Using old or expired makeup products like lipstick can be unsafe. Makeup, especially products with moisture like lipstick, can grow bacteria over time. Using very old lipstick increases your risk of infection. There are a few factors to consider when deciding if your lipstick is still safe to use.
How long does lipstick last?
Most lipsticks have a shelf life of 2-3 years. Liquid and cream lipsticks tend to expire more quickly, while matte lipsticks and lip crayons tend to last longer. Lipstick expiration depends on the ingredients and how you store it.
The expiry date on lipstick is usually a small symbol that looks like an open jar with a number followed by ‘M’. This indicates how many months the product is designed to be used after opening. Lipstick can be safely used for this duration after opening if stored properly.
However, expiration dates are not always accurate. Lipstick can expire before or after the indicated date depending on storage conditions. Changes in texture, smell, and performance offer better clues as to whether lipstick is still safe to use.
How to tell if lipstick is expired
Here are some signs that your lipstick is too old to use safely:
- Change in texture – dried out, very oily, gritty, hard, or cracked
- Change in smell – rancid, sour, or crayon-like
- Change in performance – needs excessive reapplication, stops going on smoothly, causes irritation
- Change in color – oxidation causing color to change or fade
- Presence of mold – fuzzy or spotty growth anywhere on the lipstick or tube
- Damage to tube – cracks, leaks, dents that expose lipstick to air and moisture
If your lipstick shows any of these signs, it’s best to stop using it. Expired makeup, especially lip products, can contain high levels of harmful bacteria.
Dangers of using expired lipstick
Using old, expired lipstick puts you at risk for:
- Infection – bacteria and mold can grow inside old lipstick, which can then transfer to your lips and cause infections like staph.
- Allergic reaction – ingredients can degrade over time and cause irritation or rashes around the lips.
- Toxic effects – breakdown of chemicals like preservatives and dyes can make old lipstick unsafe.
These dangers are highest with liquid lipsticks since they contain the most moisture. Dried out bullet lipsticks pose less risk. But it’s still best to replace lipstick by the 2-3 year mark.
Safety tips for old lipstick
If you want to hold onto an old favorite lipstick for sentimental reasons, here are some tips to make it safer:
- Store in a cool, dry place and away from humidity.
- Do not share lipstick with others.
- Sharpen lip crayons and pencils before each use.
- Apply lip balm first to create a barrier between lips and lipstick.
- Stop using immediately if you notice any changes or reactions.
However, it’s impossible to completely guarantee the safety of using expired lipstick. Discontinue use if you have any doubts or experience any irritation.
Can old lipstick make you sick?
Yes, using very old, expired lipstick can make you sick. Here’s how:
Moisture and warmth inside used lipstick allows bacteria like staph and strep to grow. Applying this old lipstick can transfer bacteria into cracks in your lips.
Cutibacterium is a common bacteria found in old cosmetics. It can cause chronic lip infections that are difficult to treat with antibiotics. Lipsticks contaminated with E. coli, Salmonella, and other bacteria can also cause infections.
Lipsticks can also grow mold after a while. This mold can release toxic mycotoxins that cause allergic reactions and flu-like symptoms when used on the lips.
Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury are sometimes found in trace amounts in lipstick. These metals can concentrate in old lipstick as the product degrades. Exposure over time can cause poisoning symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and nerve damage.
Expired lipstick is more likely to cause irritation, rashes, and swelling around the lips. This is due to degradation of ingredients like fragrance and dyes into compounds that sensitizes the skin.
How long can you keep lipstick after opening?
An opened lipstick typically lasts around 2 years at most. The exact shelf life depends on the formula:
- Liquid lipstick – Lasts about 1 year after opening due to high moisture content.
- Cream lipstick – Lasts 1-2 years when refrigerated and kept in an airtight case.
- Matte lipstick – Lasts 2-3 years due to lower moisture and preservative qualities.
- Lip gloss – Lasts 1-2 years due to sticky texture prone to collecting bacteria.
- Lip balm – Lasts 1-2 years due to high oil content and exposure to mouth moisture when applied.
- Lip crayon – Lasts 2-3 years due to firmer wax and wood composition.
However, these time frames are simply guidelines. Always do the smell, texture, and usage test regardless of how long it’s been open.
How to make lipstick last longer
You can extend the shelf life of your lipsticks by:
- Closing lids tightly after each use.
