Almost all of us have a bag or a makeup box filled with products that we can’t even remember buying. The scary truth is that almost anything you can’t remember buying should be thrown away. Moisturizers and other cosmetics contain a range of ingredients which can harm your skin instead of helping it once they’ve been exposed to the elements beyond a safe period of time.
In this article, we’ll be taking you through a look at how long moisturizers last based on what is in them, how they degrade and what signs to look for in an expired moisturizer.
We’ll also discuss the “use by” standard found on all good cosmetics while helping you understand the risks so that you’ll never want to use expired products again.
If you’re asking how long moisturizer lasts in an attempt to determine whether an old product is still viable, then you’d probably be better off buy a new one instead of risking your skin with a dodgy moisturizer. Nonetheless, certain types of moisturizer do last longer than others. Here’s a guideline of the general shelf life but try not to use anything that doesn’t have an expiry date clearly stated:
Another problem with using creams and moisturizers which are nearing their expiry or of an unknown expiry is how they could be contaminated with bacteria. Using expired creams doesn’t only run the run of irritation but it’ll increase your chances of contracting bacteria. As a general rule, throw away any moisturizer or cosmetic product which is in a jar after six months have passed. Pump-based moisturizers are far more hygienic.
Make sure that you are the only person using your moisturizer if using a jar but instead resort to a cream featuring a pump dispenser for multiple users. Pump dispensers are especially common for general-purpose moisturizers; just make sure that the mechanism which you opt for is of a good quality so that it doesn’t fail before your cream runs out.
Other than the super-fast expiry of natural extracts, certain components of most moisturizers such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid lose efficacy at a rapid rate. Within just three months of being exposed to air, they will degrade completely.
Other components such as vitamins and oils do last longer but the most you can hope for is six to twelve months. Plant oils become rancid once expired and will introduce toxins rather than flushing them if used. If your cream, lotion or other moisturizer has begun to change color, odor or consistency, throw it away.
If your moisturizer causes any adverse reaction such as reddening of the skin, inflammation of any type, itchiness, or swelling, then its either old or contains an allergen which you are sensitive to. Most moisturizes will only spur up ill-effects when they are long-expired but never use any product which you suspect to be expired without at least doing a patch test.
A patch test can be used to determine whether or not a product will cause an allergic or adverse reaction. This is especially useful for testing whether a moisturizer has expired. Apply a small amount of your moisturizer to the inside of your elbow and wait for at least 72-hours, checking for any irritation, redness, itching or burning sensation. If nothing arises, it's probably fine to use.
There is a standard maintained across all reputable cosmetics whereby the safe use date is stated clearly on the packaging. Look for a picture of a little jar carrying a number which is usually positioned at the back of the packaging. This is not a measure of weight but instead the number of months that your product is safe to use from the day that you open it. For example, 12M would indicate a one-year period of safe use, while 3M gives you three months.
General moisturizers used for your hands, feet and other non-sensitive areas of the body should be fine to use after passing a patch test but if you plan to use them on your face or the skin around your eyes, don’t risk it. Sensitive skin is extremely prone to the ill-effects of old moisturizers. Only use products which you have specifically bought according to your skin type and needs and don’t take a chance with old moisturizers suited to others, or an old skin type you’ve grown past.