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How Long Do Skincare Products Last?

Posted by Ellie Swain on Oct 30th 2020

How Long Do Skincare Products Last?

We’ve all been there. You can’t bring yourself to throw out that half-used and expensive face serum you bought a few years ago. Or maybe you have an old moisturizer sitting on your shelf that you can’t seem to toss.

But hanging onto skincare products that have outlived their prime is doing no favors for your skin. In some circumstances, using old products can even aggravate it.

The problem is that most people aren’t sure when their products have gone bad.

Not sure when to throw out your old skincare products? We’re here to spill all with our cheat sheet. It’s time to learn about skincare shelf life so you can give your routine a deep clean.

Don't Put That on Your Face!

You may believe it’s harmless when you apply an old product but expired skincare products can negatively affect the skin.

Invisible bacteria can thrive in formulas past their prime, especially when sitting in your hot and humid bathroom. If you don’t toss those old products, they’ll become contaminated with bacteria and will prove useless or even damaging to your pretty façade.

In bad cases, these bacteria could lead to irritation, rashes, blemishes, and even skin infections. And we’re sure that’s definitely not what you had in mind when parting with your cash for that pricey bottle of face wash.

Even if your product isn’t packed full of bacteria, with time active ingredients become ineffective, rendering it completely useless. While in most cases no harm is done, this can prove dangerous with products that are created to protect the skin, like sunscreens.

Only products considered as over-the-counter drugs such as sunscreen and anti-acne formulas have official expiry dates plastered on the packaging, so knowing when it’s time to toss can be difficult.

For other beauty products, you’ll have to apply your best detective skills. An expiry date is affected by a few factors such as the type of product, how it’s packaged, where it’s stored, and whether it’s opened or not.

Cheat Sheet for When to Toss

Don’t worry, we’re not going to leave you in the dark. Use our product cheat sheet to know whether it’s time to toss your products or to keep clinging on.


Depending on the quality of the product, sunscreen should last around two years. However, if you have the habit of leaving your bottle laying in the sun as you read and tan, the constant exposure to heat can promote the active sunscreen agent and vehicle ingredients to break down more quickly.

Prolonged heat exposure can also affect the consistency of the liquid.

Imagine your sunscreen as a carton of milk in the fridge. When it starts to change color or smell a bit strange, that’s your cue to toss. It may be that the shade has transformed from milky white to yellow, or it smells a bit off, or that the formula is separating.

If you notice any of these changes, it’s time to bin the cream. If you need a replacement formula, grab a bottle of Bioelements RayDefense SPF 30. Lightweight and hydrating, the cream sinks into the skin to protect it from the sun’s harmful rays without adding any extra shine.

Soaps and Cleansers

Been gifted a set of soaps or body gels for your birthday? Unless you slather yourself head-to-toe in soap every time you shower, it will take you a while to use them.

Soaps can last for years if they’re kept in their packaging, so avoid opening them to take a peek. Once the seal is broken, you’ll have around a year to lather up.

The exception, however, is creamy washes. As they’re packed full of hydrating oils, they can change color or smell funky more quickly.

Make use of your five senses to decide on whether to toss or not. If the hue, smell, or texture changes or looks funny, seek out another bottle.


Many of us invest in expensive moisturizers only to use them a few times and turn back to an old favorite. But, sometimes, we give the product another use months later and end up loving it.

A good, open moisturizer should last roughly around a year. If you’re not sure whether your formula is still good to go, pop open the bottle and analyze the smell and consistency of the formula. If it’s gone bad, you’ll notice a difference in the shade and smell.


Likewise, serums should last around a year too. That’s because over time some of the active ingredients, such as vitamin C, can lose their effectiveness.

We know a decent serum can be pricey, so the good news is that most serums are packaged in sturdy and safe bottles. That means there are fewer risks involved than with other skincare products.

As serums are usually distributed from an opaque squeeze or pump bottle, there’s no worry of grubby fingers contaminating the formula, or product degradation thanks to UV exposure.

But like the rest of the skincare products on this list, if the serum doesn’t look or smell right, it’s probably gone off. In need of a new skin-loving serum? We adore  NeoCutis' HYALIS+n Hydrating Serum. The rich formula helps to support the skin’s natural protective barrier, creating soft, smooth, and supple skin.

Want more skincare advice? Here are our easy hacks for super-smooth skin.