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Ew, How Old Is That? When to Throw Away Your Skin Care Products

Do you know when to throw away your skin care products?

You can tell when a carton of milk is past due, or if that T-shirt is better used as a cleaning rag than a style statement, but what about our beloved skin care products? How do we know when they have turned to the dark side? 

Certain products lose their efficacy over time, and in some cases like  SPF and anti-aging moisturizers, using expired skin care can cause long-term damage. Here’s a simple guide to know the lifespan of what’s in your beauty collection.

Beware of the PAO


Image: Wikipedia


A “Period After Opening” symbol usually appears on the back and near the bottom of health and beauty products. It typically looks like a small illustration of a jar and will have a figure inside that contains a number and the letter M, for example, 6M.

Expiry Date (Duh.)

Other products, like sunscreen, will often have an expiration date printed into the bottom or near the cap. This date is the period up until which a product can be guaranteed effective.

Oil-based cleansers: Toss if it looks weird or stinks


Banila Co. Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm

Banila Co. Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm


Oil is an unforgiving environment for bacteria—it’s much more difficult for them to grow and thrive in oily bases. That said, oil cleansers, particularly ones in a balm format or those that require you to open a jar to access the product, can separate after being exposed to oxygen for too long. Look out for changes in texture and smell, and toss if you notice anything off.

Water-based cleanser: 6-8 months max

Bacteria is much happier in a watery environment, so it’s important to use your water-based cleansers quickly after opening, 6-8 months maximum.

Vitamin C: Colour and feeling


14 Best Vitamin C Serums 2021, Recommended by Dermatologists

Credit: Good Housekeeping


Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and serums infused with this ingredient can help brighten skin tone, smooth fine lines, and help heal scarring. Vitamin C should always be packaged in dark or opaque bottles, and exposure to oxygen should be minimal— always close caps tightly. A pure and potent vitamin C serum will be clear. The moment you start to notice your serum tinging towards a translucent brown or orange shade, it’s time to toss.

Moisturiser: 6 months – 1 year


Credit: Fresh Beauty


The general rule for moisturizers and eye creams is toss them one year after opening, but things can get a bit trickier with jar packaging. Since more oxygen can get into the product and encourage bacteria growth, it’s recommended to toss these after six months.

SPF: One bottle per each season of the year


Top 10 Best REN Clean Skincare Products | Beauty Expert

Credit: REN Beauty


A general rule with SPF is that one bottle should be used per each season of the year. And while SPF is one of the few products we put on our bodies that is regulated to have expiration dates, it’s important to remember that if you still have sunscreen leftover as you get closer to its expiration date, it’s likely a sign you aren’t applying enough!

Bottom line: Remember to keep your eyes and nose tuned to any changes to a products texture, color or smell, and if a product that has always worked for you suddenly causes irritation or simply doesn’t boost your skin like it used to, it’s time to say goodbye.

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