How Long Does Mascara Last? + How To Tell if It's Expired 

How Long Does Mascara Last? + How To Tell if It’s Expired 

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It’s amazing how mascara, a makeup product that comes in a tiny package, can play such a huge part in completing your overall look.

Mascara comes in a small tube because you usually don’t need to use much of it. And if you’re using good mascara, just applying a little amount to your lashes will go a long way.

A cropped view of a woman's eye applying mascara to her lashes

But that also means you may be unable to finish an entire mascara tube even if you use it regularly for a few months.

So here’s an important question you need to ask: how long does mascara last? 

Read on to find out the answer to this question, learn about the typical life span of mascara, and discover ways to keep your beloved makeup product in great shape for longer! 

Why Mascara Is a Makeup Essential

Not everyone is gifted with thick and long lashes. But thanks to high-quality mascaras, it’s easy to add some volume to our lashes with just a few coats of this makeup product.

Mascara provides a quick fix to make your lashes appear thicker and longer instantly. It can even do the same for your falsies

Plus, it’s great for all makeup styles! Even if you’re not into intricate eye makeup, putting on some mascara will help you achieve a lovely, natural-looking doe-eyed look with minimal effort.

So whether you’re doing a simple “no-makeup” makeup look or aiming for a beautiful smokey eye, mascara is an essential product to have in your makeup kit.

How Long Does Mascara Last After Opening?

As good as mascara is, it can’t last forever. Like all other makeup products, it goes bad after a certain amount of time.

Mascara typically lasts and remains safe and suitable for use for three to six months upon opening.

You can determine how long your mascara will last after opening by referring to the period after opening (PAO) symbol, which is usually placed next to or near the barcode.

It’s a symbol of an open jar with a number and the letter M (like 6M). It refers to the number of months a makeup product remains in good condition after it has been opened. 

So if you see 6M on the label of your favorite mascara, this means you can safely use it within six months after opening. After this period, it will expire. 

How Long Does Mascara Last Unopened?

But what if you bought mascara, kept it properly sealed in your makeup kit, and forgot all about it? How long does mascara last in this case?  

If it hasn’t been opened since you purchased it, your mascara will remain usable for about two to three years from its manufacturing date.

Why do we rely on the manufacturing date instead of the expiration date?

This is because, surprisingly enough, the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require manufacturers to indicate a specific expiration date on the label of cosmetic products.

So if you can’t find the expiration date of your mascara, you can assess whether it’s still suitable for use by looking at its manufacturing date on the packaging label. 

With this, you can do the math to determine whether it’s been two to three years since it was made. 

But if you bought mascara with a specified expiration date, you can refer to that instead.

How to Tell If Your Mascara Is Expired

Aside from referring to the PAO information or manufacturing date on the product label of your mascara, here are a few fairly easy ways to tell if it’s already expired:

Smell It

There are plenty of environmental factors could shorten the life span of your mascara way before its actual expiration date. 

So if you’re doubtful about your mascara’s condition, it’s best to smell it before putting it on your eyelashes. If it gives off a bad odor, there’s a good chance it’s already expired. 

Assess Its Texture

Another quick way to tell whether your mascara has gone bad is by checking its texture. 

Has your mascara has gotten so thick that it easily clumps upon coating your lashes? Does it feel dry right out of the container?

These signs may indicate that it has likely expired, which means you may no longer be able to use it properly.

While it may be tempting to add water to expired mascara that’s dried out completely, this practice is highly discouraged because it can introduce bacteria into the product.

Pay Attention to Adverse Reactions

The best-case scenario is for you to detect expired mascara by its smell and texture. 

But if you’ve already accidentally applied expired mascara to your lashes, you’re likely to experience redness and irritation around your eyes.

In this case, it’s best to stop using your mascara and throw it out right away. 

Can You Still Use Expired Mascara?

It might seem wasteful to throw out expired mascara or any makeup product. You might also find it especially difficult to do if you really love its color and formula. But you will thank yourself 

An open gold-packaging mascara isolated on a white background

later for letting go of your expired makeup.

Why? Here are a few of the consequences of using expired mascara: 

Increased Risk of Irritation and Infection

There are plenty of safety risks involved in using expired mascara that’s already been opened. 

Mascara becomes extremely prone to bacterial growth after it’s been used for a few months. So if you apply it to your lashes, you can develop an eye infection.

So to minimize the risks of eye irritation and infection, it’s best to throw your mascara out after six months and replace it with a new one.

Unsatisfactory Results

Safety may not be the main issue if your expired mascara is still sealed. But there’s a really good chance that its color, smell, and consistency are no longer in the best condition.

