Got a jumble of skincare products lying around in a drawer or medicine cabinet at home? Think twice before you grab that serum or sunscreen that’s been sitting around for… who knows how long. Understanding when a skincare product is safe to use or has expired is more complicated than you’d think. We’ve got your back – and your skin – covered with some fundamental ground rules:
Look out for the labels
While not required, many cosmetics companies and skin care product manufacturers label their products with either expiration dates or “use-after-opening” dates. Look out for labels like the one below, which denotes that the product should be used within 18 months of opening.
All things considered…
Shelf life depends on a variety of factors, including product type and ingredients (which sometimes include preservatives). Some product ingredients lose their potency as time goes on. Vitamin C in serum, for example, can destabilize in a matter of months. Sunscreen is generally good for at most 1 year for optimal protection. Cleansers and serums contain unstable ingredients that minimize their effectiveness after 6-12 months. The bottom line is that few products are still maximally effective more than 1 year after opening. For products with active ingredients, be sure to check the expiration date or ask a dermatologist.
Store your products smarter
All things considered, where and how you store your skincare products can have the biggest impact on their shelf life. While your medicine cabinet may seem like the most logical place to stash those tubes and bottles for later use, the warm and moist climate in your bathroom is actually a bad place for most beauty products. Storing them in a cool, dry closet will help maintain and extend the shelf life of your products.
To further protect both opened and unopened products, place them in resealable bags for storage.
Storage conditions should inform your decisions about whether your product is safe to use. For example, a recently expired moisturizer or serum stored in your glove compartment during the summer would not be great to use, but a similar product stored in a cool, dark cabinet is probably still fair game.
Signs that it’s time to toss
Expiration dates and guidelines aside, use your best judgement when determining if a product is likely still safe and effective to use. If the color, smell, or consistency of an item has changed significantly since you last used it, it’s likely time to trash. If it looks suspicious, chances are it is suspicious.
In order to maintain healthy skin, replace your skin care products on a regular basis. To achieve this in an efficient and cost-effective manner, consider sticking a label on each product that says the date you opened it. This way, you can be confident as to whether a product has passed its “use-after-opening” date.
Keep it clean
When it comes to safety and effectiveness, how you treat your products is also key. For example, avoid sticking your fingers into product containers. Use a swab instead to avoid introducing bacteria, dirt, oils, or yeast from the environment. Seal lids tightly.
The dermatologist is at your fingertips
You aren’t alone when skincare problems arise. Connect with your dermatologist today from any smartphone, tablet, or computer with SkyMD.
Read about how SkyMD is partnering with premiere online skin care dispensary RegimenPro to bring you the best of dermatology care, patient education, and your favorite skincare brands.