Product Expiration: When Good Skin Care Products Go Bad

Written by Nicole Butcher, LA, Licensed Aesthetician on October 31, 2017 13 Comments

expired skin care products

Did you know that many active ingredients found in common skin care and makeup products have a limited shelf life? Once these ingredients pass their expiration dates the product can either become completely ineffective or worse: they can cause damage to your skin.

Shelf life of common products

Cleansers & Moisturizers: Most products stay good for 6 months from opening. However, products that are natural or organic can expire much sooner. So, make sure to take notice if you use those types of products.

Toner: Many toners can last up to 1 year from their initial use. Using an expired toner can cause irritation and dryness of the skin. Make sure to stay clear of any toner that is past its prime.

Sunscreen: Many sunscreens can stay good for up to 3 years from when they are produced. Signs that your sunscreen has gone bad (beyond the expiration date on the packaging) can include separation, crystallization, the changing of color, and/or a foul odor. The biggest hazard of using expired sunscreen is that it has a lower ability to protect your skin from UV rays. In many cases, using old sunscreen is equal to using no sunscreen at all.

Makeup: Liquid or cream based makeup products (foundations or concealers) typically go bad within 6 months of being opened. Mineral or powder based makeup products can remain good for up to one year after opening.

Vitamin C Products: Vitamin C tends to oxidize rapidly once its exposed to air (i.e. packaging is breached), resulting in ineffectiveness. As many vitamin C containing products go bad you’ll notice them turn a dark yellow color.

A word on bacteria

Any makeup or skin care product has the potential to be contaminated by bacteria. The use of bacteria-contaminated products can cause irritation and acne breakouts. Liquid or gel based products, in particular, are extremely susceptible to bacteria development.  Packaging is important as well – products in open jar type containers that are exposed to air and applied by scooping the product out with fingers are more prone to bacteria than products that come in a pump style container.

Products like serums or mascara and applicators like makeup brushes and loofahs should be frequently inspected and replaced often.

Always check the expiration date

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of periodically checking the expiration dates on all your products. If you find any products that are past their prime make sure to throw them out!

Have any tips or stories about expired product? We’d love to hear from you in comments!


Nicole Butcher, LA

Nicole Butcher is a licensed aesthetician, having received her education at Dermalogica Academy and the International Dermal Institute in New York City. She specializes in laser hair removal, IPL, chemical peels, microneedling, dermaplaning, and eyelash extensions. She is also a certified technician with Coolsculpting, HydrafacialMD, and Ultherapy.

13 Responses to “Product Expiration: When Good Skin Care Products Go Bad”

  1. Avatar Dr. Hayag says:

    Very informative article about skin care products usage, I’ll make sure to share this with our clients on our social media ccounts! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Avatar Kerry says:

    Can you use medi freeze skin tag remover after expiration July 18

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Kerry,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your question. I think you should avoid using that expired product and opt to get a replacement. Always better to be safe than sorry!

      I hope that helps!!!

      WD Staff

  3. Avatar Zanu says:

    I accidentally used herbal face wash which was expired two months before.. will t cause any harm?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Zanu,

      You should definitely cease using the product and monitor your skin for negative changes for the next few days. The good news is most herbal based product (compared to chemical compounds) have a lower chance of causing harm to the skin once expired. But you should continue to look for any changes and consult a dermatologist if anything occurs.

      I hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  4. Avatar Lenell says:

    I purchased Kanebo Sensai face lotion in late 2016….still have some, is it time to discard product.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Lenell,

      You may want to contact the manufacturer directly to ask about its viability (unless there is a date on the bottle label). Gut instinct: it’s probably time to dispose of it for a new product.

      However, it would be great for you to reply to this comment after contacting Kanebo Sensai to let us know what they say.

      WD Staff

  5. Avatar Eun says:

    I have a toner that expired a few days ago, is it still safe to use just for today and tomorrow?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Eun,

      Depending on how your product was stored it should be ok for use. Especially since its only a few days past expiration. However if you notice anything usual with the product in terms of scent or appearance it may be wise to skip using it and opt for new product.

      We hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  6. Avatar Mohs Tek says:

    Nice Blog! Thanks for sharing the informative news with all the internet users.

  7. Avatar 27pink says:

    nice !! thanks for sharing this information with us.

  8. Avatar NCT127 says:

    What should I do after using an expire toner and it made my face breakdown?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi NCT127,

      Great question! You definitely want to discontinue using that product and dispose of it immediately. You may also want to see a dermatologist, especially if you’ve experienced significant irritation or damage.

      Unfortunately, without assessing you in person we can’t provide any specific instructions on how to address the issue.

      We hope that helps!

      WD Staff

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