Product Shelf Life

I’m going to cover a topic that’s going to make many skin care companies, manufacturers, and consumers cringe! Yes, I’m referring to product shelf life. If you’ve ever come across an old tube of skin cream or some eye serum that’s been collecting dust in your cabinet, I want you to stop and read this before you use that product.

All of us have at one point or another purchase a skin product in hopes of it being the latest and greatest miracle worker as far as products are concerned. We use them for three days, find another shiny object and move right along. Those products don’t get thrown out. Instead, they sit around buried in drawers or cabinets all over the globe. The size of the graveyard that these wasted products could end up in would likely be enormous.

If you are one of the product hoarders out there, then I hate to say it but you’re not alone. Here are some facts to back that up! Based on a study that was conducted in 2015 by both Stowaway Cosmetics and Poshly, the typical consumer owns roughly 40 beauty products. However, they only use 5 of those 40 on a daily basis. You know what that means right?

The products end up in some dark cabinet corner and they’re lost for months, sometimes years even! At some point, they either end up back in the rotation or in the trash. Before you do some cleaning, I want to teach you a thing or two about product shelf life. The knowledge I’m about to share will either help you decide to retain and reintroduce a product or just trash it and call it a day.

Skin Product Shelf Life

Skin Care Product Shelf Life Broken Down!

I bet that you didn’t think products have a shelf life. Let me ask you a question before getting into this. Would you drink old milk? Not a chance right! Well, similar to milk, skin care products have expiration dates. Using the products after they’ve expired most likely will not kill you. However, the level of effectiveness diminished dramatically.

Once you decide to crack open a product, the shelf life time bomb starts ticking. Eventually, that clock is going to stop. The lifespan diminishes as products get exposed to bacteria and air in the environment. The ingredients slowly begin to break down. Many environmental factors impact the shelf life including heat, sun exposure, and humidity.

This holds especially true for products that contain vitamin C, E, retinol, and other products. If you improperly store products, then the life of the product falls short of expectancy.

What Does All This Mean?

Old products can do more harm than good. You can develop bacterial infections and irritations on your skin. More likely, your product will not work as intended with a dramatic reduction in effectiveness.

What I mean is quite simple. To dumb things down here, if you find an old eye serum in the cabinet, just toss it out!

Determining Expiration Dates

Sometimes it can be very difficult and near impossible to determine the expiration date of some products.

There was a study recently published on stating that mascara was the most widely used product post-expiration date. It’s important to realize how much bacteria builds up on mascara. It’s pretty disgusting, to be honest.

Why Don’t More Skin Products Have Expiration Dates?

The FDA requires expiration dates on OTC drug treatments. They’ve defined this type of treatment as products (source):

intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure of any function of the body of man or other animals.

Expiration Dates

The product shelf life of skin care and beauty products are typically 30 months on average. The shelf life may be less for some products out there.

You’ll need to check the container carefully and look for a stamped date on the product itself.

After Opening Products

Assuming that there is no expiration date, you’ll want to pay close attention to the date in which you’ve opened the product. The product may have a number followed by an “M” on the container. If you see this, that means the product itself is good for a certain number of months from the date of being opened. For example, if you see a product has 14M on the container, that means it’s good for a period of 14 months from the date of being opened.

Mark Products

Assuming that you buy a product and decide to not use it, I want you to write the date of purchase on it using a permanent marker.

Product Tossing Calendar

Want to know when to toss a product? Great, I’ve got you covered right here! I’m breaking down the shelf life between months, a year, two years and three years. Here’s a rundown for you to take into consideration…

Shelf Life Calendar

Here’s a quick product shelf life calendar that you can follow today.


Skin Creams
Anti Aging Products
Eye Creams
Anti Acne
Liquid Concealers and Foundation

Hair Products
Shaving Creams
Nail Polish

Lip Glosses
Eye Pencil
Lip Pencil
Powder Makeup

Best practice is to just toss it out when you have doubts. Don’t chance it to save a few bucks. Your health and body are more important that using an ineffective product that may do more damage than good.

If you have any experience using aged products, whether they’ve worked well or terrible for you, we’d love to hear more. Send us a message on Facebook or email us, we’d love to get your insight and opinion on this topic! Some people think that it’s all a crock and just a way to sell more product while others believe that products do expire. Whatever your opinion may be, we want to hear it!

Product Shelf Life
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