Skincare products do not last forever, pay attention to the expiration date

Cropped and vertical view of young adult woman holding pipette with natural oil over glass bottle, spill serum against pastel pink background with copy space

Keep your skin safe and healthy by ensuring your skin care products are not expired.

We’ve heard these phrases over and over again.” This is the best product for your skin,” “Having a healthy skincare routine is crucial,” and the all-time classic, “Don’t forget the sunscreen!”

From our mothers delving into these phrases growing up to our friends offering tips as we age, the constant stream of advice may have helped you prioritize and best care for your skin. After all, a consistent and nourishing skincare routine is one of the keys to looking and feeling healthy.

But many people don’t realize that a skincare routine should consist of new and fresh products – ones that haven’t expired. If a product is past its expiration date (or “use by” date), it will not reach its full potential, no matter how good it once was.

One other small detail worth mentioning. Unlike grocery store products, the FDA does not require beauty brands to label their products with an expiration date or specific shelf life. This requirement may make sense for products like milk baths or salt scrubs because it’s obvious when they expire. But for other skin care products, especially cosmetics, it may be more challenging to know when a product has passed.

For example, products like retinol and vitamin C serum still smell and look normal after expiration, even if they no longer work properly. Your makeup may look and feel the same as when you first opened it. But using beauty products outside their most effective time frame will start to show over time.

Adverse effects of using expired skin care products
In most cases, using older skin care products will not necessarily hurt your health, but the product’s effectiveness diminishes over time. Expired skin care products can also host bacteria and fungus or cause your skin to become red or irritated.

For example, when you dip your fingers into a cream, or even apply eye shadow with a brush or apply lashes with a mascara wand, it can lead to an overabundance of bacteria. And the bacteria that grow can lead to skin irritation and breakouts – precisely the kind of thing you want to avoid when caring for your skin.

This is especially true of eye products, which can lead to puffiness and irritation once they expire. Nothing good happens when something gets in your eyes because it shouldn’t be there.
cosmetic skincare packaging . beauty product mock up on luxury white marble with natural light and shadow.

How long do skincare products last?
With groceries, it’s easy to tell when items are past their shelf life. We’ve all smelled an expired milk carton or opened a crisper drawer to see moldy vegetables.

But when opening a bathroom cabinet, it may not be so obvious. A product may be expired, even if it doesn’t look or smell bad. When it comes to expensive skincare products, most people have a hard time throwing away excess product once it has expired.

Thankfully, skincare expiration dates don’t vary much from brand to brand, but they vary a lot from product to product. You can easily remember the average usage time of certain skincare products. Most products have a stamped label stating the expiration date after opening (PAO). PAO is written as a time range, such as “12m”, meaning 12 months. However, the timeline varies depending on the type of product. Here is a breakdown of how long your skin care products should last (on average)

  • Moisturizers: 12 months
  • Serums: 16 months
  • Face washes: 6 months
  • Oils: 12 months
  • Deodorants: 24 months
  • Acne products: 8 months
  • Toners: 12 months
  • Sunscreens: 12 months

Unopened skincare products are a whole other beast. Since they’ve yet to be exposed to oxygen and any bacteria, they can still retain their potency beyond the expiration date (if sealed entirely, that is). However, once you finally open up the product, take note of the average expiration dates to keep your skin safe and free of bacteria and irritation.

So, has it expired if it has passed its “use by” date?
We all ask ourselves this question when we see a product we like and realize the date has expired.

While the point of this article is to throw out expired products to keep you safe, there is a factor that some products work fine weeks to a month after their expiration date.

Do we recommend using them past their expiration date? No, but to make you the most informed consumer, we’ve added some additional ways to determine if your products are safe to use.

Here are some tips on determining if your skincare products have expired.

Consistency. If the product’s surface has changed over time and is past its shelf life, throw it out. If the texture and scent remain the same, the choice is yours.
Ingredient list. You want to observe the expiration date if the product contains vitamin C, retinol, or other ingredients such as ethanol or hyaluronic acid. These compounds will break down in oxygen over time.
Color. When you open a jar, tube, or case, pay attention to the item’s color. Rather than using it immediately, could you take a moment to focus on its hue? Does the color change throughout? Does it change color over time? These are all clues that your product should be thrown away.
Smell. If something smells rancid, off, or not the way it smelled when you first opened it, it’s time to stop using it.
How to extend the shelf life of your skincare products
The easiest way to extend the life of your skincare products is to store them in a cool, dry place, such as on a counter or in a bathroom drawer or cabinet. If a product contains fragrance in the first five ingredients listed, it is best to store it outside the bathroom. With the humidity from a shower, the molecules in a strongly scented item will break down more quickly, causing the product to deteriorate faster.

Another tip to help you extend the shelf life of your skin care products is to always wash your hands before using them.

Buying smaller or travel-sized products instead of regular-sized ones is another way to avoid wasting money, especially if you take your time and use up your products.

Your skin, not your skincare products, should be your priority.
Given how often we put our skincare routines first, paying attention to expiration dates is almost as important as paying attention to ingredient lists. While some products may last longer – especially if sealed – they should always be stored correctly for maximum effectiveness. Above all, it’s vital to keep your skin healthy and safe, so prioritize your skin by regularly removing expired products.

 

 

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