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When to Break Up with Your Skincare Products

While it’s not necessarily true that all good things come to an end, that definitely doesn’t include skincare products. We know it’s hard to toss that expensive serum you didn’t finish using or the eye cream you forgot about in the back of the drawer – but toss them you must! Old skincare products can negatively affect your skin and here’s why.

Why Expired Products Need to Go

According to the FDA, a product’s shelf life is the length of time the consumer can expect the product to perform as indicated and be safe to use. Once the products have expired they lose their effectiveness. At the very least, you’re using something that isn’t delivering any benefits to your skin any longer. At worst, expired skincare can cause irritation, including rashes and breakouts.

When to toss

Skincare and beauty products often are not labeled with an expiration date like food, and sometimes this is intended by the company, since FDA does not require this information. So it isn’t obvious as in “Best By” or “Use By” dates listed on most foods. A general rule of thumb is skincare products typically last for six months to one year, stored in a cool dark place. Unopened they can be stored up to 36 months in most cases.

How do you know if it’s expired?

Appearance and smell are the two most obvious tests. If the product smells strange (rancid, or “off”) or if creams have separated, leaving an oily residue on the surface, discard them. Look on the sides and bottom of the bottles and jars for any information or lot numbers that refer to the product’s expiration. Often you’ll find a small jar icon with a number inside. The number indicates the shelf life of the product after opening it. Sunscreens and sunblocks do have specific expiration dates, required by the FDA. Most products containing active ingredients like blemish control and anti-aging products will have expiration dates. Check any unopened skincare products that look like they are past their opening date to see if there are any changes in color or smell or if the product has separated.

Extend the shelf life of your products

Regardless of how long your skincare should last, if you don’t take proper care of them, they will degrade faster than the recommended shelf life. Do not use dip your fingers directly into jars or use non-sanitary applicators to remove product. Bacteria will form in the product and affect the formula. Makes sure your applicators are disposable or regularly cleaned and sanitized. Don’t expose products to undue moisture or heat (in or near showers or other warm, moist places). A dry, cool and dark place with a consistent temperature is optimal. Keep the lids firmly screwed on and don’t mix products in their containers.


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