To Toss or Not to Toss


How do you know it’s time to toss out old makeup? In Angie Young’s case, it was when she learned that her favorite mascara was discontinued after holding on to it for more than three years.

We all do it – we hang on to that favorite color of lipstick, lip balm or blush brush. As you make a list of resolutions for 2004, don’t forget to add cleaning out your makeup bag to your list.

Makeup expires and you shouldn’t wait until your favorite mascara is out of circulation to replace it. But how do you know it’s “out the old and in with the new” time?

I found Ramy Gafni, a makeup artist with his own line of makeup (, who provided a commonsense guide to how and when to store, preserve and toss makeup.

Mascara has a life span of about three months. Once you open a tube of mascara and use it once, it will begin to develop bacteria, said Ramy. If you hate the idea of tossing out the mascara, like my friend Angie, you can always use a disposable brush. Disposable brushes should only be used once, he added, then tossed.

Other than mascara, said Ramy, lipstick, foundations, pencils, and powder products can last three to four years. Waxed-based makeup can last two to three years. He noted that it is important to store these products in a cool, dry place. “Keep makeup at room temperature and out of the sun,” he said.

While some people like to refrigerate makeup, it can actually cause makeup to turn bad. For instance, refrigerating lipstick will cause it to bead-up “like it starts to sweat- t hat’s a sign of spoilage,” said Ramy.

And even if you have the space in your refrigerator, you should only store fragrance, astringents or gel-based products there. Cream formulas should be kept at room temperature. If you live in a studio, chances are you have a dorm-sized refrigerator, so you might want to save the space for that pitcher of filtered water.

Rule of Thumb
As a rule for any cosmetic,” said Ramy, “any time it starts to smell bad or ingredients look like they are separating, that means they’ve gone bad.”

For instance, self-tanners last two to three years, “MAX.” Tanners generally have an expiration date. Most tanners smell bad to begin with, so in this case, “it will smell REALLY bad and it simply will not work.” Lipsticks will also smell when they go bad, even if they have fragrance added to them.

Aside from odor and consistency, there are other signs that a product has expired. Eye and lip pencils will become hard and dried up. “If you don’t get the color payoff that you’ve had in the past,” said Ramy, toss them.

If powder products, such as pressed powder, eye shadows and blushes, don’t give you an even application or if they are crumbly, toss them. When the bristles on brushes start to fray, toss them too.

Prolonging Life
But wait! There is hope for some products. You can extend the life of brushes—it just takes some tender-loving care. Makeup brushes can be cleaned, and can last a long time if you take proper care of them. Like mascara brushes, bacteria forms on all makeup brushes. Synthetic and natural fiber brushes, often made with squirrel or sable, can be cleaned with a gentle shampoo or cosmetics brush cleanser, then left to air dry.

Powder puffs can also be washed with hand soap or cleanser. “If you are in a pinch, use rubbing alcohol or a conditioning shampoo,” said Ramy.

A makeup artists’ trick for your favorite lipstick scoop it out and put it in a pillbox. If you’re down to the last drops of your foundation, just add a small amount of moisturizer to get that last usage of it.

When All Else Fails
And if you still don’t know if it should stay or go, apply Ramy’s handy clothing rule to your makeup. “Realistically, if you haven’t worn it in over three months, toss it.”

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