How Long Does Mascara Last?

Mascara is the unsung hero of our makeup bags. With just a few swipes, our lashes transform from blah to va-va-voom. But like any beauty product, mascara has an expiration date. Knowing exactly how long mascara lasts can save us from gunky tubes and irritated eyes.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how long mascara lasts. You’ll learn mascara’s shelf life before and after opening, how to tell if it’s expired, whether you can still use old mascara, and tips to extend its lifespan.

Let’s start at the beginning and walk through the how long does mascara last journey together.

Why Mascara Is a Makeup Bag Essential

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how long mascara lasts, let’s do a quick rundown of why it’s a makeup essential.

Mascara takes our lashes from wimpy to bombshell with minimal effort. Just a swipe or two gives the appearance of thicker, longer, fluttery lashes. It’s the perfect quick fix to complete any eye look.

Mascara also helps balance our features. Fuller lashes make eyes appear bigger and brighter. Even lower lashes get a boost to frame the eyes.

And let’s not forget about mascara’s ability to enhance false eyelashes. Just a light coating blends falsies seamlessly with natural lashes.

No matter your style – from natural and sweet to full glam – mascara pulls it all together. Now let’s get into how to keep tubes fresh and flake-free!

How Long Does Mascara Last After Opening?

Okay, let’s get to the good stuff about how long mascara lasts after opening it.

The typical lifespan of mascara is around 3 to 6 months. But you don’t have to try and remember when you opened it. Mascara tubes have the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol, which looks like a small open jar with a number and the letter M. This indicates the number of months the mascara is good for after opening.

So if you have a tube with “12M”, you have 12 months to use it up before it expires. Once it hits that timeframe, it’s time to say goodbye – no matter how much you have left.

Trying to get more use out of expired mascara just isn’t worth the risks of irritation and infection. Toss it out and open up a fresh tube!

How Long Does Unopened Mascara Last?

Wondering about an unopened tube just waiting to give you fluttery lashes? An unopened tube has a shelf life of 2 to 3 years from the manufacturing date.

Cosmetics like mascara aren’t required by the FDA to have an expiration date printed. So you’ll have to look for the manufacturing date on the packaging instead.

As long as your unopened mascara is within a few years of the manufacturing date, you’re likely good to start using it. But if you notice any changes in smell or texture once opened, it’s better to be safe and ditch it for a new tube.

How to Tell If Your Mascara Is Expired

Unless you have a superhuman memory, keeping track of mascara’s shelf life can be tricky. Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to tell if your tube is past its prime:

Smell test. Give the wand a sniff -expired mascara gives off a rancid odor. If it passes the sniff check, pay attention when applying. Any bad smell means it’s time to toss it.

Texture. Rub the wand between your fingers. Mascara should feel creamy and smooth. Clumps and dryness signal it’s expired.

Adverse reactions. Be on the lookout for any redness or irritation around your eyes after applying old mascara. A fresh tube should never cause an allergic reaction.

Trust your senses. If your mascara doesn’t seem quite right, replacing it with a new tube is the safest option.

Can You Still Use Expired Mascara?

When money is tight, it’s tempting to hold onto makeup past its prime. But using expired mascara comes with consequences.

As mascara ages, the formula starts to shift. Preservatives begin to break down. Bacteria and fungi can start to grow, especially with the warm environment inside the tube.

Using very old mascara drastically increases your risk of infection and irritation. Clogged meibomian glands along the lash line are one possibility. Styes and styes are other common infections associated with expired makeup.

None of those outcomes are worth it just to eke out another week or two from an old tube! Letting go of makeup past its prime can be difficult from a cost perspective. But protecting your eye health is what matters most.

How Long Does Mascara Last With Daily Use?

For those of us who swipe on mascara as part of our daily makeup routine, how long does it last? With daily use, plan on replacing your tube every 2 to 3 months.

Using mascara daily speeds up the expiration process. Even if you haven’t hit the PAO date, the tube needs to be tossed once you notice any changes in performance. Drying out, clumping, flaking, and irritation can happen well before the PAO date with frequent use.

To get the most out of your tube with daily use:

  • Open and close properly. Pumping the wand can introduce air and bacteria. Gently twist open and closed instead.
  • Store at room temp. Heat and humidity speed up expiration. Keep mascara in a dry, room temperature spot.
  • Don’t layer on too much. The more you dip back into the tube, the faster it picks up bacteria. Light layers are best for daily wear.

With proper storage and usage habits, you can come close to a tube’s full 3 month lifespan. But at the first sign of issues, toss it without guilt!

How Long Does Mascara Last With Infrequent Use?

For those special occasion or makeup minimalists, you may only break out the mascara wand every 1-2 weeks. Does less frequent usage extend its shelf life?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. The PAO symbol etched into the tube accounts for bacteria growth over time. So the timeline of 3 to 6 months stays the same whether you use mascara daily or just on weekends.

But less frequent use does lower the risk of premature drying and bacterial growth issues. As long as you store the tube properly between uses, an occasional-use tube could last 5-6 months without problems.

How Long Mascara Lasts

How Long Does Mascara Last on Your Lashes?

Now that we’ve covered how long mascara lasts in the tube, let’s talk about staying power when applied. How many hours of flake and smudge-free wear can you expect?

A traditional mascara will typically last between 4 to 6 hours on the lashes before needing a touch up. Oily eyelids can shorten wear time considerably. Hot and humid environments also break down mascara quickly.

Sweatproof and waterproof mascaras last longer against the elements. Expect 12 to 36 hours of wear before smudging, flaking or fading occurs. But they can be a pain to fully remove at the end of the day!

No matter the formula, mascara won’t last as long on oily or hooded eyelids. Proper eyelash prep and mascara application can extend the wear and minimize mid-day touch ups.

How to Make Mascara Last Longer on Lashes

Want your mascara to stick around for 12 hours instead of 6? Here are some tips and tricks:

  • Curl eyelashes before applying mascara. The curl helps lashes hold onto mascara better throughout the day.
  • Use a lash primer as a basecoat before mascara. Primers add grip that keeps mascara from sliding off.
  • Set lashes with translucent powder between mascara coats. The powder absorbs oil and creates a smudge-free barrier.
  • Remove all makeup thoroughly with a gentle eye makeup remover. Leftover residue causes flakes and smudges.
  • Avoid touching lashes as much as possible during wear. The oil from fingers breaks down mascara quickly.

With the right lash prep and removal methods, achieving 12+ hours of perfect mascara wear is totally doable!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does old mascara get clumpy?

Mascara formulas depend on ingredients like waxes and polymers to create a smooth, clump-free consistency. As mascara ages, the formula dries out and these ingredients start to break down.

Can you add water or oil to old mascara to resuscitate it?

It might seem logical to add a few drops of water or oil to smooth out clumpy, dried out mascara. But introducing extra moisture also introduces more bacteria. The potential risks of eye irritation and infection aren’t worth the short-term fix.

The Takeaway: Know Your Mascara’s Shelf Life

So in summary, how long does mascara last? Unopened tubes last 2-3 years from the manufacturing date. Once opened, you have 3-6 months to use it up before bacteria take over.

To keep your peepers safe, pay close attention to mascara tubes for any signs of clumping, smelling off or causing irritation. Don’t try to stretch them longer than the PAO date. Protecting your eye health is too important!

With proper storage and smart usage, your favorite mascara will give you lush lashes for months on end. There is no reason to discard tubes before their time. Just follow the PAO guidelines and replace them when you notice any changes in performance. Happy lash-lifting!

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