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Skincare Shelf Life: Know When to Toss Something Out

So you’ve splurged on a jar of moisturizer that’s supposed to keep your skin looking glowing and plump. But here’s the catch: you’ve bought it years ago!

If you’ve ever found yourself holding on to your skincare products for longer than what is recommended then your skin may be in a lot of trouble. Today, we’ll be talking about the shelf life of your skincare products. Let’s get started!

Why You Need to Throw Out Expired Skincare

The truth is all beauty products expire. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent $5 or $100 on toner or serum. Over time, it will lose its effectivity and may even affect your skin in a negative way.

There are real risks involved in using products that are past their prime. For starters, as the active ingredients in these products breakdown, they may start to work differently than they should. You’re just coating your skin in goop that won’t give you the benefits you need.

Apart from losing potency, expired products can also harbor bacteria and mold from months of getting exposed to moisture and potentially dirty fingers. When applied to the skin, products that are past their shelf life can cause in irritation and even breakouts.

Product Labels Tell You A Lot

The good news is you don’t have to resort to guesswork to know if it’s time to throw away that bottle of exfoliant. Many beauty products like sunscreen, face creams, and face washes carry a Period After Opening (PAO) symbol that tells you how many months you have after opening a product before you need to throw it out.

It usually appears as a number followed by an M and an icon of an open jar. If you see a “6M” on your moisturizer box or jar then you have half a year after cracking the packaging open until it needs to hit the recycling bin.

When to Throw Products Out

But what if you don’t see a PAO symbol anywhere or you’ve thrown away the box of your favorite product? Well, you’re in luck because there are signs you can look for to determine if you need to throw something away already.

If you see any discoloration in a product, then it’s time to throw it out. If it starts getting a tinge of yellow when it used to be a lovely creamy white, then don’t hesitate to toss it.

You can also check if the texture has changed in any way. Most skincare products are emulsions. If it starts to separate, curdle, or form lumps, don’t even dare to keep it.

Furthermore, if the texture seems off—if a product that’s supposed to be luxuriously smooth starts to feel grainy or streaky, then it is a clear sign that it has gone bad.

Of course, certain classes of products have an average life span. Here’s a quick cheat sheet for you:

  • Cleansers can last for 1 year
  • Toners can go for 6 months to 1 year depending on the formulation
  • BHA or AHA exfoliants typically have a shelf life of 1 year
  • Facial or body moisturizers and serums can last you 6 months to 1 year depending on the type of packaging. Those in jars may get contaminated easier and may last for a shorter period.
  • Lip balm should only be used for 1 year since it gets in contact with your mouth.
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