The hidden dangers of keeping old makeup

Makeup bag file photo - KOIN

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A study of 4,000 women found the average number of makeup items they have at one time is 40.

When they move on to a different color or brand, they don’t throw away the old one. Some people buy it and hoard it, some are afraid to toss it in case they need it someday, or feel guilty about the cost of it.

Makeup can breed bacteria that can lead to acne, staph infections, E.Coli and other irritations. (KOIN)

What many makeup users might not know is what can happen if those products linger too long.

They can cause massive skin infections such as staph, E.coli and major rashes.

It’s not just the makeup, but what you use to apply it that are germ breeding grounds. Brushes and sponges should be washed at least every couple weeks to help avoid acne and infections.

Mascara is called one of the most dangerous makeup products when it comes to germs. Bacteria can multiply inside the tube and hurt your eyes.

Lovely Laban, a nurse practitioner with a Masters in nursing, told KOIN 6 News what can happen if you keep mascara too long. “Pink eye from E.Coli into the eye, stye formation. If you don’t throw mascara away every 3 months,” she said.

Water-based products tend to have more germs in less time — but powdered items can also have problems.

General makeup expiration 
-Mascara/Eyliner: 3-6 months
-Cream/Liquid foundations and concealers: 6-12 months
-Powder products: 2 years
-Lipstick/gloss: 1 year

“Once again, it’s moisture,” Laban said. “The product separates, you introduce bacteria into it from brushes if they’re not clean.”

There is no law that requires expiration dates on makeup, and you have to look close to find dates on containers that do have them. You might even need a magnifying glass to read it.

Some items will have a small jar symbol with a number in it, indicating how many months the product is good for. But not all items have that.There is also a general rule for when to get rid of products.

Store makeup in a closet or out of the bathroom to keep moisture out, and make a note of the expatriation dates.

“If you talk to them about staph infections and how severe it can cause scarring it usually scares people enough,” Laban said. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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