Can Old Makeup Impact Your Eye Health?

  • #irritated eyes
  • #eyelove care articles
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Investing in a new eyeliner to help you master the perfect wing or a great mascara to rival false lashes is always exciting. But letting your makeup bag fester with half-used products may be impacting your eye health as well as your pocket.

Just like food, makeup has an expiry date and old products can be a breeding ground for bacteria. One of the worst culprits for this is mascara, with studies showing bacteria in growth after less than two weeks of normal use1. In a separate study, 79% of mascaras tested positive for staphylococcus aureus and 13% contain bacteria that cause dermatitis and eye infections2.

Why is there bacteria in makeup?

Every time you touch your makeup, you transfer all the dirt and tiny organisms on your skin into the product. How much bacteria is in a product depends on:

  • How often it is used
  • How old it is
  • How many people use it

This is why it’s especially important not to share cosmetics and to discard items that are past their recommended use-by date.

While it might seem harmless to get out that smoky eye kit that hasn’t been used since two Christmases ago for a night out, the truth is it can have a significant impact on your eye health.

How old makeup impacts your eye health

Using old makeup and tools around the lashes and lid margins (the wet side) can increase the risk of infection – especially if the products are old or shared. The most common culprits are:

  • Mascara
  • Eye Liner
  • Eyelash Curlers
  • Makeup Brushes
  • Old eyeshadows

Lots of people like the look of a heavy eye. But applying eyeshadows, mascara and eyeliner to the inside of the lid and using eyelash curlers can contribute to blocking the glands that provide our eyes with a healthy tear film. In turn, this can lead to dry eye, blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid), eye infections or an irritating stye.

Preventing eye conditions caused by makeup


  • Always take your makeup off at the end of the day
  • Check the labels of your makeup to find the symbols indicating its use-by date. If you find it hard to remember when you opened it, it might be worthwhile attaching a sticker with the date or setting a reminder on your phone.
  • Clean makeup brushes regularly
  • Don’t share your makeup with anyone else
  • Use a steady hand and don’t apply eye makeup while on the move as it could injure the eye
  • Ensure makeup is always removed thoroughly
  • Use clean and dry hands when applying or removing makeup
  • If eye irritation or infection occurs always seek advice from your GP or optician



  1.  Pack LD, Wickham MG, Enloe RA, et al. Microbial contamination associated with mascara use. Optometry (St Louis, Mo). 2008 Oct;79(10):587-93
  2. Giacomel CB, Dartora G, Dienfethaeler HS, et al. Investigation on the use of expired make-up and microbiological contamination of mascaras. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013 Aug;35(4):375-80


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