How long can I use open jars of skincare?
Skincare has a shelf life – the date can usually be found on the back of the bottle or the bottom of the jar. If there's not an actual date, there might be a tiny image of an opened jar with a number on it: six, 12, 24, or 36. This refers to the 'period after opening' and it recommends the maximum number of months a product should be used before discarding. It is important to note as lots of skincare has oils and these oils oxidise.
What is the shelf life of skincare products?
Everything from the packaging to the type of formulation, storage, and transport conditions can affect the quality of your skincare products and shorten their shelf life. Exposure to heat, sunlight, and air, for example, can easily degrade the active ingredients in the formula and render them ineffective over time. Frequent exposure to moisture—like in a bathroom—can create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, while dipping your fingers into the product can introduce microorganisms. Use a spatula for creams and masks. It is worth noting that formulas without preservatives are especially vulnerable to breaking down from these factors. Make sure water does not get into the container, such as body scrubs and lotions as mold may develop over time. Also, it is best to buy products that are in sealed containers like pumps instead of jars, as they tend to have a longer shelf life.
The FDA defines the product’s shelf life as the length of time you can expect a product to look and act as expected and to stay safe for use. This length of time varies, depending on the type of product, how it is used, and how it is stored. In general, most skincare products are stability tested to have a shelf life of about two years when stored properly (in the original packaging) and left unopened. However, after opening, most products start to lose potency and oxidise after 6 to 12 months, some even sooner, depending on the formula and other factors. Being exposed to heat, sunlight, not closing the bottle correctly, can increase how quickly this process happens.
Whether it is cream, serum, or mask, every beauty product expires at some point, regardless of storage conditions. Expired products not only become ineffective but can trigger adverse reactions, so by all means you should throw them away if they have passed their shelf life.
Take note of when you purchased the product.
How to determine the expiration date of your skincare products?
For starters, you could look to the bottom of the package for a stamp with an expiration date. If there is none, the brand may use another indicator to display the shelf life of the product. The most accurate one is “Period After Opening (PAO),” which is shown on the label with a symbol like an open jar with a number and the letter “M” printed on it. This indicates the period a product can be used after the first time it was opened. For example, 6M means it can be safely used for six months after opening.
If you cannot find the expiration date nor the PAO/BBD symbol on the label, look out for the batch number, which is usually printed on the bottom of the package. You can then contact the brand and ask them directly for information about when the product will expire.
You can always use common sense to gauge whether a product is nearing its expiration date. Any noticeable changes in the smell, consistency, colour, or texture of the product are clear indications that it is likely to expire soon or has already. Keep in mind that different types of products may show different warning signs. A change in colour may be more noticeable in a foundation or concealer, while a change in texture may be more noticeable in a moisturiser or serum.
Here is a general guideline for how long each type of product usually lasts last, considering they are optimally stored:
- Cleansers: 1 year
- Toners: 6 to 12 months
- Acid exfoliants: 1 year
- Serums: 6 to 12 months
- Moisturisers: 6 to 12 months
- Sunscreens: As stated on the label
- Face masks: 1 year
- Eye creams: 6 to 12 months
- Vitamin C: 3 to 6 months
- Retinol: 6 to 12 months
- Lipsticks/mascaras and eye pencil -3 / 6 months.