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Keep your pre-pandemic makeup or toss it? Here's what you need to know, from cosmetics experts

"Lipstick should be opened and used within a year."

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In anticipation of a more social summer, you might be revisiting your makeup bag for the first time in months. But depending on the product, whether it's been opened, and how long you've had it, not everything in your bag is safe to use. Some beauty essentials may need to be thrown out.

This is especially true of lipstick, eyeliner, and mascara, says Jenna Rosenstein, beauty director at Bazaar.com. "You do not want to introduce any kind of bacteria to your eyes or lips," she says.

Here's what you need to know.

Makeup 'from before the pandemic' may be too old

"If you have previously opened it, it's time to throw it out," Rosenstein says. "Any time you are exposing oxygen to a dark tube," it shortens the shelf life of that product.

This applies less to face powders and eye shadow palettes than it does to products like mascara and lipstick. "I'm typically more cautious with anything that's liquid versus anything that is powdery or pencil," Rosenstein says. "If you have a liquid eyeliner that you opened — even just once — from before the pandemic, you should toss it out."

Cream blush or liquid foundation should also be thrown out if they have been sitting in your makeup bag and open for the last few months.

How long do mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick last?

"Mascara, in general, you're supposed to toss it every three months," Rosenstein says. "If it's unopened, then I'd say it's probably good for at least a year as long as it's completely sealed and has never been exposed to oxygen."

Liquid eyeliner should also be replaced about every three months, she adds. Lipstick, however, has a bit of a longer shelf life. "Lipstick should be opened and used within a year," she says.

If you have a liquid eyeliner that you opened — even just once — from before the pandemic, you should toss it out.
Jenna Rosenstein
beauty director at Bazaar.com

Pencil eyeliner can also be replaced less frequently as it is less likely to harbor bacteria, she says. You can make it last longer by sharpening it frequently and cleaning it with rubbing alcohol. Still, there is a shelf life: "You should toss out any pencil eyeliner that is older than two years," she says.

Indicators that you should replace your mascara, lipstick, or eyeliner include a change in texture from when you first got it, or if it smells funny.

When is the best time to buy new makeup?

"Watch for semiannual sales from Sephora and Ulta to pop up around April and during the fall season," says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com.

From March 14 to April 3, Ulta hosts its 21 Days of Beauty event where different brands and products go on sale every day. "This is an excellent example of an upcoming beauty sale worth shopping, as it'll include 50% off Beauty Steals in a variety of categories," Ramhold says.

Lipstick should be opened and used within a year.
Jenna Rosenstein
beauty director at Bazaar.com

For instance, on March 22 you can get 50% off Benefit Cosmetics liquid eyeliner, which reduces the price from $22 to $11. And on March 27, you can get 50% off Tarte mascara, which brings the price down to $11.50.

Don't forget to look outside of your typical beauty stores, too. Costco, for example, has great beauty sales, Ramhold says. "You might not think of the warehouse store as a good place to shop for beauty products, but you can find surprisingly great deals on well-known brands by shopping online."

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