Can You Use Expired Skin Care Products?

Although it may be tough to throw away an expensive cleanser, eye cream or moisturizer, there is often good reason to discard expired skin care products.

Nothing lasts forever and the same is true for your skin care products. Difficult as it may be, expired skin care products may be more than just ineffective. They may be harmful to your skin. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know when to toss away your products as many cosmetics aren’t labelled with expiration dates. Shelf lives often depend on when you opened your products and how you stored them.

To extend product shelf life the following can help:

  • Store beauty products in cool, dark places like medicine cabinets, drawers or closets. Once you’ve opened a jar its contents are exposed to light and air, which speeds up its deterioration. Jars and pumps prevent air entry
  • Avoid dipping fingers to stop bacteria from entering the product. Use clean cotton swabs wherever possible or purchase products that dispense via pumps.
  • Close lids tightly between uses
  • Convenient though it may be, store your makeup out of the bathroom. The humidity is a breeding ground for bacteria, mold and yeast.
  • If you’ve had an eye infection or cold sore discard eye and lip products.
  • Clean makeup brushes and other applicators frequently.

Here’s a general guide to help you decide if it’s time to discard your expired skin care products:

  • Cleansers. One year. Some ingredients such as retinol and alpha hydroxy acids may actually increase in potency after long periods of storage.
  • Serums. 6 to 12 months. Ingredients with highly unstable ingredients may last even less time. Generally the manufacturer will let you know this. Certainly if it starts to smell or look bad, toss it.
  • Moisturizers. One year.
  • Sunscreens. One year. Most sunscreens are labelled with expiration dates and if they are stored unopened you can expect them to be effective until this date. Once opened they start to lose their efficacy and should be discarded within a year of opening.
  • Acne treatments: Two years. Products with active ingredients are often labelled with expiration dates.
  • Natural products. While there is a trend towards using natural beauty and skin care products bear in mind that ‘natural’ preservative systems may not be as robust as those used in traditional cosmetics. Shelf lives may be shorter so you must be diligent in watching out for changes in smell, color or consistency.

While not mandatory, an increasing number of cosmetics companies label their products with expiration dates. Use these as general guidelines certainly, but I can’t emphasize enough that when it comes to assessing safety that there are no set rules when it comes to expired skin care products. Changes in smell, color or consistency are signs to trash your product. In order to maintain healthy skin, replace your skin care products on a regular basis.

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