Throw Out Your Disgusting Old Lipstick!

A lipstick blot on a tissues with a pink box overlay with text in black and read that reads Throw Out Your Disgusting Old Lipstick

Did you know that old lipstick carries germs?

Did you know you should throw it out after a certain amount of time has passed?

Does it pain you to do that because you love lipstick and hate seeing it go to waste?

But do you really want bacteria-laden lipstick smeared all over your lips?

Ugh, the mere thought of it makes me want to go on a cleaning spree!

As I look over my hoard of mostly old lipsticks, I have with myself of this every so often. Because I love lipstick! It’s the one bit of makeup I actually bother wearing when I leave the house, even if I have no other makeup on.*

Because I love lipstick, I tend to collect it. So I don’t use it up before I fall in love with something else and just start using that. 

So it sits. Behold a tiny portion of my old lipstick collection:

A bunch of lipsticks from different brands and different shades dumped on a light carpet

I have a thing for red and pink.**

Not everyone wants to hear about tossing out old make-up. People get mad when you tell them that a beauty product is probably expired and should get thrown away. Look at this thread on Reddit.

Anecdotes about how YOU haven’t personally experienced anything negative from using expired makeup doesn’t prove anything. That said, yeah I’ve used lipstick far past it’s good-bye date.

So how can you tell if an old lipstick has gone bad?

First off, texture. If your lipstick has become hard, dried out, or (especially in the case of liquid lipstick) grainy, toss that shit.

A hand holding a tube of Revlon liquid lipstick that has separated in the clear tube

That’s a well-separated lipstick in a tube that’s so old, it isn’t even clear anymore. Why do I still have it???

Second, there’s time. According to Lifehacker:

Lipstick: That waxy layer on lipstick stays good up to a year before it starts to dry out. If it smells rancid, it’s definitely time to toss it.

That smell–you know the one–can definitely be a signal. If you have a rancid smelling lipstick, it’s really past time to chuck it!

Most cosmetics now come with an expiration symbol. It looks like this:

Line drawing of a jar with the lid off and a 12 M on the side of the jar. This symbolizes a cosmetics expiration date of 12 months from opening.

It’s a little open jar with a number in it. The 12 M in this example means it’s good for 12 months AFTER it’s been opened. So if you haven’t broken the seal on an old lipstick, is it still good?

According to Bustle, the answer is yes for up 2 years.

But according to a consumer group in Australia, it could be as long as 5 years.

Some of my lipsticks are WELL over that time span. Gross right? But they don’t smell bad, so that’s okay, right?


For products that offer protection, like SPF for your lips, that active ingredient breaks down and becomes less effective with time. Have you ever noticed that your regular sunscreen has an expiration date too?

Then there’s bacteria. Itty bitty bugs that can cause swelling to your lips. Or worse!


Again, from Lifehacker:

The lipstick’s hard wax also has a tendency to trap and keep bacteria, so it’s not a good idea to share your or someone else’s old lipstick.

Sharing lipsticks is disgusting. Like mentioned above, it can lead to all kinds of unfun things.

Like herpes. Do you want herpes?

If you are going to let a friend borrow a lip color, or test one in a store, at the very least take off the top layer with a tissue.

It turns out that of all the makeup you can put on your face, lipstick can harbor the most germs. According to health and safety expert Morgan Statt:

Your lip linings are a natural gateway to your respiratory tract which puts you at an additional risk of infection and illness.

Which means that if you’re sick, don’t wear lipstick. And if you do, throw it out or risk getting sick again. Yuck!

This is all very grim. But is there anything you can do to extend the life of your lipstick?


Lipstick should be stored in a cool dry place. I keep a bunch in my purse…but also the rest of them in the bathroom. Which is the exact opposite of a “cool, dry place.” So that’s going to make it deteriorate a little faster.

In the same article, Statt recommends submerging your fully exposed lipstick tube in rubbing alcohol for 30 seconds. This will kill anything on your lipstick, but not protect against anything that might be in the cap.

And this doesn’t work for liquid lipsticks!

So that’s the ugly truth. You have to throw out the old lipsticks eventually. And what if it’s discontinued? Can you ever get your perfect shade back?

Yes. Certain companies like Estee Lauder and Clinique stock recently discontinued stock. But what if you’ve been hoarding your favorite lipstick for more than just 6 months since it was discontinued, you might be out of luck.

There’s always eBay and other online search tools. But there’s no guarantee that you’re getting genuine products instead of knock-offs.

Another option is custom shade matching. Services like Lip Lab and Three Custom Color exist for this very reason! But they are pricey.

Lip Lab by Bite is an in-person service available in New York, Toronto, and Orange County, CA. Their prices are $60 for 1 custom lipstick tube or $120 for 2 tubes and a lip care kit. The NY and Canada locations are currently offering virtual sessions, but the CA location is temporarily closed.

Three Custom Color can shade match almost anything (not just lipstick), and may already have your favorite shade in its database. Even so, they do recommend sending a sample to ensure a color match. They run at a minimum $70 for 2 bullets or wands.

These options are expensive. You’ll have to determine if it’s worth it to you to take the plunge. I might do it for higher end ones, but a drugstore lipstick that was originally $8 may just have to be lost to time.

And remember that you’ll have to throw these out, too!


*Under normal conditions. Pandemic masked couture obviously doesn’t require even that anymore.

**After taking these pictures, I’m happy to report I got rid of everything over a year old!

Tell all your friends, and share this on Pinterest!

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M.L. James
Jul 29, 2020 11:31 am

You know, Paulette, lipstick isn’t something that I think about when it comes to throwing out old makeup. I think there may be high school students who are younger than some of my lipsticks. I guess I need to get busy purging. There’s nowhere for me to go out and wear lipstick now, anyway. *sigh* Great post! Mona

Isabella G
Aug 3, 2020 6:35 am

I just threw out some old makeup including lipsticks. I don’t normally wear makeup. When I do buy some they expire before I use it up.

Javier s.
Javier s.
Aug 3, 2020 6:43 am

I am not interested in makeup, fashion, etc. But this is a really good post👍🏾

Terri Gardner
Aug 3, 2020 8:50 am

I’ll admit, throwing out old makeup is a hard one. I think I have occasionally gotten rid of some lipstick, but it has to be ancient, I think. I actually think eye shadow is harder for me. How do we collect so many? IYou sew? We definately need to start following eachother on Instagram because i do to.

Last edited 3 years ago by Terri Gardner
Aug 3, 2020 9:24 am

I’ve kept my wedding lipstick, I think, but I don’t use it.