How long does mascara last?

How Long Does Mascara Last and When to Replace It?

Mascara, with its transformative powers, can elevate your look with just a few swipes. It’s that tiny tube in your makeup bag that packs a punch, giving your lashes the curl and volume they crave.

But while it’s a game-changer for many, there’s a question that often lingers: “How long does mascara last?”

Whether you’ve found that perfect mascara that gives your lashes the dreamy lift or you’re just curious about its shelf life, it’s essential to know when it’s time to part ways.

Dive into this guide to uncover the lifespan of your favorite mascara, learn the tell-tale signs of an expired tube, and grab some pro tips to keep it fresh for longer.

Does Mascara Expire?

Yes, it does, and more quickly than you might think. According to Allure, if you’re using mascara regularly, it should be replaced every three to six months.

The Mayo Clinic Health System also emphasizes that mascara and liquid eyeliners are generally safe to use for up to three months. Beyond this period, there’s an increased risk of bacterial contamination, especially with products applied near the eyes.

So, while mascara might seem like a small and simple makeup product, it’s essential to be vigilant about its shelf life for the sake of your eye health.

How Long Does Mascara Last After Opening?

Once opened, mascara has a shorter lifespan due to exposure to air and potential bacteria from the eye area. Both Allure and the Mayo Clinic Health System recommend replacing mascara every three to six months.

If the mascara undergoes any changes in texture, color, or smell, or if it’s been used after having an eye infection, it should be discarded even before the three to six month recommendation.

How Long Does Mascara Last Unopened?

Mascara can elevate your eyes to new heights, but if you’ve stashed away an unopened tube, you might wonder about its shelf life.

Even if sealed, mascara doesn’t last indefinitely. While the FDA doesn’t mandate specific expiration dates on cosmetics, most mascaras are good for 2-3 years from their manufacturing date. This can vary, especially with water-resistant types that may degrade faster.

If you’re unsure, check the manufacturing date on the packaging. But as a rule of thumb, if it’s been over two years, consider getting a fresh tube to ensure the best results and safety for your eyes.

Mascara TypeLifespan After OpeningLifespan Unopened
Regular Mascara3-6 months2-3 years from manufacturing date
Water-Resistant Mascara2-4 months1-2 years from manufacturing date
This table provides a general overview of the lifespan of regular and water-resistant mascaras, both after opening and when unopened.

How to Tell If Your Mascara Has Expired

Knowing when your mascara has reached its end is crucial, not just for achieving the best makeup results, but also for ensuring the health of your eyes. Here are some tell-tale signs that your mascara might have expired:

  1. Change in Texture: A fresh mascara should glide smoothly onto your lashes. If it becomes clumpy, dry, or too thick, it’s a clear indication that it’s past its prime.
  2. Odor Shift: Mascara has a distinct smell when fresh. If you notice an odd or sour scent different from when you first purchased it, it’s time to toss it out.
  3. Color Variation: If the deep black or brown of your mascara starts to fade or change, it’s a sign that the formula might be breaking down.
  4. Eye Irritation: If you experience itching, redness, or any other form of irritation after applying your mascara, it could be due to an expired formula or bacterial contamination.
  5. Separation of Ingredients: If the formula seems to have separated into different layers or if there’s an oily residue on top, it’s a sign that the mascara is no longer stable.

Always trust your instincts. If something feels off about your mascara, it’s better to be safe and replace it. Remember, mascara is applied close to your eyes, one of the most sensitive areas, so it’s essential to ensure the products you use are in the best condition.

Check the Expiry Date

Most cosmetics, including mascara, will have an expiration date printed on the packaging. However, deciphering this date can sometimes be tricky. Here’s how to navigate it:

  1. Packaging Symbols: Often, you’ll find a tiny image of an opened jar with a number on it, like “6M” or “12M”. This is the ‘period after opening’ (PAO) symbol, indicating the number of months the product remains effective after being opened.
  2. Printed Dates: Some mascaras will have a clear “Exp” or “Expires on” date, similar to what you’d find on food or medication. This date can often be located on the back of the bottle or the bottom of the jar.
  3. No Expiry Date? Surprisingly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t mandate manufacturers to specify an expiration date on cosmetic products. If you can’t find an expiration date, look for the manufacturing date on the packaging label. Most unopened mascara products remain effective for 2-3 years from this date. However, once opened, it’s best to use the product within a year. For products like sunscreens or acne formulas with active ingredients, always adhere to the expiration date listed on the packaging.
  4. DIY Tracking: “If the product doesn’t have a date or this symbol on the container, one-to-two years is a good rule of thumb for its shelf life,” says Dr. Rishi Chopra from Byrdie. He further suggests, “I always recommend clearly labeling your products as soon as they are opened with the date to make it easier to track how long they have been in your skincare lineup.”

What Can Affect the Shelf Life of Mascara?

