Time to go: When should you throw out your skincare products?

One of the great agonies of being a beauty girl is saying goodbye to expired products. We try our hardest to empty everything down to the last drop but product spoilage and expirations dates happen, and we end up grudgingly throwing good money down the drain. We’ve talked about decluttering our makeup stash before but when is it time to say goodbye to skincare products? If you’ve been holding on to sunscreen from two summers ago, or still have acne products from that bad breakout you had last year, your skincare cabinet is due for some spring cleaning. Here’s your full guide of when to toss or keep!

PAO symbol

PAO symbol

Check the label

The expiry date and the period after opening (PAO) date are the two most important information to to look for when considering which products should stay in your collection. The expiry date is the end of the life of the product, regardless of whether you used it or not. It’s sometimes indicated by the phrases “best before” or “use by”. On the other hand, the PAO tells you how long you should keep the product once it has been opened. If any of these two dates are up, then it’s time to toss your products away even if they still look and smell okay. This is important because skin care products often contain active ingredients that are the key elements to making the product effective. After a period of time, these ingredients start to break down. If you continue to use them, they may no longer give you the benefits promised by the product and may also expose your skin to irritants.

If you’re into K-beauty, this cheat sheet from Peach & Lily should be useful for reading Korean characters for important dates.

If you’re into K-beauty, this cheat sheet from Peach & Lily should be useful for reading Korean characters for important dates.

Common PAO dates

Due to lack of regulations, however, you might not be able to spot specific expiry and PAO dates on products all the time. At the very least, you’re left with a manufacturing date somewhere in the packaging, or a batch code which you can check with websites such as checkcosmetic.net or checkfresh.com. We also recommend contacting a brand’s customer service team to get an accurate date for expiry or PAO date. If you can’t get a response, take note of when you opened the product and replace it after these recommended periods of usage:

  • Cleansers, up to 1 year
  • Toners, up to 1 year
  • Moisturizers, Face Creams, and Eye Creams, up to 1 year
  • Sunscreen, up to 1 year
  • Vitamin C products, 6 months
  • Acne Care Products, 6 months
  • Scrubs, up to 2 years

Check for changes

If you notice your products changing in smell, color, consistency, and overall feel even before its time is up, don’t think twice about throwing it right into the trash. Improper storage and handling can cause your products to expire faster than the recommended time of use. To keep your products from going bad, store them away from direct sunlight and moist places like bathrooms. Make sure to always handle products with clean hands to keep usage hygienic, and make sure that you close the lids and caps off properly and tightly!

Two P’s can affect the lifespan of your skincare – preservatives and packaging

If you prefer using organic products, do note that they usually expire faster as they often have no added preservatives. Products in jars and bottles also expire faster compared to those in pumps and squeeze tubes as they aren’t as airtight and have greater exposure to bacteria. If you must deal with jars, make sure that you’re only getting product with a spatula, disposable cotton buds, or clean fingers to minimize contamination.

While some people would argue that it’s okay to stretch expired skincare products, just remember that more than inefficiency issues, there’s always accompanying risks of breakouts and allergy triggers when you’re working off label. Better to be safe than sorry! So if you want to avoid wastage, try not to have too many of the same type of product in circulation. It also helps not to hoard more products than you can actually use before they go bad.

When did you last purge your skin care collection? Do you have your own method of keeping your stash clear of expired products? Let us know in the comments!

Sources: Lifehacker, Allure, Paula’s Choice, Peach and Lily