It’s Time To Throw Away Your Expired Mascara

01.18.2023 — The Frenshe Editors

Be honest: how long have you had the products in your makeup bag? Realistically, most of us have kept things past their expiration date, and while you may have been lucky using old makeup in the past, it’s important to note that the Period After Use (PAO) recommendation exists for a reason.

The numbers inside the PAO symbol are usually found on the packaging, and indicate how long a product can be used after opening. That said, while some may still look good after that date, pay attention to whether or not it seems to have changed in color, texture, appearance, or smell–this is the best indication of whether or not something has expired, even if it may still be under that time period and technically considered safe to use.

Extending product use:

Mascara and other liquid eye products, in particular, have a very short shelf life. This is because of their potential for bacteria and serious, harmful side effects such as sties and eye infections. When in doubt, we highly recommend buying these in mini sizes. You’re less likely to waste money on leftover expired products and, because of the smaller packaging, it should help give you better control and make the application more stable.


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To ensure your makeup collection lasts as long as possible, avoid double dipping, or blowing on your brushes, and make sure you clean them regularly–every seven to ten days is ideal. And, of course, don’t share your products with other people unless they have their own, sanitized applicators!

Planning on going through your collection to clean it out soon? If you find unopened things that haven’t expired yet and don’t see yourself using, consider donating to Product Beauty Share or your local woman’s shelter.

What to do with expired makeup?

If you’re unfamiliar with the Wands For Wildlife project, we recommend reading up on what they do and donating your old mascara wands to their life-saving rehabilitation efforts. You can learn how to clean and pack old wands through their donation page, and they provide links to help you find a local wildlife rehab center you can give to instead if you’d prefer to make an impact in your local community.

As for the leftover packaging, check out Pact Collective. They have a helpful guide on their home page on what products can be sent to them, what should be recycled at home, and what can’t be recycled at all.

Lastly, if you feel bad throwing out all those beautiful pigments, consider using your expired makeup to make oil or watercolor paint, colorful glue, or even mixing it with clear nail polish. Not only do you get to repurpose those products, but may even find yourself picking up a new hobby along the way.

The Frenshe Editors