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How to Make Your Makeup Last Longer & Extend Its Shelf Life

I’ll admit it: I love to splurge on makeup. I’ll eat rice and beans for a week if it means that I can drop the rest of my money on my favorite designer mascara. To me, the texture, wear, and results are worth the expense – but I also want to get every cent’s worth out of that shiny little tube.

Whether you purchase your makeup from a pricy department store or from a more affordable retailer, such as a drugstore, making your makeup last means saving serious money on your beauty budget. On your face or in your case, there are some tricks you can use so that you use less of your makeup and extend its life.

Making Your Makeup Last Longer

Cosmetic sales are a $13 billion dollar industry in the United States. The ads, the packaging, and even the scents are designed to make you want to try the latest shades and formulas. But if you’re the type of girl who sticks with the basic products, you might have them floating around your makeup case for months – or even years.

Did you know that most makeup has an expiration date? Using your cosmetics past their shelf life probably won’t hurt you or make you sick, but you might get lackluster results and poor wear. It pays to heed the recommended shelf life so you know when it’s time to say bye-bye to that old eyeshadow. If you’ve used the same eyeshadow since high school, it’s time to ditch it regardless.


I use so much mascara that I blast through a bottle every three months or so. And it’s a good thing, since mascara has the shortest shelf life of any cosmetic. This is because the same applicator touches your eyes over and over again, which makes mascara the most “germy” cosmetic.

Want to make your mascara last longer? Invest in clean mascara applicators from the beauty supply store. Use a new one for each application and you can extend your bottle’s shelf life for up to six months. Just make sure to toss the bottle if you notice a strange smell – spoiled mascara can smell like gasoline. If your mascara starts to dry out before the labeled expiration date, try adding a few drops of saline solution to the bottle. Shake it up, and the formula should re-moisten, giving you a few more days of dramatic lashes.

Mascara Shelf Life


Since eyeshadow comes in so many colors, textures, and styles, most women have stacks of palettes to choose from. But have you ever traveled with your eyeshadow or pressed powder? They can crack and fall out of their palettes, making for a huge mess and a waste of money.

Since powder shadows can last three to six months, you can revive your travel-damaged colors by pressing them back into their palettes, adding a few drops of rubbing alcohol, and pressing the powder into place with the back of a spoon. Good as new!


If you don’t have a good-quality foundation, your other applied cosmetics will not look their best, which is why you should replace it every 6 to 12 months. Want to know if your foundation has gone south? Look at it after it has settled for a few hours. If  the pigments and the oils have become separated, it needs to be tossed. Make your foundation last longer by swapping your fingers for a cosmetic sponge – the foundation will blend easier so you’ll use less product during each application.


If you feel like a complete zombie without your eyeliner, beware of germs. Since your eyeliner applicator touches the area around your eye, it can load up on germs, and you may be at risk to develop pink eye. Avoid lining the inner corners of your eyes, and keep your application to the eyelid instead.

To prevent germs from passing from one eyeliner container to the other, store them upright in a vase or other container, which keeps bacteria from gathering at the bottom of your makeup bag. A good eyeliner can last for up to a year – just keep tabs on the tip. An eyeliner has gone bad when it forms a film on the actual kohl, so toss it if it starts to turn white.

Nail Polish

Nail polish that is going stale usually gets thick and difficult to spread over your nails. Instead of tossing the bottle, you can add a few drops of acetone nail polish remover to the bottle and shake well to loosen it up. The polish remover helps to thin out the liquid, so you can get a few more applications out of each bottle.

Nail polishes can last for more than a year and aren’t bacteria hotbeds, but you’ll get less wear once the formula starts to separate or smell funny. It’s best to discard it once it starts to go bad. There are plenty of budget brands that give you color and wear on the cheap, so you needn’t hold onto bad polish.

Nail Polish Brands


If you feel naked without a bright burst of color on your lips, you know how important a long-wearing lipstick or gloss can be. Luckily, both last about a year in your makeup case, so feel free to apply and reapply as much as you want. Just watch out for signs that your lipstick is getting old, such as a strange smell, poor application texture, or an oily film at the top of the stick.

Make your lipstick last longer by keeping it out of hot, humid areas – the excess moisture can cause the pigments to break down. The fridge is a great place to keep it during humid summers.

Final Word

Whether you like to splurge on makeup or are more frugal when it comes to making purchases, everyone can benefit from longer-lasting makeup. But using old and outdated makeup isn’t smart – it can be dangerous or, at the very least, lead to a less-than-ideal look. By paying attention to bacteria and getting creative with broken, dried-out, and even empty bottles and products, you’ll save money on your personal care budget. You could save the extra cash – but I would probably spend it on a new pair of shoes.

What tips do you have for extending the life of cosmetics?

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.

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