Real Talk: How Seriously Do I Need to Follow Expiration Dates?
Unlike the foods in our fridge, we don’t always give the expiration dates of our beauty products much thought. Maybe that’s because the FDA doesn’t actually require brands to tell consumers when a product expires or because, unlike browning bananas and spoiled milk, it isn’t always so obvious when something goes bad. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
Truth is: You should follow expiration dates and stop using products once it's reached beyond its shelf life for several reasons. Read on for everything to know, plus how to tell if a product is bad and ways to keep it fresh for as long as possible.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Expired Products
There are two major reasons why you should avoid using skincare that has gone bad. First, old products are prone to harboring bacteria, which can lead to irritation and infections like acne and dermatitis. Secondly, expired products simply don’t work as well. Over time, a product loses its efficacy—making it worth tossing, anyways.
How to Tell a Product If a Product’s Gone Bad
While expiration dates are not an FDA requirement, many product labels follow EU guidelines by featuring a PAO (period after opening) symbol that showcases how long a product is usable once opened. That looks like an open jar with the time period inside it, often "12M." While handy, it does require you to remember exactly when you first opened the product in order to keep track of when it goes bad. Write the date you open a product on the bottom or set calendar reminder for 12 months out. And if it appears or smells off, you should probably toss it.
How to Extend a Product’s Shelf Life
If you want to get the most out of your product’s lifetime, there are some simple steps you can take to increase its shelf life:
- Store your skincare in a cool, dry place. Avoid heat and humidity (like near windows or the shower). Even better, pop your products in the fridge—at the least the items you don't use every day like masks.
- Always wash your hands or use a skincare spatula before dipping into any product that comes in a jar to prevent bacteria growth.
- Don’t share your skincare products with others, which can spread even more bacteria.
- If you don’t think you’ll finish a product in time, buy a travel-size version instead (like our Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm Mini).