Do Beauty Products Go Bad? We Asked an Expert

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Image Source: Getty

Do you keep your beauty products forever just in case you need them? Well, you’re not alone, according to a recent survey 49% of us are hoarding our makeup and 13% of us admit to never throwing any of our beauty products away. For those of us that are aware of how this can affect your skin because, bacteria, duh then you can scroll by, but for the rest of you need to keep reading.

Unsurprisingly, a build-up of bacteria and even mould in old cosmetics containers can trigger breakouts and skin irritations. But, did you know there is a very simple way to find out if your beauty products have gone off? Every single beauty product has to be labelled with a sell-by date if it’s being sold in the EU, which means the majority of products sold in the UK will also follow these guidelines. There are other things to look out for too, so we thought we would compile a comprehensive guide so you never have to face an epic beauty fail.

Related: How Long Do Spray Tans Last? Here’s What Experts Have to Say

Keep on reading to find out some of the mistakes we bet you are making when it comes to keeping beauty products which have expired or “gone bad”.

Experts Featured in This Article

Ruby Hammer MBEa renowned make-up artist and founder of Ruby Hammer Beauty

Amanda Azzopardian Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Prescriber

Do Beauty Products Go Out of Date?

As a rule, yes. All beauty products, even if unopened, will spoil. Amanda Azzopardi, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Prescriber told PS UK: “Common skincare products like moisturisers, serums, and sunscreens typically have a shelf life ranging from several months to a few years. Makeup products, such as foundation, mascara, and lipstick, also have expiration dates due to their ingredients’ susceptibility to degradation over time.”

“Each formulation goes out of date at different times,” Ruby Hammer MBE, a renowned make-up artist and founder of Ruby Hammer Beauty, told PS UK. “However, creams and liquids tend to go out of date quicker than powder.”

An easy way to work out the life of a product is to check the labels, all beauty products will have a small pot graphic on the back with a number. This will reflect how many months each product will last before it needs to be thrown away. For unopened products, a good rule of thumb is to keep for up to 30 months, two and a half years, before it’s not worth risking the quality.

Image Source: Lauren Ezekiel

Can a Beauty Product Go Bad Before Its Expiry Date?

Unfortunately the answer is yes. “Sharing products, adding water (or other liquids), and not cleaning after dropping or using can all have a detrimental effect on the lifespan,” explains Hammer. “It’s also best to keep them out of the bathroom, and away from extreme temperatures and direct light.”

A top tip is when opening a beauty product, it may be worth writing the date on the bottle with a sharpie, especially if the product contains ‘natural’ ingredients or DHA, dihydroxyacetone, which is the chemical used in self-tan. “There has been a wave of ‘greener’ products going off quicker, due to less preservatives,” says Hammer. So even if the date on the back seems ok, it is still worth checking the smell and texture. You can also spoil a product early by using your fingers, as your hands may contain dirt, grime, or bacteria that may linger in the pot long after you’re finished using it. To avoid contamination, use a mini spatula or cotton bud to remove the product from its packaging.

How Can You Tell If a Beauty Product Has Expired?

After you’ve checked your product’s life span on the back, it is also worth looking at the contents itself. Particularly when it comes to skincare and self-tan. “Take into account the colour, texture and smell of the product,” says Hammer. “You should immediately disregard something that smells bad, or has significantly changed colour or texture – a lumpy, bumpy or runny consistency is not a good sign.”

If something stings or tingles on application, and it doesn’t normally or isn’t noted on the product, then this should be considered as a bad sign and instantly binned to avoid irritation.

Can You Use An Expired Beauty Product?

“Using products past their expiration dates can compromise their efficacy and increase the risk of skin irritation or infection,” explains Azzopardi. “They can become breeding grounds for bacteria and other harmful microorganisms, increasing the likelihood of skin irritation or infection. To ensure optimal safety and efficacy, it’s best to discard expired skincare products and replace them with fresh ones.”

According to Azzopardi, if you find yourself frequently discarding half-used products without achieving the desired results, it may be time to book in with a professional who can analyse your skin’s needs. “During a consultation at our clinic, your skin will be assessed using a scanner to look at sun damage, skin ageing, and pore size. Then we select the most suitable products for your skin type and concerns, ensuring you invest wisely in skincare products that deliver optimal results. This should stop you wasting money on ineffective skincare products and ensure that you achieve the desired outcomes for your skin.”

So before you reach for the products at the back of your drawer, stop, look, smell, and ask yourself is it worth the irritation or a self-tan fail? And if you’re not sure, it might be worth reconsidering on this occasion.

Lauren Ezekiel is an associate editor at PS UK, where she writes about all things beauty and wellness. With a degree in journalism and 12 years’ experience as a beauty editor at a leading Sunday supplement, she is obsessed with skincare, hair and makeup, and is often found offering advice to innocent bystanders. Her work has been published in Grazia, OK, Health and Beauty, The Sun, ASDA, Dare and Metro.

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