When should you throw away your skincare products?

We’ll be the first to admit that sometimes our skincare stash is *cough* a bit out of control. You’ll agree, it’s nice to have choices, no? But, it does have its downsides. Namely, skincare products that are collecting dust and have potentially expired. And we don’t want that on our faces. Read on to learn the shelf life of your skincare products and when it is time to toss them in the bin.

Expiration dates

Some products do have expiration dates listed on the packaging. This includes sunscreen and some acne treatments. If they are past their expiration date, toss them. Acne treatments will not be effective, and an expired sunscreen won’t do what it is meant to do – protect your skin against the sun.

Period After Opening

Products that don’t have expiration dates listed on the packaging, will have something called “Period After Opening” (also known as PAO). Look at any of the skincare products from your stash. Find the symbol of an open jar with a number next to it. This indicates how long the product can be used after opening. The number can range from three to 36 months. Once that time has passed, it is advised to stop using the product. One thing many Korean products have is a label on the packaging, where you can write down the date when you opened up the product. You can do the same.

Unopened products

Now comes the tricky part. How long can you keep any products you haven’t opened? It depends on several things. How is the product packaged? Where and how was it stored? Products in a jar might not last as long, like the ones in airless pump bottles. Likewise, do you keep your products in the bathroom? It is a warm and humid environment that can contribute to your products going off sooner than indicated on the packaging.

In ideal conditions (we’ll get to that in a bit) your products should last as follows (mind you, these are just very loose and general outlines):

Serums – from six months to a year
Moisturisers – from six months to a year
Cleansers – up to one year
Acid-based products – up to one year

So what would be ideal conditions to store your skincare products?

Avoid the bathroom, as it is a warm and humid environment.

Avoid placing your product in direct sunlight.

Pump packaging will keep the product fresher for longer. Products in jar containers are a bit trickier as there is a risk of contamination if you dip dirty fingers into the jar. Likewise, in some instances and depending on the formula, the product can oxidise or degrade. To keep a product in a jar last longer, use a spatula to scoop the product out. Alternatively, make sure you wash your hands before you dip your fingers in.

Are there any changes in the consistency, texture, or smell of the product? If the answer to any of that is yes, it’s time to toss it. One of the best examples for that are vitamin C serums. Serums that use L-ascorbic acid can oxidise quickly when exposed to air or light. The colour of the serum will change from pale yellow to orange or brown. If this happens, it’s time to toss it.

We get it, no one likes to throw away products. But, at best you are using something that is not as effective as it should be. At worst, you are risking a potential infection or a skin reaction.

Don’t forget to sanitise your skincare routine. And Maire Kondo it while you are at it. It’ll go a long way to keep your skincare sitch under control.

Roberta Striga