How Long Does Mascara Last?

beautiful young woman coating her eyelashes with mascara

How long does mascara last? Technically, mascara safely lasts 3-6 months. Any longer than that, you run the risk of getting an eye infection. Now, you may be thinking about that much-loved tube of mascara that you have had in your makeup bag for well over a year.

Maybe you did not use it very often, and you still have a good amount left. However, no matter how fantastic your eyelashes look after applying your tried-and-true mascara, it is not worth an eye infection. Moreover, it is definitely not worth risking lash loss!

There are a lot of reasons why mascara has such a limited shelf life compared to some other products, and in this article we will figure out just what those reasons are. So sit back, relax, and toss that expired mascara tube out.

How Long Is A Tube Of Mascara Supposed To Last?

A tube of mascara—no matter the size—lasts 3-6 months. To minimize risk of a bacterial eye infection, you should not be applying any mascara to your eyes that has been sitting in that neat little mascara tube for over 6 months.

Do yourself, and your eyes, a favor and replace that old tube with something newer. You and your eyes deserve the best quality makeup and old mascara definitely is not it.

How Long Does Mascara Last Once It’s Opened?

Once opened, the shelf life of mascara begins to tick away. All in all, it only lasts 3-6 months. It should be noted that if your tube of mascara remains unopened and you store it in a cool, dry place, then you can safely use it up to 3 years after purchasing (if it has not passed the expiration date).

That being said, after opening that tube, your mascara product is on a 6 month timer to be used. On another hand, you may very well find that you need to replace the mascara well before then. So, is mascara a waste of money? No, not if you use it up as you should.

How Long Does Mascara Last If Not Used Everyday?

Regardless of frequency of use, mascara only lasts as long as the recommended time range (3-6 months). Considering this, there are tons of applications in a single mascara tube and you may find you have quite a lot of product left without regular, daily application.

It is still strongly suggested that you throw out your old mascara tube no matter the amount of product remaining. If throwing out the tube doesn’t sit right with you, there are different approaches you can take to curb waste. 

For example, there are programs available that can recycle some old mascara tubes. There are quite a few locations that offer this, so do your research and figure out which ones are the best choice for you. Likewise, there are some brands like SOSHE that offer mascara refills.

Other noteworthy brands that have refillable mascara include Izzy, Kjaer Weis, and Tarte. Once you figure out what your preferred method of tube disposal is, you can wash and save the wand for future uses (brushing your eyelashes or eyebrows for example), or you can donate it to wildlife causes.

Does Mascara Really Expire?

Yes, mascara really does expire! While many will find out that their tubes run dry before anything else, other signs of expired mascara include:

  • Flakiness
  • Clumpiness
  • Eye irritation
  • Strange smell
  • Unusual texture

If you find yourself experiencing any of these with your mascara at any point in time, then you should dispose of it as soon as possible. Continuing to use expired mascara can lead to the development of eye infections. Furthermore, expired mascara can also risk increasing the sensitivity of your eyes during wear.

When Should You Throw Out Mascara?

Throw out mascara once you hit that 3-6 month range, or when the mascara begins to have an odd smell, unusual consistency, or begins to dry out. Under no circumstances should you keep mascara past the 6 month period. Moreso, if you have pink eye, you should not keep your current tube of mascara.

This is not to say that you had gotten the infection from the tube itself—conjunctivitis can be viral other than bacterial—but if you had been using it in the days leading up to the onset of symptoms, there is a possibility that the infection had transferred to the mascara during that time frame.

It is better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to cream and liquid makeup like mascara. If you have the slightest inkling that your mascara is starting to expire, or believe that it came in contact with a dirty surface, then I would recommend that you dispose of it. 

What Happens If You Use Expired Mascara?

You could get a serious eye infection if you use expired mascara. With every application of the mascara, air is pushed into the tube. Since the tube was once air tight, the introduction of air could make for a breeding ground of bacteria.

In fact, old makeup is one of the leading causes of pink eye (also known as conjunctivitis). This includes mascara that was not properly removed after wear, despite it being before the 3-6 month time frame. In addition to this, the bacteria within the mascara tube could lead to the development of a stye along your lash line.

If you have been using expired mascara and begin to develop symptoms of pink eye or symptoms of a growing stye, you should reach out to your preferred health care professional. When it comes to eye infections, they should be handled as quickly as possible.

How Do You Know If Your Mascara Is Bad?

You will know if your mascara is bad when there is a sudden change with the makeup. Application-wise, the mascara can appear to be clumpy and heavy, or it could be excessively flaky and dry.

Most of the time, this type of change with your mascara can lead to eye irritation and sensitivity. Meanwhile, the overall mascara product may seem to change. These changes to look out for are things akin to a change in smell or a shift in texture (this can be emphasized during application).

It is important to remember that these changes can progress over a long period of time and early signs of mascara going bad can be easy to miss. Professionals recommend checking on your makeup products regularly.

You should not keep makeup past their expiration date under any circumstances in case of any adverse reactions. Another tip is to keep makeup in a dry, cool and dark place. Moisture and sunlight can affect the ingredients of your makeup.

How Often Should You Replace Your Mascara?

Honestly, you should replace your mascara as often as you like! Just because you get rid of your previous mascara because it began to expire does not mean you have to replace it immediately. Your eyelashes may even thank you!

