I prescribe and recommend a lot of different skincare products, from topical creams to cosmetics to sunscreens, as a dermatologist. Many of my Dallas patients aren’t aware of a really simple tip that can help people get the most out of such products: check your expiration dates. Just like the pills in your medicine cabinet and the food in your fridge, the products on your face can go bad. Once a product does, it can lose its effectiveness, or worse, become harmful to your health.
Unfortunately, these products are not always required to have an expiration date printed on the label, so it can be hard to tell when they need to be thrown away. I recommend writing the date you bought the product somewhere on the label yourself.
As a general rule, sunscreens are effective for up to 3 years if stored correctly. Big temperature swings (such as keeping a tube of sunscreen in a hot car or beach bag) can cut that time, though. Acne products should be tossed sooner, generally after 4 to 6 months, because the 2 top ingredients, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, decay quickly once the container is opened. Makeup shouldn’t be kept too long, either. Keep in mind that every time you open a product and expose it to air, the contents are exposed to bacteria, increasing your chance of infection. Generally, eye products, especially mascara, should be thrown out within 6 to 9 months.
When you’re deciding whether a product needs to be trashed, trust your senses. If it is discolored, has an unusually runny consistency or a strange odor, or is separated, you should toss it immediately.
To make your sunscreens and cosmetics last longer, I recommend being vigilant about keeping lids tightly closed, storing products in a place where the temperature is consistent and humidity is low, and keeping them in a closed drawer or cosmetic case rather than in the sun. You should also wash your hands before you use products to cut the chance of bacteria getting inside, and if you ever have an eye infection, toss any products you use during it.