Your guide to skincare product shelf-life

Your guide to skincare product shelf-life

Your guide to skincare product shelf-life

You’ve taken the plunge. You’ve experimented with a bunch of different products, and finally found a skincare routine that works for you.

But what about last season’s skincare products? You know the ones. They’ve been sitting on your dressing table -- open and unused -- for longer than you’d like to think.

You’re not going to use them anymore, especially not after switching to your new skincare products. But you can’t bring yourself to throw them out. It just seems so wasteful!

Hanging on to these backup products could do your skin more harm than good. Skincare products have a shelf life. If a product is open, but you have no plans to use it, you should probably throw it out.

Here’s what you should know.

All skincare products expire

Maybe the change in season has you digging out last year’s autumn-winter foundation. Maybe you’ve had the same tub of moisturiser for over a year. You might want to think twice about applying these products onto your skin, because all skincare products expire.

The good news is that they usually have the expiration date printed on their packaging. The next time you open a product, keep an eye out for the PAO symbol. Look for an open jar icon, with a number and an M printed on it.

The PAO (Period After Opening) symbol is a guideline how many months you have to use the product, and when it should be thrown away. A PAO symbol with 6M on it means the product should be thrown out after six months.


Keep in mind that the PAO symbol is often printed on the packaging, not on the actual product itself. It can be easy to throw out the packaging and forget the PAO.

A handy tip is to use a permanent marker to write the date of opening on the bottom of your new products. There are also websites like CheckFresh and CheckCosmetic that allow you to check the expiry dates, based on the brand and batch code.

Have my products gone bad?

Telling if a product has gone off can be tricky, especially if you don’t use it on a daily basis. Keep an eye out for severe changes in texture, especially in liquid products, as they can go off faster than their powdery counterparts.

If your liquid foundation usually applies like a dream but has taken on a clumpy texture, it’s time to get rid of it. If your moisturiser has taken on an unfamiliar smell, it’s probably best to throw it away. If your concealer has separated into oil and pigment, don’t give it a shake and put it on anyway.

Do they all have to go?

Not all products have the same shelf-life. Your lipsticks and powder-based skincare products will likely outlast your liquid ones. We’ve compiled a little cheat sheet to give you an idea of how long you have to use up your beauty products.

  • Two or more years: Powder-based products, lipstick, lip pencils
  • One year: Lip balm, AHA and BHA serums, most cleansing products
  • One year to six months: Body moisturisers, face serums, liquid or cream foundation and concealer
  • Six months or less: Mascara and liquid eyeliner

Mascara comes into close contact with your eyes on a daily basis. It can go off a little quicker than other products, so look out for the signs.

Clumpy or dry mascara should always be thrown out, don’t try and rehydrate it at home!

How can I increase product shelf-life?

While you should always try to follow PAO guidelines, there are ways to increase the shelf-life of your products. It’s always good to wash your hands before using your products. You can also get a pack of skincare product mini-spatulas, and assign a spatula to each product.

Secure the tops or the caps of each product after use. Many bottles now come with UV ray protection, but storing your products out of direct sunlight is always a good idea. Finally, one of the latest trends in skincare is the beauty fridge -- a mini-fridge exclusively for beauty products! Cold skincare products can actually benefit your skin. If you’ve been thinking of getting a cabinet just for skincare, maybe consider a fridge instead!

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