- Storing in a cool, dry place away from heat, moisture and sunlight.
- Cleaning the lipstick bullet after each use.
- Avoiding sharing lipstick between people.
- Applying lip balm first to minimize moisture contact with the lipstick.
- Sharpening lip pencils and crayons regularly.
- Disinfecting cream and liquid lipstick containers regularly with 70% isopropyl alcohol.
With optimal storage conditions and hygienic usage, you may be able to safely use lipstick 2-3 years past its marked expiration date. But be alert to any changes in smell, texture, or performance.
Does lipstick go bad if unopened?
Unopened, unused lipstick generally does not expire. An unopened lipstick has a shelf life of around 5 years. With optimal storage, it can often last up to 10 years without going bad.
As long as the lipstick is still sealed in its original packaging, it should not breed bacteria or mold. The ingredients are very stable and do not degrade or oxidize when packed properly.
The only exception is if the lipstick tube becomes damaged, allowing air and moisture to reach the product inside. Signs of damage include leaks, dents, tube cracks, or visible mold.
Otherwise, an unopened lipstick stays fresh indefinitely until you open it. Only after opening does the 2-3 year lifespan come into effect.
Can old lipstick hurt your lips?
Yes, using expired lipstick can irritate and damage your lips. Here’s how:
- Oxidation creates free radicals that damage skin cells.
- Loss of moisture causes dry, flaky, cracked lips.
- Degraded ingredients cause contact dermatitis reactions.
- Bacteria and mold can infect lips leading to redness, swelling, sores.
- Allergens from rancid fats and oils trigger rashes around the lips.
Your lips are very sensitive and have no protective outer layer like your regular skin. This means they absorb everything you put on them. Using contaminated old lipstick directly exposes your lips to mold, toxins, bacteria and allergens.
Can expired lipstick cause cold sores?
Yes, the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores can thrive in old lipsticks. Using such lipstick and sharing it with others can spread the virus.
CUTIBACTERIUM ACNES: This bacteria grows in old cosmetics and can trigger recurrent cold sores if contaminated lipstick is applied around mouth.
UNSANITARY APPLICATORS: Dirty lip gloss wands and lipstick bullets can pick up oral secretions containing herpes virus.
LIP DAMAGE: Chemicals in expired lipstick damage lip skin making it easier for active cold sore virus to penetrate and cause outbreaks.
Can I use 20 year old lipstick?
It is highly risky and inadvisable to use lipstick that is 20 years old. The ingredients will have deteriorated far too much for it to be safe.
20 year old lipstick is almost guaranteed to be dried out, oxidized, and contaminated with mold and bacteria. Do not use lipstick this old even if it was stored properly and looks intact.
Discontinue use immediately if your lips show any sign of reaction like itching, burning, swelling, dryness, or sores. Very old lipstick can cause severe infections and chemical burns.
To be safe, throw out any lipstick older than 5 years. Unopened lipstick in pristine condition may last up to 10 years due to preservatives. But using 20 year old lipstick is too risky.
What to do with old lipstick?
Avoid using lipstick that is past its prime. Instead, here are some ideas for repurposing old lipstick:
Mix into nail polish
Melt down old lipstick and mix a few drops into clear nail polish to create pretty, personalized shades.
Use as craft paint
Lipstick works as a brilliant craft paint for coloring picture frames, jewelry, cards, eggshells, and other knick-knacks.
Make lipstick crayons
Pour melted lipstick into an empty crayon mold or muffin tray to create handy lip coloring crayons.
Use as rouge
Sheer out the lipstick color with petroleum jelly or coconut oil to create a nice, natural-looking cheek tint.
Create lip balm
Combine grated lipstick, Vaseline, and optional essential oils to make custom hydrating lip balms.
Rub into cuticles
Hydrate your cuticles by massaging old lipstick into the nail beds before washing hands.
Expired lipstick is best discarded by the 2-3 year mark after opening. Using lipstick that is 10 years or older poses serious health risks like bacterial infections, rashes, and poisoning from degradation of ingredients.
Unopened lipstick may last up to 10 years due to preservatives. But once opened, lipstick expires quickly and should not be used beyond 1-2 years. Always check for changes in smell, texture, color, and performance as well.
Discontinue use immediately if old lipstick causes any irritation or odd symptoms. Never share or swap lipsticks with friends or family. Be vigilant about expiration dates and signs of contamination in your beauty products.