Skin Care Spring Cleaning: When to Toss Your Products
Spring cleaning is upon us—why not take a closer look at your skin care inventory? It may be time to replace old and expired products.
One clear sign that a skin care product has expired is the presence of strange odor, separation or discoloration. But there’s more to quality than meets the eye (or nose): Even if there are no changes in a product’s appearance, smell or consistency, it may still be past its prime.
As a general rule, most skin care products are formulated to maintain effectiveness for up to two years after opening. Air and bacteria begin to break down the purity and efficacy of ingredients once the product has been opened.
Most over-the-counter skin care products—including eye cream, moisturizer and topical anti-aging treatments—fall under the FDA’s “cosmetics” category. The FDA does not mandate expiration dates on cosmetics, which means you may not find one on your skin care packaging. One exception: sunscreen. Because the FDA classifies sunscreen as a drug, SPF must feature a clear expiration date on its packaging.
Eye creams tend to have brief shelf lives because of the increased risk for eye infection due to bacterial growth. Certain anti-aging ingredients like vitamin C and retinol are more susceptible to heat and sunlight and may lose their potency when exposed to these elements. In addition, because “natural” and paraben-free products do not contain commonly used preservatives—and sometimes no preservatives at all—they may have a shortened shelf life.
One surefire way to protect the life of skin care products: Don’t share! Putting your fingers directly into a product container spreads bacteria. Wash your hands thoroughly before using any product to protect its purity, and look for creams and serums packaged in airtight pumps, which help to limit ingredients’ exposure to air.
Always store products away from direct heat or sunlight to preserve their contents. When in doubt, toss: It’s not worth the risk of irritation, infection or in the case of an expired sunscreen, sunburn or damaged skin.