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How to Disinfect Old Makeup

various types of makeup displayed on table
Mikhail_Kayl/Shutterstock

You’re cleaning out your makeup drawer when you discover some pretty palettes you forgot you ever had. You don’t want to get rid of them, but you’ve also had them for more than a few years. Are they still safe to wear?

Most experts agree that makeup goes bad in a matter of years (sometimes months), depending on the formula. That’s because bacteria starts to grow in all products after enough time, and the formulas will gradually break down.

However, if you’re not ready to part with your products just yet, there are some tricks you can try. Read on to learn how to disinfect your old makeup and extend its shelf life!

First: Examine Your Cosmetics

Before you disinfect your makeup, take a close look and decide if you can salvage it.

If the makeup still looks as good as new, it’s probably worth disinfecting. But if the color, smell, or texture of a product has changed, you should get rid of it. These are signs that your products are expired, and nothing is going to fix that.

Important: Keep in mind that these disinfecting tips can help clean things up, but they can’t get rid of bacteria completely. It’s always safest to buy new products, and you should never share makeup (especially eye products) with others, no matter what. And don’t even try to disinfect mascara—replace it at least every few months for the health of your eyes.

That said, if you have some cosmetics that are just a little past their prime and still look fine, you might save some money by disinfecting them before you toss them. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

Powders

Powder cosmetics, such as eyeshadows, are one of the easiest things to disinfect.

First, take off the top layer of powder gently with a tissue, since that’s where most of the grime will have collected. Then, give the whole thing a spray with rubbing alcohol, and set it out until it’s dry.

You can also use this tip to repair a broken pressed-powder palette. Put the pieces back in place, spray them thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, and they should stick together again once dry.

Lipsticks

You can clean your lipsticks in much the same way you clean your powders. Use a tissue to wipe the top layer away, then dip the exposed end of the lipstick in rubbing alcohol. Keep it in for about 30 seconds, then let it dry.

However, keep in mind that lipstick will go bad faster than powder, thanks to its high oil content.

Liquids

Liquid cosmetics (like foundation) are harder to clean up and go bad sooner since moist environments harbor more bacteria than dry ones do. However, you can at least clean the cap, nozzle, and outer parts of a bottle using a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol.

To keep your liquid products longer, try investing in a makeup spatula to get the product out, instead of using your fingers. This reduces contamination—plus, it helps you get the last drops out of an old makeup bottle.

Pencils

You can either wipe off the top layer of a pencil with a tissue or sharpen it away. Then, spray the exposed part with rubbing alcohol or dip it inside the alcohol, as you did with your lipstick. Make sure it’s completely dry before using it.

Tools

To sanitize your tools, like sharpeners and eyelash curlers, place them in a bowl of rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, then wipe them off with a clean cloth.

Unlike makeup, these tools can last a very long time with proper care and cleaning. Change out the pads on your eyelash curlers every few months, but clean them with rubbing alcohol in between replacements.

Don’t forget to clean your makeup brushes regularly, too. Buy a makeup brush cleanser or use a gentle soap.

Finally, always use clean hands when you’re going to touch your makeup (and your face). With these cleaning tips, plus regularly replacing items that are too old, you can avoid infections, breakouts, and more while still using your favorite products.  

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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