I Am The 80%: Some Statistics About Makeup Hoarding

Next Wednesday, Coralie and I are going to do a joint post where we pull back the shower curtain and reveal our favorite health and beauty products. In preparation for that, I wanted to share this article that recently came across my newsfeed from Jezebel.com (of course).

New Study Shows We Are All Disgusting Makeup Hoarders

It’s a good read for those interested in the breakdown of consumerist culture statistics, but if you don’t have the time, the article references a recent survey by Stowaway Cosmetics which found that:

  • 87% of consumers are aware that makeup has expiration dates
  • 75% of the average consumer (25-50), doesn’t routinely finish their makeup. Not just before it expires, but at all.
  • More than 80% know makeup has expiration dates and have problems with old makeup. Yet still don’t discard it because they forget, feel guilty about the money they spent on it, or worry they may need it later.
  • Only 1 in 5 consumers throw away mascara within the three month time frame that is recommended. It is the most common makeup to stick around even though it expires the fastest!
  • 82% of women for whom old makeup causes them to break out, still feel guilty about throwing it away.
  • The average consumer owns almost 40 makeup products but only uses and carries 5 of them daily. That means the average person owns 8 times more makeup than they use!

Obviously, Stowaway Cosmetics has an angle for this survey. Their premise is to make smaller sized cosmetic packaging; an idea of which I am pretty pro and think it is a concept many industries should adopt. Their argument is that although buying more is perceived as a better value, smaller sizes are actually healthier and more cost efficient. See above statistic about how 75% of consumers don’t finish their makeup before it expires, if at all. That’s three quarters of all consumers. The idea of all the wasted cosmetics and chemicals in the trash, and to know that I have done my fair share of contributing, is gut-wrenching.

Graphic for size comparison for Stowaway Cosmetics

I also relate and am fascinated by the psychology about the perceived value of the items and the emotional power objects have over us. It saddens me to know that such a high percentage of people were hanging on to old products, not to use to better their lives, but as totems of self-inflicted emotional attachment. You carry those feelings with you the same as if you carried it around, literally.  The relief I feel when I unload those items at the curb both emotionally and at Goodwill is palpable and good for your health.

Hoard of Makeup, By: IGUANAMOUTH

Hoard of Makeup, By: IGUANAMOUTH

So, how long do you keep makeup? There are varying theories, but this article by Sarah Densmore seemed the most comprehensive (and reasonable) that I had seen. It comes from dummies.com:

Here are some common cosmetics and the recommended shelf life for each after it has been opened for the first time.

  • Mascara: Toss your mascara after 3 months. Mascara has the shortest life span of all make up because the risk of transferring bacteria back and forth from your eye into the mascara tube is so great. If your mascara starts to dry out before its 90 days is up, throw it away. Don’t add water or saliva to your mascara to rewet it. Doing so will only increase your chances of getting an eye infection.
  • Eye pencils: Eye pencils can be kept up to 2 years. To make sure you’re using a clean tip, sharpen before each application.
  • Eye shadows: Keep your applicators clean and your liquid shadows should last 12 months. Powder shadows will keep 2 years. If you’ve had an eye infection, you’ll need to throw out all the eye make up and applicators you used from the time you developed symptoms. The virus or bacteria that caused the infection has probably taken up residence in your make up, so using those cosmetics again could cause you to develop another infection.
  • Lipsticks: You can stow your tube lipsticks and your lip pencils for 2 years. As with eye pencils, sharpen your lip pencils before each use.

  • Blushes and powders: Discard your cream blushes after a year, powder blushes and powders after 2 years.

  • Foundations and concealers: Moisturizing foundations and stick concealers can hang around for 18 months. A 12-month shelf life applies to both oil-free foundations, which can dry out quickly, and liquid concealers.


  • Using clean brushes and sponges will help lengthen the life of your cosmetics. Be sure and wash or replace your applicators frequently.
  • Think of your make up a bit like you do your food. If it smells weird, develops a film, or has a mold-green tint to it, it’s gone bad and needs to be tossed out.
  • When you open a cosmetic for the first time, write the date on the product. It will help you keep track of how long you’ve had the make up so you’ll know when it’s time to throw it away.


I am probably a slightly above average consumer. I probably have 40 makeup products, using an average of six regularly (I’m not counting miniature Birchbox pieces, thank goodness, otherwise my number would be double that and horrifying). I have kept massive amounts of products stashed under sinks for years out of guilt over the waste of a pricy purchase or fear that I’ll need it later. These days I am trying to mindfully acquire things and purposefully use what I already have.  And although I, personally, have never contracted an eye infection from the decade-old, eye shadow palette that I just threw out, all I can do is try and do better going forward. The world does enough shaming and guilt-laying why would I continue to heap it upon myself? Fool me once, shame on you… etc., etc.

The More You Know Logo NBCWhat do you think? Are you part of the 80% What is the oldest product in your bathroom? Do you know the age limit on nail polish? Let us know what you think!



Avatar photo



  1. Love it!!! I am a make up hoarder!!!!!
    I’m going to start throwing my old stuff away- maybe… Ha

    • Yeah, when I opened my makeup bag this morning, some items were easier than others. The expensive six-year-old lipstick, that actually now smells funny… the jar of eye liner that is starting to dry up and separate from the glass…
      But, some of my beautiful eye shadow palettes… ugggh. Though, I guess it is just an excuse to get more, right? So… win?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.