How Long Do Skincare Products Last?

You pay good money for your skincare products, so you want to get as much as you can out of them. The problem is that some products are not intended for daily use, so you’ll go through them more slowly than your daily cleanser and moisturizer. But just how long can you expect your skincare products to last and do they ever actually expire?

In this article, we’ll explore the subject of shelf life for skincare products. We’ll take a look at labeling requirements in the U.S. and Europe, in addition to reviewing some of the best ways to maximize shelf life of your favorite skincare products.

What Does “Shelf Life” Actually Mean?

When you pick any skincare product off the shelf, you should check the label for key information. First and foremost, you should take a look at the ingredients to make sure the product is what you’re looking for and that it doesn’t contain anything that will irritate or inflame your skin. From there, you want to check for any dates on the label to indicate the shelf life of the product.

The term “shelf life” simply refers to the period during which the manufacturer has determined that the product is best suited for use. Unlike food, many beauty products never truly expire but the quality may decline after a certain point.

In the United States, there are no laws or regulations that require cosmetics to carry a shelf life or to have an expiration date on the label. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does, however, require that manufacturers ensure that their products are safe, and they consider determining the product’s shelf life to be part of that responsibility. In Europe, cosmetic products with a lifespan of less than 30 months must carry a Maximum Durability Date (MDD) on the label. This is usually indicated with an image of the “egg timer” symbol followed by the date.

Some skincare brands like Yon-Ka Paris go beyond the minimum requirements and include a Period After Opening (POA) time. This indicates the number of months the product will remain in top condition after being opened and used for the first time. Most Yon-Ka Paris products have a 6- or 12-month POA and it is indicated on the package with the symbol of an open jar.

How Closely Should You Follow Best By Dates?

When a food product goes bad, it is usually pretty obvious. Bread develops moldy patches, lunchmeat takes on a sour smell, and other foods become discolored. When it comes to skincare products, however, it is not always obvious whether the product is still usable. Even if the product has a Maximum Durability Date or Best Used Before date, these dates are understood to be rules of thumb rather than actual hard and fast rules.

So, how much attention should you pay to these dates? It depends.

Most skincare products carry a Best Used By or Maximum Durability Date, but the FDA does require some products to carry expiration dates. This includes products categorized as over the counter (OTC) like sunscreens, acne treatments, and products that contain certain active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. For these products, expiration dates should be followed closely but for other skincare products, you can use your best judgment to determine whether the product is still good or not.

Here are some signs that your skincare products have gone bad:

  • An unpleasant or rotten smell
  • Ingredients in the product have separated
  • The texture of the product has changed
  • Black, green, or blue mold spots have developed
  • The color of the product has changed

If you notice any of these changes in your skincare products, throw the product away and purchase a new container. Keep in mind that many modern skincare companies have strayed away from using large quantities of preservatives, so some products may have very short shelf lives after opening. You should still pay attention to Best Used By dates and Maximum Durability Dates, but there are also some simple things you can do to maximize the shelf life of your beauty products. Read on to learn more.

Tips for Maximizing the Shelf Life of Skincare Products

Before opening a skincare product, it should have a shelf life of three to five years, depending on the product and the manufacturer. Keep in mind, however, that even this timeframe could be shortened if the product is stored in a hot, humid environment or is exposed to direct sunlight. Unopened or not, there are some simple things you can do to keep your skincare products safe.

Here are some simple tips for maximizing the shelf life of skincare products:

  • Store your products in a cabinet or drawer to keep them out of direct sunlight – you should also keep them in a cool, dry place.
  • Wash your hands before using your products, even if you use a pump or disposable applicator, to reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Make sure the cap or lid on your product is secured tightly after each use.
  • Avoid buying products that come in open-mouth jars – they have a higher risk for contamination because you dip your fingers into them. Look for airless jars.
  • Don’t store your beauty products in the refrigerator because it could affect their stability – these products are designed to withstand mild temperature fluctuations in the average home.
  • Consider replacing certain products after you’ve had a contagious skin infection or eye infection – you don’t want to accidentally re-infect yourself.

Here are some general rules for when to throw away certain products:

  • Cleansers – 12 months
  • Toners – 6 to 12 months
  • Exfoliants (with BHA or AHA) – 12 months
  • Moisturizers and serums – 6 to 12 months
  • Lip balms – 12 months

Storing your skincare products properly is important to extend shelf life so your skin gains the maximum benefit. If you have questions about storing your products or would like to speak to a skincare professional about the best products for your skin, use our Spa Locator to find a Yon-Ka partner near you.

Brianna Cunningham
Brianna Cunningham

Brianna is a writer and blogger living in Austin, Texas. When she isn't working, she enjoys running, watching beauty/skincare videos on YouTube and taking her dog to the park.

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