Do Our Skincare Products Expire? Toss Or Save The Products Before It Loses Shelf Life

I was rummaging through my skincare products drawer to find one of my favourites cream and guess what? I found it, but it was too hard to apply on my skin, so I immediately threw it away. And then I realised it’d been lying in my kit for more than two years. Apart from just reading the labels, you may not know when a skincare product has gone bad and if you continue to wear it, you may get a skin allergy. 

We know, it’s tempting to use every drop of your skincare products, especially if you have paid a lot for it. Skincare products have an expiry date, though, and the lifespan might be shorter than you actually think. We all have been there, yes we can’t bear to toss out that half-used expensive lotion you bought a year ago. Even we (Maccaron team) are guilty of the latter— have at least a couple of expensive moisturizers lying around, which I can’t bear throwing out. 

Hanging on to expired beauty or skincare products past their prime time will not do your skin any favors but it might cause the very problems you’re trying to get rid of. Well, well, this is what you actually need to know about and when to hold them and when to toss them.

But First What’s Skincare Product Shelf Life? 

A cosmetic or beauty product ‘shelf life’ generally refers to the length of the time we expect a product to look and act as expected for usage. This time frame varies depending on the type of product, how it is stored, and how it is used. It’s the time over which the beauty product retains specified properties when stored under directed storage conditions or the period of time it is best suited for use. The change of quality of the product over time is a function of package protection, storage temperature, humidity, and ingredient quality.

Let’s go through the factors and understand what we should keep in mind to check if the product is expired or not. 

POA= Period Of Opening 

One of the simplest ways to check if products are expired or not is to check the dates on the packaging of the product. It will have a ‘Best Before’ date, if not, the manufacturing date is mentioned alongside a symbol of a jar with a lid open (with a number mentioned). Well, that number indicates the amount of time before the product expires after you have opened it.

The Perfume Expert

Image Source: The Perfume Expert

For example, a ‘12 M’ indicates you should throw that particular product out 12 months after you have opened it. Honestly, it is one of the best ideas to follow that direction. We all are too lazy to keep the box of the product (that’s where the date is mentioned), consider using a sharpie (permanent marker) and write the date you have opened the product. Well, this is more helpful than actually relying on the PAO date always. 

Especially if you are a skincare junkie, then it should be your first and foremost step as the products contain skin-replenishing ingredients and antioxidants and they eventually start to deteriorate much before and don’t last too long. Now, if this information is not mentioned, or the product’s label has been rubbed off, there are some other ways too of knowing if your product has expired.

If You Find Your Moisturiser In Curd Form, It’s Expired

If the product seems to have changed its colour from the time you have opened it or it has a lumpy mess or strange odor or has a grainy appearance—those are all clear signs that you should throw away your product. The basic guideline to know is that a liquid textured product gets contaminated faster than the powders. 

Lastly, if the product is labeled ‘preservative-free’ then one should definitely be concerned because without some kind of preservative system contamination happens quickly. While the product types vary in their dates, so the conditions to store them may vary too. The expiry date which you see printed on your skincare products or on the packaging are guidelines for after the product has been opened. Generally, if the products are properly stored in a dry, cool place, mostly unopened and completely sealed skincare products should last for 2 to 3 years.

Vitamin C Enriched Products Become Ineffective Very Quickly 

Light, heat, and air can compromise the effectiveness of active ingredients such as Vitamin C to a huge extent. For example, Vitamin C serum comes in colourless and if it turns in yellow colours, it’s an alarm clock that expires and will be ineffective. Unfortunately, Vitamin C is pretty common as it needs to be packaged in an airtight container that is opaque and preferably should have a pump dispenser to ensure minimal exposure to the product. 

Keep in mind to keep it stored away from light and heat. If you have a Vitamin C serum in a tinted and clear glass bottle, and it is dispensed through a drop, it will degrade even quicker. A skincare ingredient like Vitamin C might be stable for three years in a closed bottle but once it’s opened for daily use, the shelf life of that product becomes in-use life and the three-year shelf life expectation goes into the drain.

Vitamin serum C

Image Source: WikiHow

It is one such effective and antioxidant ingredient and as soon the product is opened, it gets active in the bottle and the compounds begin to change completely. And this is what exactly happens when Vitamin C serum gets expired and turns into brown colour. And the yellow-brown colour change is a visual sign of a chemical change and generally, it shows that your Vitamin C product no longer just contains L-ascorbic acid (skin active form of the vitamin). 

Cheat Sheet For When To Toss The Products

When it comes to skincare, pretty much everything that contains gel, moisture gets spoilt quickly. So, you need to use liquid serum, liquid lotions, or even your liquid concealers fast. On the other hand, powder products have less moisture, so there’s less of a chance of germs or bacteria growing in them. However, this doesn’t mean that it won’t get spoilt. So, if you notice a layer of mould, it’s time that you throw out those products! 

Well, product types vary with their toss dates and if you’ve been good at keeping the products away from light and air, the container keeps your fingers out of the product. 

Cleansers/Face Wash 1 Year
Toners 1 Year
BHA or AHA Exfoliants 1 Year
Facial/ Body Moisturizers/ Lotions & Serum  6 Months to 1 Year
Lip Balm 1 Year

Skincare is a whole other beast, and trust us your favorite lotions and potions have their own suggested shelf life. For instance, a pump lotion can last more than a year, whereas from a jar you can scoop the product out in the last six to nine months.

Want To Know Specifically How Long Your Favorites Last? 


Though we all know that wearing sunscreen is important every single day. If you’re wearing a thin layer of sunscreen, you might require to hold onto your SPF again for multiple reasons. In general, the shelf life of sunscreen lasts for around 2 years, depending on the quality of the care you take. However, if the SPF is exposed to heat, it can cause the active agent to break down. And if you notice a change in colour or smell, it’s time to toss it off.



Image Source: Thrifty Fun


So, by now we know they are a part of your daily routine, wash your face, turn on the coffee jar, and apply your moisturizer. Like us, you should also be equally dedicated to your old faithful moisturizer. A good moisturizer can last up to a year and feels as it did when you first popped the bottle & you’re good to go. Over time and totally depending on the conditions, you’ll start to notice a difference in smell and even color. And if this happens, it’s time you say goodbye to your favourite bottle.


These mighty yet powerful drops on your face make a difference in your skin complexion, texture, and youthful appearance of your cells. As we all age, most dermatologists recommend serums but they don’t last as long as we would like them to. Oh, did you think it’s a waste of money? No, it’s that they lose the good stuff. Their shelf life is for about a year, as the active ingredients might lose some of their stability such as vitamin C. 

The main and most important rule of thumb is to remember when you throw something or keep it. If it’s creamy or liquid, there’s less chance that it will get contaminated with bacteria or germs. The moral of the story, buying all those lotions and serums we never use, need to just stop! Instead of hoarding your skincare which is all going to expire, only buy what you are sure of!

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