As nice as it would be to have invincible makeup that lasts ’til the very last drop, all of your favorite beauty products have expiration dates. That means that after a certain time, you need to toss them, whether or not you’ve gotten every penny’s worth. (Sad, I know.)
But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to waste every tube of mascara that you can’t swipe on fast enough. There are actually some simple ways to give your beauty goods a longer, fuller life.
Sure, a lot of brands have little icons on the packaging—called the “period after time of opening” (PAO) label—that tell you the healthy lifespan.
But little things like how tightly you snap on the lid can mean the difference between a short-lived beauty fling and a product that’s in it for the long haul. (This handy infographic will let you know how to tell if it’s truly time to break up.)
To keep your natural makeup fresher for longer, follow these expert tips for using and storing your products:
1. Always close the lid.
Think of creamy products like markers. “If you don’t put a cap back on a marker, it dries out. That’s not the fault of the marker, it’s the fault of the user,” says Kristen Arnett, celebrity makeup artist and founder of GreenBeautyTeam.com. Exposure to oxygen dries out beauty products, and makes application feel crumbly and flaky—not cute.
2. Skip the wand.
“A trick all makeup artists I know use, is we take lipstick and lip gloss and first put it on [the back of] our hands—we never use the wand,” Arnett explains. It might seem crazy unnecessary, but think about it: if you’re never touching the applicator to your germy mouth, it’ll last much longer. “Part of the reason your products go bad is because there’s a bacteria party going on in there,” says Arnett. Just make sure your hands are clean.
More reading: 5 things you need to know about natural makeup
3. Practice good brush hygiene.
Dipping a dirty brush back into a product ups the chance of transferring bacteria. Make sure you clean your brushes—especially ones you use with concealer or any other creamy product—regularly with a gentle tea tree soap or shampoo and warm water to avoid contamination.
4. Pop it in the fridge.
“One way of extending [your beauty product’s] shelf life is to freeze or refrigerate it,” suggests Swift. Consider saving this method for when things get dire, AKA when it’s 90 degrees and humid and your apartment feels like the Sahara and your products are sitting in a steam bath (AKA your steamy medicine cabinet or your un-air-conditioned home while you’re at work). You may not be able to save yourself from melting, but at least you can save that fancy pot of luminizer you spent a pretty penny on.
5. Invest in good oils and shelf-life-extending antioxidants.
“In natural-organic products, shelf life is all about the shelf life of the oils that are used,” explains Rose-Marie Swift, founder of the super popular RMS Beauty. Cheap oils will oxidize very fast and turn rancid (bad) before quality ones. Antioxidants, like vitamin E, can help lengthen the shelf life, Swift adds. But they can’t make up for a cheap, low-quality oil or product. It’s a case of getting what you pay for.
Bottom line: If your beauty product smells, looks, or feels wrong, it probably is. You know what they say: All good things must come to an end. And if you never purge your old products, how would you ever make room for all the new ones you’re dying to try? —Amy Marturana
Still want to learn more about the shelf-life of your favorite beauty products? Here’s everything you need to know about makeup expiration dates.
Originally published August 4, 2015, updated February 18, 2016.