We know, we know. You’ve found your incredible hero product that works wonders and at no small cost. Maybe you’ve been tempted to use it sparingly to stretch it a few more miles, or you only treat your skin to it for special occasions and date nights. Well, you want to make sure you’re using enough product each time so that it has the power to demonstrate its efficacy. And moreover, you want to make sure you’re soaking up all its goodness before it expires!
The sad truth is that our skincare products have a shelf life, and it’s typically not that long after opening them. That’s especially true for beneficial non-toxic and natural skincare. While botanical actives are incredibly powerful, it doesn’t bode well for them to be collecting dust, so take note of your purchase date, but also look for an expiration date on the package. Most containers will tout a date of expiration or a “best until” date, and you’ll notice that completely natural products’ dates are often much shorter.
If you’re wondering, what’s the risk? Well, aside from expired products simply not working well, or at all (in which case, your careful efforts to stretch a product’s time in your clutches might be totally counterproductive), they could cause a reaction. They start to decompose, and ingredients separate chemically, which can cause burns and irritation. They can also harbor bacteria, causing infections or breakouts. Yeah, fresh is best.
Go ahead and invest in a quality sunscreen. Word is that you have about two years of use before they start to break down, so do put on a thick enough layer that is protective (because that’s the point, duh) but don’t worry about getting through a tube in six months. You’ve got time. However, this does hinge on your care.
Heat can break down the chemicals and actives quicker. Don’t leave a bottle in your car, because it essentially turns into a Dutch oven in the summer and nukes your products. And for a day at the beach, throw it in your cooler or keep it shaded in your bag. If it’s turned a yellow color or developed a sour smell, say buh-bye.
Serums are a nutrient powerhouse and a holy grail when it comes to nourishing your face. For this reason, it’s important that you hold an expiration date in high regard, because the potency diminishes over time—about a year. After a year, the ingredients in serums most likely won’t cause a reaction, but they may not work anymore.
This is especially true when it comes to vitamin C. The ingredient is not very stable, so when you open a serum that includes it, feel free to use liberally and well within the year. Vitamin C powders, however, are much more stable and can last several years added to your favorite serums for an added boost.
We tend to be a little more devoted to our favorite moisturizers, and will buy the same one over and over again if it works well for us. The same is true for moisturizers as it is for serums in that you have about a year from opening. The major indicator is smell. If your moisturizer looks and smells the same from when you first got it, you’ve got time. As soon as you notice a shift in the color, consistency, or scent, she’s a goner. Sorry for your loss.
While ingredients vary and thus so will the individual shelf lives by at least a small margin, these estimates are pretty dependable. But, similarly to sunscreen, you want to maintain a comfy temperature and keep the containers out of direct light. Sunlight, heat, and humidity speed decomposition, so locked away inside a medicine cabinet, dark drawer, or—if you want to get real fancy—the fridge is the way to go. Your products work hard for you. Make sure they live their best life.