Expiration Date of Your Skincare Products: Do You Know It?
We all are aware that food products expire, and we tend to be super-ready to dispose of them when their expiry date is close. But do you know that skincare products also expire too? Yes, skincare products expire and lose their effectiveness. That is why it is important to toss them out when they are expired.
However, the unfortunate thing about this is that it is difficult to know when skincare products have gone bad. I have prepared this post to help open up your eyes to some facts about the expiration date of your skincare products. You are surely going to be grateful after you read this!
Why Do I Need To Throw Old Products Away?
When products have passed their prime, it becomes much easier for invisible bacteria to grow and thrive in such products, especially in hot humid environments like in your bathroom. If you don’t dispose of such products, they become contaminated and could cause various skin issues such as rashes, irritation, blemishes, and skin infections, and rarely even life-threatening conditions.
Even if the products aren’t contaminated, by the time they expire they would have already lost their potency and become less effective. It is difficult to know however, when these products expire.
Is There An Expiration Date On Your Skincare Or Cosmetic Product?
Under the European Union regulation on cosmetic products, there is no mandatory requirement to display an expiration date, if a product is fit for use for 30 months or more from the date of manufacture. However, the regulation requires a PAO symbol to be displayed on the product to indicate the length of time the product is safe for use after opening.
Incentive for Manufacturers
To some manufacturers, this could be a huge incentive to add enough preservatives to their cosmetic and skincare products to last for at least 30 months, so they would not be required to display an expiration date. This way, a product could stay on the shelf for years until it is sold, saving both manufacturers and stores high costs related to replacing expired products. Of course, I am not saying that the legislation is wrong, but I am just highlighting a possible consequence.
What Does This Mean For Consumers?
We, as consumers, should have a rough idea of a product’s manufacture date, but if there is no expiry date shown, really we have no idea. Whenever I shop, I always look for an expiration date. This ensures that I buy a fresh product that is not filled with preservatives.
Better yet, we should try to understand what the skincare companies’ practices are i.e. the types of preservatives they use, how much they use, and how safe they are. This might seem a lot of work at first, but necessary if we care about our skin and health. Also, this skill becomes easier once we get the hang of it.
On my journey to “more natural” and then “more organic”, I learned that products that contain water, such as cleansers, toners, moisturizers, shower gels, and shampoos, need some sort of a preservative in order to last a bit longer than a few weeks. I have also learnt that there are no organic preservatives in nature that we can use, therefore we need to choose between synthetic preservatives and the few natural alternatives that we have.
So How Do You Stay Safe While Also Preserving Your Skin Health? Some Tips to Help
#1: First know about acceptable preservatives
If you are into natural and organic, you can check what preservatives are accepted by organic regulatory bodies such as Soil Association and Ecocert. COSMOS, the international organic and natural certifier for skincare products, has a list of approved preservatives, which we report here:
Benzoic acid and its salts
Dehydroacetic acid and its salts
Salicylic acid and its salts
Sorbic acid and its salts
#2: Keep yourself in the know about preservatives
All skincare products have one or two preservatives in them. This is the ingredient that helps preserve the life of your mascara or moisturisers and makes it stay safe for a few months or years on your shelf. But while some preservatives can stay for quite some time before losing effectiveness, like we see in most water-based products, others can stay a bit longer. So check the ingredient list for acceptable preservatives of the product you wish to purchase.
#3: Look for an expiration date
If it is not showing, you can always contact the manufacturer and ask for the product manufacture date by giving them the batch number shown on the packaging. Also ask for the product’s average shelf life or the shelf life of that specific batch. Some products, like the ones we produce here at Terre Verdi, always come with expiry dates on them, so you can be rightly informed about what you are purchasing.
#4: Make sure the expiration is not too long
Expiration of less than two years is best, as the natural ingredients might start to lose their efficacy after this time. Even if the product is still smelling fine and having the right colour and viscosity (texture), the ingredients might not be at their optimum potency.
A very long or no shelf life could also mean that the product is loaded with unnecessary preservatives that your skin might not like, so it is key to find the balance between having a safe product that will not spoil during the time you will use it (so enough preservatives) and a product that will not give you skin problems while using it (perhaps due to too many or too harsh preservatives).
#5: Don’t keep your products for too long after opening them
It is recommended you use up or dispose of skincare products after using them for about 6 months, even if they have a 2-year shelf life. Don’t forget, the fresher the better. And definitely, your skin always deserves the best at all times. So give it the best!
All in all, these tips can keep you alert of the dangers around expiration dates of skincare products and the preservatives used, as well as help you find the right products for you. However, you will learn more and more with experience. Just keep practicing “expiry date alertness” at the beauty counter too, not just in the grocery store! Let’s get in the habit of viewing beauty products are food for the skin, so they need freshness just as much as food.
If you want to have a guideline on the shelf life of specific products, check out this other article we wrote on the subject: Expiry Date on Skincare Products: The Truth!