Skincare has one goal – to improve the health of our skin. That’s why people are so fast in choosing moisturizers that repair their skin barriers, sunscreens that last hours without needing reapplication, and cleansers that do not strip the skin of natural oils. It seems so straightforward that sometimes, people forget one crucial fact – skincare does not last forever. We’re not talking about running out of your favorite products. Instead, we want to let you in on the silent timer that starts the minute a manufacturer creates each batch of products. How much time do you really have to use that product, and what happens if you ignore this window?

Key Terms to Note
Consumers who buy skincare products often focus on their ingredients and storage needs. And while these are important, you should couple this review with the following checks:

The date when your skincare product was produced serves as its manufacture date. Some companies will list the date in a YY/MM/DD or vice versa format. Interestingly, others may not include this date on the package. Instead, they print a batch number that tells you when your product was produced. You can get the exact date by:

- Using an online batch code calculator which will zero in on the date and year of manufacture, or

- Reaching out to the company that supplied you with the product for exact dates.

But why does the manufacture date matter? It guides you on how long you have before the product's expiry date, with or without opening the bottle. So, if a company only prints its manufacture date, you can use the guide we have provided later in the article to gauge when the product is no longer effective.
Please note that the shelf life of natural products is relatively short owing to the lack of preservatives. You should thus purchase products with recent manufacture dates to start your skincare journey with a fresh batch.

Many people are more familiar with expiration dates than manufacture dates. Expiry dates (also referred to as best-before dates) refer to the shelf life of a product when unopened and at room temperature. For example, a product may have its expiry date printed as 03/24. It means that after March 2024, the product will no longer be fresh and stable. As such, using it past this date can damage your skin. We will get into the effects of using expired products later.
Point to note: All skincare products expire. The only difference lies in the extent of their shelf lives, as some can remain stable for years while others take months to expire.

Suppose your moisturizer has an expiration date of 05/23. Does that mean you can use it till March 2023? Not at all! The minute you open any product, it starts oxidizing due to exposure to moisture, oxygen, and other elements. So, as much as you focus on your manufacture and expiration dates, you should also consider the period after opening date.

This timeline refers to the window within which you must use a product after opening. So, while the expiration date may be a year away, the PAO could be months away. The PAO always takes precedence over the expiry date. So, immediately you open a product, you should keep the PAO in mind and discard the product once the window closes.

Please note that the PAO is shorter in natural products as they do not feature preservatives.

So, how do you find the PAO of any product? It comes in the form of a jar with an open lid, indicating the period after opening the product. On the jar’s side, you will see a period indicated in capital letters. For example, 12M implies the product will be fresh a year after opening. 3M implies three months of validity after opening.

Cleanser -> Standard Expiration Period:2 to 3 years; PAO-> 1 year; Effect on Skin if expired-> Ineffectiveness.

Moisturiser -> Standard Expiration Period: 2 to 3 years; PAO -> 1 year; Effect on Skin if expired-> Irritation or Dryness.

Sunscreen -> Standard Expiration Period: 2 to 3 years; PAO -> 1 year; Effect on Skin if expired-> Ineffectiveness, Sun Damage.

Toner -> Standard Expiration Period: 2 to 3 years; PAO -> 1 year; Effect on Skin if expired-> Irritation or Dryness.

Essence -> Standard Expiration Period: 2 to 3 years; PAO -> 1 year; Effect on Skin if expired-> Irritation or Dryness.

Serums -> Standard Expiration Period: 2 to 3 years; PAO -> 1 year; Effect on Skin if expired-> Irritation or Dryness.

These are standard times based on global brands. However, when it comes to natural products, most have half the typical expiration periods. So, a product can go bad within a shorter time.

Have Your Products Expired?

There are two ways of checking if a skincare product is still fresh and stable.
1. Check the Expiration Date or Period After Opening Date: Whichever comes first should serve as the guideline. If you do not have access to this information, you can use the manufacture date to determine when you should stop using the product.
2. Check for Signs of Expiry: Despite a product not having reached the end of its shelf life, it can go bad. It could be due to its storage conditions, exposure to the elements, or anything that could have speeded up the oxidation processes.

Signs of expiry include:
o A funky smell,
o A change in consistency,
o A difference in its effect on the skin,
o Change in the packaging – warping, expanding, etc., and
o A change in texture.
You can check for these signs of expiry even in new products, especially when using natural products with shorter shelf lives.

The Dos & Don’ts of Making Your Natural Products Last
Skincare costs a lot. So, anything that can make your products last longer is always welcome. What can you do to prevent your skincare products from expiring before time?

Skincare goes bad mainly due to poor storage conditions and contamination. Your best bet lies in keeping these at bay as follows:
i. Store your products in a cool place, preferably a cabinet, as opposed to leaving them in the open,
ii. Always handle your products with clean hands. Do not let droppers touch your face, and do not dip your fingers in products without washing them,
iii. Secure your products with tight lids,
iv. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on storing the products. E.g., if you should not expose a product to direct sunlight, avoid doing so,
v. Consider how the climate will affect the longevity of a product. For example, many skincare products can go bad in hot weather,
vi. Discard any eye treatments after you suffer an eye infection, and
vii. Clean the packaging of your products often with antibacterial wipes,
viii. Keep track of the expiry and period after opening dates. You can easily do so using an app like Beauty Secrets which notifies you of upcoming dates.
It also helps to buy products in small batches to avoid having products go bad before you finish using them.

What should you avoid for the sake of your products?
i. Do not share skincare products. It increases the risk of contamination,
ii. Do not add any body fluids to your products, e.g., saliva, nor add any water to the products,
iii. Do not use jar packaging, as this increases the cross-contamination risk,
iv. Do not store your skincare products in the fridge, as this can hurt their longevity,
v. Do not store your products near heat or in direct sunlight.
Also, do not ignore the manufacturer's guidelines on storing any product. They know best what their products can withstand to remain fresh and stable.

How to Keep Track of Expiration and Period After Opening Dates

The rule of thumb is to note down the dates of opening each skincare product. But let’s be honest. Sometimes, you may not know when you bought or opened a product. At others, you may forget to write down some of these dates and use an expired product.
Guess what!

There is a better way to keep track of all your skincare products’ shelf lives – My Shelf on the Beauty Secrets app! As the name suggests, this is an app feature that allows you to:
- Add products manually or automatically add products from the search page,
- Key in the status of any product, whether opened or unopened,
- Monitor samples as well as full-size products,
- Keep track of the opening, expiry, and period after expiry dates to the very day,
- Enter the opening and finish dates of products to gauge how long they last,
- Add the purchase locations of all products on your shelf,
- Determine the best before dates on products that do not have expiry dates, and
- Get notifications of when it’s time to discard products on your shelf.

This handy app is easy to use and will help you keep track of all your skincare products’ important dates. Moreover, you will understand how fast you go through products which will help you make better purchasing decisions. Besides, you will never have to wonder if a product is healing your skin barrier or wreaking havoc on your skin. After all, the answer will be a tap away!