All cosmetic products have an expiration date and at one point they become rancid, have a change in their chemistry or lose their efficacy.

It is very important to avoid using contaminated products which can carry bacteria and cause many skin problems like: rashes, breakouts, dermatitis and infection, to name a few.

I get you, the excitement of a new discovery promising to be the holy grail of healthy, glowing skin is just too hard to ignore.

That’s the story of how most of us end up with an abundance of skincare products from which we only use a few and before we know it, the bathroom cabinet does not have space to fit one more q tip and yet we continue to pile up more skin goodies.

Getting rid of them is a different story though.  I am with you, it feels more like a slow torture. After paying your hard-earned money it makes you cringe just to think that all of it is going right into the garbage can.

But, when is time to toss away those skincare products before they can harm the skin?

As a rule of thumb, once opened most skincare products should be used within six months to a year because oxygen and bacterial exposure will increase the chance of contamination.

A good idea is to mark the product with a pen indicating the date it was opened, that way you don’t end up using the product long after it is still considered safe.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) whom regulates cometics in the U.S. does not require an expiration date on the product label. So, finding out when the expiration date is in cosmetic products sometimes is hard to tell.

Take a look at the full labeling guide on the FDA website for more detailed information.

Some products will clearly describe the expiration date on the label. Others may use phrases like : “best used before the end of”… or similar while many others will not indicate it.

There is also a graphic symbol known as “PAO” used by some Companies, which states for “Period After Opening” identifying the lifetime of the product once it has been opened.

Look for the number after the letter “M” on the label, it indicates the months that the product is safe and stable to be used after opening. For example: M12 (indicates that the product is good to use for 12 months after its opening date).

PAO graphic symbol indicates "period after opening" a product that the product is still safe to be used

In general, unopened skincare products have a useful life longer than opened products because they have not been exposed to bacteria. The life of an unopened product commonly lasts from one to three years depending on the product. A good phrase to go by is “when in doubt, toss it out”.

If you have had a product stored for a while and when you open it, it has a funky smell or an unusual texture, it’s time to get rid of it.

According to Oprah Magazine  in the article called “5 Skincare Products That Expire Faster Than You Think”, cosmetic Chemist Mort Westman says: “ If you’re unsure how old something is, the general rule is to toss anything that has significantly changed in color or odor, or separated, clumped, thickened or thinned.

One very important thing to keep in mind is that packaging can influence how the product decomposes. Jars for example, tend to get contaminated faster than other forms of packaging that don’t come in direct contact with oxygen and hand-dipping.



*** This is a general informational chart. Lifetime of products are determined by their chemical composition, packaging, storage and handling of the product.




To preserve the life of your products there are some golden rules that need to be followed:

  • Keep your products in a dark place away from sun light when possible.
  • Maintain the lids closed and tight to prevent oxygen exposure and preserve the active ingredients in the product. This is particularly important when the product contains antioxidants which are very sensitive to sun light and oxygen.
  • Use a spatula to swipe the product out of the container instead of your hands.
  • Don’t expose your products to high temperatures. This could change their chemical composition.
  • Throw away products if you have had an infection
  • Disinfect the product’s container or lid if you have dropped it on the floor, sink or other place that has a risk of bacterial contamination.


For more useful information on how to make your products last longer take a read at Paula Begoun’s list of “Do’s & Don’ts of making your products last” included in her article “When to Toss Out Beauty Products .


Always remember…

Fresh products mean better performance and therefore; better results.


Thank you very much for being here.

Until next time,

Dora Salazar

Medical Aesthetician

Founder of Zkin Fix Skincare