The Truth about Skin Care Product Shelf Life

Digging through your medicine cabinet, you find a dusty old bottle of facial moisturizer with dried up lotion lining the seam of the cap. You turn the tiny tube in your fingertips as you search for an expiration date, only to find some blurry printed code at the base of the tube. Though you don’t remember when you bought it, the memory of paying $52.95 for it has you twisting off the lid in an instant.

But before you squeeze that cream on your fingertips, keep in mind that expired skin care products aren’t always safe or effective. When you open the product, you expose its ingredients to oxygen and bacteria in the air, which can cause a product to spoil and become less effective over time.

However, the good news is that many skin care products, including facial serums, moisturizers, and sunscreens are made to last for several months, often up to three years after opening. On the other hand, unopened products can last for 3-5 years, which is why many products aren’t required to have expiration dates on them.

If the skin care product in question doesn’t have an expiration date, call the manufacturer to find out when the product was made, and whether or not it’s still safe to use. Just about all skin care products will have a code on the back consisting of a series of letters and numbers, and the manufacturer can use that code to tell you when the product was made.

After speaking to the manufacturer, squeeze out some of the product and check for any discoloration, odors, or separation. If the product looks as it did when you last used it and smells normal, it’s likely that the product is still ok to use. If not, play it safe and toss the bottle.

When buying skin care products in the future, a good rule of thumb is to write the date of purchase on the bottle with a permanent marker after you purchase it. 



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