We are probably all guilty of using a skincare or makeup product for years and not even thinking about whether it’s expired or not (shoutout my eyeshadow palettes). Many people probably don’t even realize there are expiration dates and labels showing how long a product is considered “stable” and safe to use. Recently I had an issue with a potentially expired product (which ended up not being expired) and I learned the proper ways to check and address the issue. I figured this learning experience would help other consumers who may not know!
Do all skincare products need to have a clear expiration date?
(Disclaimer: Different countries have different regulations in regards to expiration or how companies label their products to consumers. The information I am providing is for the United States and pulled from the official FDA website).
The short answer is no. Many skincare products in the United States aren’t going to have a clear expiration date. You will also see some brands such as La Roche-Posay (pictured above) have expiration dates on all products, it just depends on the brand, product, formula. However, “drug” cosmetic and skincare products, like those including sunscreen or acne treatments are tested for stability and have to have expiration dates disclosed on the packaging. EU regulations for cosmetic and skincare products require an expiration on the packaging if the products shelf-life is under 30 months, over 30 months don’t need an expiration. If you don’t see a clear expiration date on your packaging, keep reading because I am going to show you another way to know if a product is going bad.
In general, even if a product is dated properly, there are many factors that can cause a product to go “bad” quicker such as humidity, temperature, storage, direct sunlight (vitamin c products in direct sunlight oxidize way quicker no matter what), and more. If a product changes in color, smell, texture, I would just throw it away to be safe.
How do I know when to throw out a product?
Have you ever really looked at a skincare or cosmetic product and noticed small little open jar with a number in the middle? This is called the “period after opening” symbol. Basically, this tells you the lifetime of a product and how long it’s safe to use after its been opened by the consumer. You may not realize but the second skincare or cosmetic products reach “oxygen” they can become less stable. Products also get “contaminated” with bacteria from human use. Skincare generally has a 2-3 year shelf life (unopened) but the second it’s opened everything changes, most skincare and even cosmetic products have a 12 month period after opening, some may have shorter PAO dates and some may have longer, it truly depends on the product. It’s important to keep an idea of how long you’ve had a product opened because it can cause irritation, rashes, or allergic reactions if it’s going bad.
TIP: I personally don’t do this, but I have seen a few other content creators track when they’ve opened a product and the period after opening date on an Excel spreadsheet. This is a great idea for those who have a lot of skincare products or don’t do a good job at remembering when they started using a product.
What should I do if I’m unsure if a products expired?
So, there are some websites that you can look up “batch dates” (when the specific product was made) on a lot of makeup and skincare products. I DO NOT recommend using this as a way to determine if a product is expired. Although they may be accurate sometimes, there’s no way to be 100% sure. Do not make the same mistake I did and jump to conclusions right away. I received a PR box from a company (sold at Ulta, well known) and was notified by another creator that their products were expired (they used the third-party website). Instead of reaching out to the brand directly right away I also used the website to see if products were expired. Some of my products were “2 years expired” but in reality, the website didn’t use the same coding system as the company I received the products from. After reaching out to the brand directly they looked into the codes on the product and the ones they sent me were basically just manufactured. So I freaked out and got nervous for nothing. Learn from my mistake, don’t use these websites. If you suspect a product you just bought/received is expired, I would reach out to customer service either through their website or Instagram (you usually get a quicker response through IG). Usually they can quickly look up the information based on a barcode on the product and let you know. Unfortunately, batch dates aren’t going to be public knowledge. They really don’t need to be as the average consumer probably doesn’t even mind. Now, I’m not saying to DM them every single product you own because we should trust them. But, if you’re suspicious about a product you just purchased and it seems off, reach out to the company directly rather than using a third-party batch code search website.
In general, expired products shouldn’t be something we are constantly nervous about. If you’re using a product daily or even a few times a week, we use it well before the period after open date (for the most part). If you are someone who collects skincare and doesn’t get to everything right away I would just be mindful of when you opened a product for the sake of your skin. I just wanted to give some more information on how to find out if skincare products are expired and what you should do if you suspect it! Always go directly to the brand for any concerns about products, they’ll know best!
Thanks for reading! If you don’t already, follow my Instagram @skinbyrileyb