially if they come in a pot that you dip your finger in (see eye cream). “Follow the instructions that come with the product,” Aimi urges, “and always resist the urge to share it—especially during cold season.” These are the lip balm hacks you’ll wish you’d known sooner.


Zap those zits for six months at a time

If your acne cream seems to be losing its a pimple-fighting power, it may be a sign to pop it in the wastebasket. Dr. Zeichner says that if the product is used past the expiration date, its active ingredients may not work as well. Here’s how to get rid of that acne for good.


Slather on that sunscreen for two years

Sunblock is not something you can take chances on, especially when you’re vacationing at the beach and there’s a real possibility of getting fried. Look to a sunscreen’s expiration date for guidance, or figure you’ll need to toss it two years after opening. But don’t abandon common sense. If a formula looks, smells, or feels different than when it was originally purchased, Dr. Zeichner says to dump it. Don’t fall for the sunscreen myths that make dermatologists cringe.


Give your eyelash curler two to three years

It’s a good idea to consider replacing an eyelash curler every two to three years, according to Aimi. And if the rubber part starts to crack or look old, replace that part sooner. The good news is that they’re sold separately. Don’t forget to wipe down the curler with rubbing alcohol between uses.


Spritz on perfume for two years (or more)

The longevity of a perfume will depend on how you care for it over time. “Keep the bottle out of heat, humidity, and sunlight,” Aimai says, “and don’t shake it, because that causes a chemical breakdown that can alter the scent quickly.” Expect to enjoy a fragrance for about two to three years, and obviously trash it sooner if the color changes or if it starts to smell a tad like vinegar (obviously you won’t want to wear that).


Clip and snip for under five years

Even nail clippers and scissors have a shelf life—and it’s two to four years. Of course, the lifespan of these beauty necessities depends on their quality and how often you use them, according to beauty experts behind the brand Japonesque. Definitely don’t use tweezers, clippers or scissors if they’re nicked, dented, misshapen, misaligned, or rusted.


Brush on forever

Go ahead and invest in your makeup brushes because they’ll last decades, as long as you clean them regularly. “With proper cleansing, drying flat versus standing up, and maintaining dry brush handles, brushes can last up to 20 years,” according to the Japonesque artists. Clean your blush brush, eye shadow brush, and eyebrow brush twice a month, and your lip brush once a week. All brushes can be deep cleansd according to their respective timelines with Japonesque Solid Brush Cleanser, or daily with Japonesque Waterless Brush Cleanser. Here’s how to clean makeup brushes so they last.