It’s easy to end up with bags, baskets and shelves full of beauty and skincare products. But you might be shocked to find out that most of them have probably passed their expiry date and could be doing you more harm than good.
Many of us are unaware that our cosmetics and toiletries have lifespans, and some are much shorter than others. This can lead to skin irritation, inflammation and even infections.
To help, personal care packaging expert Rich Quelch at Lifestyle Packaging shares which cosmetics and toiletries have the shortest shelf-lives and how to check if they’re in date…
How do you check if your toiletries are in date?
For products with an expiry date fewer than 30 months, you can always find the period after opening (PaO) on the packaging.
Look for a small symbol in the shape of an opened pot. Inside will be a number followed by an M (months) or Y (years) – this will tell you how long the product will remain safe and effective to use after it has first been opened.
But which products have the shortest lifespans?
Anti-acne products: 2-3 months
It might shock you to know your holy grail serums and acids may only last you a couple of months before they start to degrade.
Products that contain strong active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, retinol, or vitamin C will degrade quickly.
It’s best to opt for a smaller size product if you’re only using acne products once a day or a few times a week. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting your money.
Mascara: 2-3 months
You’ll only have up to three months to enjoy your new mascara, even if you use it daily.
Mascaras expire quickly because air is repeatedly pushed into the tube when you remove and replace the wand, letting bacteria in and drying it out.
You should avoid pumping the wand to prolong mascara’s shelf-life and always throw out mascara when you notice the smell or texture has changed.
Never add water to loosen up a dried-out mascara either – this can lead to an eye infection if bacteria has built up inside the tube.
Liquid eyeliner: 3 months
Just like mascara, liquid eyeliner has a shorter shelf-life than you might expect. It’s important to follow the expiration guidelines carefully and not use eyeliner beyond its use-by date, as getting bacteria in the eye can easily lead to painful infections. If you’re worried about this, try a pencil eyeliner instead.
Natural shampoo bars: 3-12 months
The expiration date of shampoo bars will largely depend on the type of ingredients, but those made from all-natural ingredients can last as little as three months.
Bottled shampoo may last you a little longer, typically 18 months after opening, thanks to the protection from its packaging. If you want to be more sustainable, consider using a refillable shampoo bottle.
Liquid foundation: 6-12 months
Though most liquid foundations should be able to tide you over for a full year, be wary that those made with natural ingredients may have a shorter expiry date.
Powder foundations will last longer than liquids (up to two years) since bacteria prefer damp environments.
If powders aren’t your thing, you can help improve the life span of your liquid foundation by storing it in a cool environment away from direct sunlight. Keeping it in it’s original packaging can help here.
Sunscreen: 1-3 years
In the UK, there’s rarely the opportunity to use up an entire bottle of sunscreen each summer. But holding onto a bottle you bought years ago could be damaging for your skin.
The potency of sun protection diminishes over time, so remember to follow the recommended use-by guidelines to prevent burns. If you’re not getting much sun exposure this year, consider buying a smaller bottle size to avoid wastage.
Perfume: 3-5 years
Perfume can last up to an impressive five years, so there’s no need to feel guilty if you have a growing collection of designer fragrances.
However, most people store perfume incorrectly which significantly shortens their lifespan. The scent may also change or get weaker, and its colour may look different.
To prolong the life of perfume, you should always store it in its original packaging and keep it away from direct light and heat.