Similarly, you can easily toss out and replace your mascara anytime before the 3 month mark, or within a week of the 6 month mark. If it starts getting clumpy, toss it! You’re better off with a fresh new tube than one that has been open and starting to dry out.

Also, since mascara that is unopened can remain safe to use up to 3 years afterwards, you can stock up on your favorite mascara to have replacements ready to go should anything unforeseen happen with your current tube. The options for replacing your mascara are endless.

How Can I Extend The Life Of My Mascara?

Luckily for those of you looking to extend the life of your mascara, there are some steps you can take. Some of these life-extending tips can be done during the application process of your mascara, or be done after the fact.

For Steps During The Mascara Application

  • Close the tube securely
  • Avoid leaving open tubes on dirty surfaces
  • Do NOT pump the wand, instead scrape gently

For Follow-Up Steps

  • Add 2-4 drops of saline solution 
  • Rinse or soak in hot water
  • Avoid sharing mascara with friends

What Can I Do With Bad Mascara?

Unfortunately, sometimes mascara doesn’t have to be expired to be considered bad. The good news though is that bad mascara can be dealt with in a number of ways. Although there is no way you can change the formula of the mascara to better suit you, there are other uses for it. 

Some makeup enthusiasts have noted that while their mascara was not what they wanted for their eyelashes, it worked wonders for shading their eyebrows with a light application. Others have opted to let the mascara dry out so they could have a reason to get rid of it.

If a clumpy, thick formula is just what you ended up getting after cracking open a new mascara, then there is a beauty hack you can use to loosen it up a bit.

You should soak the mascara tube in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes, rotating it occasionally, before you apply the product. This method should result in a smoother result, however some formulas are just stubborn and are beyond the extra help. 

In the end, it is up to you when it comes down to what to do with bad mascara. You may keep it for future, ulterior uses, or you can just get rid of it.

Keep in mind that if you suspect that the mascara could be expired then you should not try to preserve the tube: Throw it out and find your preferred replacement.

Why Do My Eyelashes Clump Together When I Put Mascara On?

Eyelashes clump together when you put on mascara because of the product not yet fully drying prior to another coat being applied. When applying mascara, it is vital to let your product dry between coats to prevent flaky, cakey eyelashes. Also, your eyelashes could begin to clump after one too many coats.

Thinner eyelashes tend to require less product than others since they will not be able to hold as much weight, and let us face it: Mascara can be heavy. Another issue that can lead to clumpy eyelashes are wands that are in need of a good cleaning.

Expert dermatologists recommend cleaning your makeup brushes every 7-10 days, including your mascara wand. Make sure the wand is thoroughly dried before returning it to the tube, and your lashes should end up looking better than ever! 

Why Do I Look Worse With Mascara?

Some people may find that they may look worse with mascara. This is not an uncommon thing, with many people lamenting their appearance whenever they wear the product. 

Some people just don’t like the way that it looks on them, or they feel that it emphasizes flaws that they have. This is usually caused by their inexperience with the product, or a poor match for the color of their skin.

There are other reasons that you might be unhappy with your appearance when wearing mascara; you may have applied it poorly, or you may not have considered your eye shape.

As great as mascara is for accentuating the eyes, it can also make some people appear sleepy if there is a notable amount of fall-out beneath the eye.

Furthermore, heavy coatings can make some eyes appear smaller; this unwanted shrinking effect can be fixed by separating lashes and by curling the lashes prior to product application.

What Are The Negative Effects Of Mascara?

As great as mascara is, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. Negative effects of mascara are also not limited to the highly increased risk of eye infections. Mascara can cause allergic reactions. The unpleasant side effects of mascara include:

  • Watering eyes
  • Significant itching
  • Rashes under the eyes
  • Blemishes or inflammation

Moreover, with continuous use of mascara along with not thoroughly removing all of your makeup before bed, you run the risk of creating brittle eyelashes.

Eyelashes that have been dried-out and turned brittle from mascara can easily break. This, paired with mascara that could have expired—the results could prove to be disastrous.

The Lifespan Of Mascara: Final Thoughts

Taking all of this into consideration, mascara is a bacteria breeding ground after some time. To avoid any possibility of getting a bacterial eye infection, professionals recommend getting rid of your mascara after 3-6 months of use.

The time frame to look out for when it comes to the shelf life of your mascara begins immediately after opening. Otherwise, an unopened mascara can safely be used for up to 3 years after purchasing it.

Furthermore, there are signs to look out for that could indicate a mascara tube expiring before the 3 month period, including any unusual scent or texture change.

Again, at any suggestion that your makeup could be reaching the end of its shelf life you should promptly dispose of it. If you do not want to throw away your mascara tube, there are options to recycle it. Comparatively, there are also some companies that offer refills.

Considering you have determined your preferred method to dispose of your mascara tube, you also have choices to consider what to do with your mascara wand. What you do with bad mascara is entirely up to you, as you can very well find other uses for it.

Additionally, some people may find that mascara doesn’t look as good as they had hoped for them; depending on the issues, there are some steps that can instead be taken to address this!

More than anything, it is pivotal that mascara is disposed of within the suggested time frame. This can prevent the development of not only bacterial eye infections, but also eyelash damage.

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By Cierra Tolentino

Cierra Tolentino is a beauty writer at Kintegra Research. She loves keeping people up-to-date with the latest beauty trends in skincare, hair care, and makeup. Finding answers to tough questions is her thing. When she has free time you can find her chasing down a clumsy toddler and obsessively drinking tea.