Is it true you have to replace your mascara (and other eye makeup) every three months?

We’ve all heard that we need to replace our mascara frequently. But let’s face it: most of us don’t think about buying a new tube until the product starts to run out. So, how often should we replace it and do we really need to be that concerned?

The short answer is yes.

We caught up with optometrist Dr. Pavan Avanashi of Hollyburn Eye Clinic in North Vancouver, B.C. to get some expert advice on when you need to replace your makeup—plus other practical tips—to maintain your eye health.

What harm can old or expired makeup do to your eyes?
“Whether it is mascara, eyeliner or eyeshadow… after a certain shelf life, these products can harbour bacteria that when introduced to the eye can cause undesirable effects like redness, itching, watering, irritation and inflammation,” says Dr. Pavinashi. “In certain circumstances, the exposure can lead to more serious conditions such as keratitis (inflamed cornea), conjunctivitis blepharitis (red eye) or styes. We do recommend replacing your mascara and liquid eyeliners every three months, whereas pencil eyeliners and eyeshadows can last up to a year.”

Can a mascara wand reinfect your eyes if it was used while you had an infection?
“Absolutely,” says Dr. Avinashi. “In fact, if any of our patients have certain forms of eye infections, we ask that they discard of all of their current eye cosmetics to avoid the high risk of a recurrent infections.”

Does contact wear increase your risk of infection?
“Yes,” says Dr. Avinashi. “If one's not careful about replacing their contact lens or their eye makeup on a timely basis, you are putting your eyes at risk of infections. When there is negligence with the use of both simultaneously, the risk of adverse issues involving the eyes increases that much more.”

Any other advice you can offer?
“Try to avoid sharing your eye makeup with friends or family,” advises Dr. Avinashi. “Store your makeup in a preferably cool and dry place (to avoid increased bacterial activity). It is also very important to properly remove and clean your eye make up on a daily basis. And avoid additional and unnecessary chemicals in your makeup.”

Besides the medical concerns, overusing your mascara and eye makeup can cause quality issues

It could contribute to lash fall out
Now, this isn’t to say applying an outdated mascara is going to make your eyelashes shed immediately, but the older your mascara gets, the more drying and gloopy the liquid can become. This creates a stickier and stiffer formula that leads to a more aggressive removal technique and higher fall-out risk.

It loses its effectiveness
Exposure to air, oils and other impurities not only causes bacteria growth, but can also leave your lashes looking lackluster, flat and clumpy. So, if it’s not giving you silky, fluttery lashes, it’s time to part ways.