The shelf life of mascara isn’t just determined by its manufacturing date or the expiration date printed on the packaging. Several external factors can influence how long your mascara remains effective and safe to use:

  • Storage Conditions: Mascara’s longevity can be compromised if it’s stored in places with fluctuating temperatures or high humidity. Always store your mascara in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Frequency of Use: Every time you pull out the wand and then put it back in, you’re introducing air and potential contaminants into the tube. The more frequently you use your mascara, the higher the chances of it drying out or becoming contaminated.
  • Mascara Formula: Different formulas have varied shelf lives. For instance, water-resistant formulas might break down sooner than their non-waterproof counterparts due to the specific ingredients used.
  • Contamination: Introducing bacteria or other contaminants into the mascara tube, either from your lashes or from using the mascara on multiple people, can significantly reduce its shelf life. Always ensure you’re the only one using your mascara and avoid “pumping” the wand, as this can introduce air and bacteria.
  • Packaging: The design and material of the mascara container can influence its shelf life. Some packaging materials might be more airtight than others, preserving the mascara’s quality for longer.
  • Addition of Other Products: Sometimes, people mix other products or substances, like water or oils, into their mascara to change its consistency or to try and extend its life. This can introduce contaminants and alter the mascara’s formula, affecting its shelf life.

Can You Use Expired Mascara?

While it might be a common misconception that expired makeup, including mascara, is safe to use, the reality is quite different. Here’s why using expired mascara is not a good idea:

  • Bacterial Growth: Once bacteria find their way into your mascara tube, they can multiply rapidly. Using such mascara can lead to eye infections or breakouts on the skin around the eyes.
  • Skin Reactions: As Amanda Logan, a nurse practitioner, mentions in the Mayo Clinic Health System article, “Your skin may react to product ingredients if they have reached their expiration date. This could lead to redness or irritation.”
  • Mold Growth: Over time, moisture can build up inside mascara containers, leading to mold growth. This mold can trigger skin breakouts or other irritations.
  • Change in Product Quality: Over time, the color of the mascara can change due to oxidation. For instance, a beige foundation might take on a slightly more orange hue. Additionally, if your mascara starts to separate into layers or the wand becomes dry, it’s a clear sign of expiration. Logan advises against adding water to your mascara to increase its moisture, as this can escalate the bacteria-producing capabilities.
  • Odd Smell: A change in the scent of your mascara is a clear indication of its expiration. If it smells different from when you first bought it, it’s time to discard it.

How to Properly Store Mascara for A Longer Shelf Life

Ensuring your mascara lasts as long as possible isn’t just about buying the right brand or formula; it’s also about how you store it.

Proper storage can significantly extend the life of your mascara, ensuring you get the most out of every tube. Here are some tips to help you store your mascara correctly:

  1. Cool, Dry Place: Heat and humidity can break down the mascara formula and encourage bacterial growth. Always store your mascara in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight or heat sources like radiators.
  2. Upright Position: Store your mascara standing upright. This ensures that the product is evenly distributed and prevents it from drying out at the bottom.
  3. Tightly Sealed: Always make sure the cap is screwed on tightly after every use. This prevents air from entering the tube, which can dry out the mascara and introduce contaminants.
  4. Avoid “Pumping” the Wand: While it might be tempting to pump the wand in and out to get more product, this action introduces air into the tube, which can dry out the mascara and promote bacterial growth.
  5. Clean the Wand: Occasionally, give the mascara wand a gentle cleaning with a tissue to remove any clumps or dried product. This ensures smooth application and reduces the chance of introducing contaminants back into the tube.
  6. Avoid Extreme Temperatures: If you’re traveling or live in an area with fluctuating temperatures, try to keep your mascara at a consistent temperature. Avoid leaving it in a hot car or near a window where it can get direct sunlight.
  7. No Sharing! Never share your mascara with anyone, even close friends or family. Sharing mascara can introduce new bacteria into the tube, increasing the risk of eye infections and reducing the product’s shelf life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s answer some of the most commonly asked questions about mascara lifespan.

How long is a tube of mascara supposed to last?

A tube of mascara typically lasts for about three to six months once opened, depending on the frequency of use and the specific product. However, if stored unopened and under proper conditions, it can last anywhere from two to three years from its manufacturing date.

Can I use mascara after 3 months?

Yes, you can use mascara after 3 months, but it’s essential to monitor any changes in its texture, smell, or performance. If you notice any signs of expiration, like clumping, drying, or an off-putting odor, it’s best to replace it. For optimal eye health, many experts recommend replacing mascara every three to six months.

Is it bad to leave mascara on for 3 days?

Yes, it’s not advisable to leave mascara on for extended periods, especially for 3 days. Leaving mascara on can lead to eyelash breakage, potential eye infections, and can clog the hair follicles on your eyelids, leading to styes or other irritations.

How often should I replace my mascara?

For the best results and to ensure eye safety, it’s recommended to replace your mascara every three to six months. If you use mascara daily, you might find yourself replacing it closer to the three-month mark, while occasional users might stretch it to six months. Always prioritize eye health and replace any mascara that shows signs of expiration or contamination.


Understanding “How Long Does Mascara Last” is more than just makeup know-how. It’s about ensuring the health of your eyes and getting the best results.

With the tips and insights shared, you’re now equipped to make the most of your mascara. Remember, when in doubt, it’s always safer to replace it. Your eyes will thank you!

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