In a moment where we’re all looking into sustainability and saving money, it’s always a good moment to consider “how long does skincare last?”. As with every other manufactured product, skincare has an expiration date, but in European products, it’s not always easy to figure them out. Let’s dabble into the peculiarities of the expiration date, shelf life, and period after opening for European products.
Does skincare expire?
Yes, all skincare will have an expiration date. As you can imagine, most skincare products either contain water or oils (most will include both). With water, it’s easy to get to the problem. Bacteria and other living entities love water and love to grow in it. However, even though oil doesn’t usually have that problem, it can become rancid. This means that the oil has oxidized, and the best way to tell is to smell the product, as it will reek. Have you ever had a foundation stocked for too long, only to find out that it now stinks? This is why.
How long does skincare last unopened?
So, it’s easy to understand that once you open a product, it can be contaminated with bacteria or fungi, but what about unopened products? They are great until you open them, right? In fact, wrong. There’s a concept called the shelf life of skin care products. This refers to the amount of time a product is still good to use if unopened. The usual way to tell this is by the expiry date. In Europe, it will come in the format DD/MM/YY or MM/YY. However, there is one catch in European products: if the shelf life is over 30 months, the product isn’t required to have an expiration date.
How long does skincare last after being opened?
The period after opening (PAO) symbol will tell you all you need to know. Even the products that don’t have an expiration date are required to have this symbol. There is only one exception to this, and that is single-use products, which means any product that is used in its entirety the first time you open it–such as ampoules and hair dyes.
So, what does the period after opening symbol looks like and what does it mean? Firstly, you’ll find it in your bottle, not the box you discard immediately after opening the product. It’s a small jar with an open lid and a number followed by the letter M. It can be anything from 3 to 36. All in all, it represents the number of months when a product can be safely used after opening.
Since you’re not expected to remember exactly when you open a product, we recommend that, on the day you open a product, you use a permanent marker to write down the date on the bottle.
How to know if skincare is expired
Not all skincare products that have gone bad will clearly be showing they have gone bad. This is why it’s important to respect the PAO and the expiry date (whichever is shortest). However, there are some signs that a product has gone off before its time. Oh, yes, it can definitely happen and it’s the main reason why it’s so important to keep your skincare store in a cool, dry, and dark place (so definitely not in the bathroom, more like a bedroom cabinet drawer). How long skincare lasts is definitely dependent on how you treat it.
Here are some signs that your product has gone bad:
- The color has changed (if you’ve ever owned a vitamin C serum that has turned brown, you know what this looks like);
- It smells different, especially if it stinks;
- There are small areas of color alterations (green is definitely bad, but any discoloration is to be found suspicious);
- You can see some sort of filaments floating in the formula or it has gone from translucent to opaque;
- It has separated (there is a creamy part and a liquid one). This is usually a good sign that a product has gone bad, but make sure that the product wasn’t supposed to be like this from the start, like some mineral sunscreen formulas that need to be agitated before using.
What happens if you use expired face products
Most times you will just have an unpleasant experience due to the consistency or the smell. However, it can actually wreak havoc on your skin. Understanding how long skincare lasts is all about protecting yourself and your skin. It can be anything from having an actual infection to having a flare of some skin condition you already have. Have you ever had pink eye from a mascara that you discovered in the makeup drawer? That is the nice version of having an infection because it can be so much worse.
As last words go, we just want to let you know that if you’re having a hard time paying for skincare, there are great cheap alternatives. You can check, for example, our affordable routine for hormonal acne or our affordable products for acne. If you need a helping hand, be sure to send us an email and we’ll be more than happy to help you find your affordable skincare routine that actually works.
Pharmacy Technician & Beauty Writer