After years of disuse, your unopened mascara will have likely already dried out. At this point, it may no longer be usable, so it won’t give you the voluminous lashes you hope to get.

How Long Does Mascara Last If Used Every Day?

Given all the information above, you might want to maximize your purchase by using your mascara every day before it expires. 

But how long does mascara last with daily use? 

The standard size of mascara is between 0.2 to 0.6 fluid ounces. So if you apply two to three coats of it every day, you could go through an entire tube of mascara in about two to three months.

Remember that it’s particularly important to follow safety precautions if you use mascara daily. Opening the tube regularly allows germs and debris to get inside the tube, which can lead to bacterial growth. 

As such, it’s crucial to make sure you don’t leave it open for too long and always close it tightly after use. 

Manufacturers also advise storing it at room temperature and keeping it away from direct sunlight. Following these instructions will help you keep your mascara in tiptop condition longer.

How Long Does Mascara Last If Not Used Every Day?

Say you have several mascaras in your makeup bag. You opened one, used it a few times, and ditched it for a better product. Can you use it again when your new one runs out? How long do unused mascaras last anyway?

Regardless of how often you use it, the shelf life of mascara upon opening is still the same. 

Once it’s been opened, even if you don’t take the cap off regularly, you have three to six months before its safety and quality deteriorate.

How Long Does Mascara Last on Your Eyelashes?

Now that you know how long mascara lasts with regular use, you may be wondering how long it lasts when actually applied to your lashes. 

Regular mascaras can last on your eyelashes for four to six hours on your lashes without smudging, but sweatproof and waterproof mascaras should stay on your lashes much longer. 

Those products are typically formulated to last for 12 to 18 hours. A handful of waterproof mascaras even promise 24 to 36 hours of wear.

However, there are a bunch of factors that can cause your mascara to smudge after a few hours, including the following:

Oily Eyelids

Excess oil from your eyelids is one of the most common culprits behind smudged mascara.

To avoid this, it’s important to properly cleanse your face before applying mascara to get rid of any excess oils from your skin. 

Also, putting on primer and using oil-control makeup can lessen the possibility of smudging due to oily eyelids.

Heat and Humidity

Your environment can also affect how long mascara can last on your eyelashes. 

Humidity can cause you to sweat, which can smudge your mascara or even take it off completely.

Lack of Eyelash Prep

It’s not just your face that needs prepping before you put on makeup. To improve how long mascara lasts, you’ll also have to prep your eyelashes. 

If you skip this step, your mascara will smudge easily. 

How To Make Mascara Last Longer On Your Lashes

An open mascara isolated on a purple background

Not sure how to prep your lashes? Here are a few lash-prep steps to follow to ensure you make the most out of your mascara application:

Curl Your Lashes First

Bust out your lash curler before coating your lashes with any product.

Curling lashes before applying makeup on your lashes will make it easier to give them a lift and some shape. You’ll also notice that it helps spread out your lashes a little to prevent clumping and smudging.

Don’t Skip the Lash Primer

Yes, your lashes need priming, too. The best time to apply a lash primer as a base coating is after giving your lashes a lift with your curler.

Using a high-quality lash primer will help your lashes hold their shape, allowing your mascara to cling to them better. This means you’ll be less likely to experience smudging. 

Use a Translucent Powder

Much like your eyelids, the skin under your eyes can become oily hours after you put on makeup. So make sure to dust this area with a translucent powder before coating your lashes with mascara.

Doing this will help prevent unsightly raccoon eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Mascara Get Clumpy When It’s Old?

Yes. Mascara has a shorter shelf life compared to other makeup products, so it can get clumpy and dry in just a few months.

Can I Add Water to Dry and Clumpy Mascara?

Yes, but only if your mascara is new or if it still has ample time before it expires. 

In this case, you can add water (preferably warm) to fix dry and clumpy mascara.

You can also add one or two drops of castor oil, olive oil, argan oil, or almond oil into your mascara to revive its smooth texture. Adding eye drops into dried-out mascara is a good choice too. 

But if your mascara has dried out because it’s expired, you shouldn’t attempt to fix it. Just throw it out instead. 

How long does mascara last? Chances are you haven’t really given this question much thought before reading this article. And that’s understandable!

After all, many makeup enthusiasts subscribe to the misconception that mascara is okay to use as long as you can coat on your lashes. 

But now you know that the shelf life of your mascara is usually three to six months upon opening or two to three years from its manufacturing date if unopened. 

So it’s important to make sure you never use mascara after it expires. It’s also a good idea to close your mascara properly after use and store it away in a cool environment to keep it in good condition for as long as possible. 

By following these steps, you can safely use mascara to give you the long, gorgeously voluminous lashes of your dreams! 

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