A Guide To Skincare Expiration Dates

skincare expiration dates

Once you’ve found the perfect skincare routine, you might be tempted to keep using your products until they’ve all run out. While it is great to ensure that you are getting the most out of your skincare, did you know that using expired beauty and skincare products can actually do more harm than good? Keep scrolling to discover our guide to skincare expiration dates so that you can get the very best results out of your beauty favourites.

We recently surveyed over 2,000 people to learn more about their skincare routines and found that a massive 83% of people don’t keep track of the expiry dates of products and fail to regularly check if they are still in date. 

If you, like many of us, struggle to keep track of exactly how long you’ve been using your beauty products, we are here to help. We have launched skincare expiry stickers that will make it easier than ever to keep tabs on your products and how long they have been open (but more on that later). 

Using expired skincare (or skincare you don’t even know has expired) might be really common, but it can be problematic. The reality is that every single beauty and skincare product has an expiration date and continuing to use any product indefinitely isn’t going to be effective or help your skin.  

Below, we’ve shared details of how using expired products can cause harm to your skin and how you can easily check and keep track of your products at home.  

What Can Happen If You Use Expired Skincare?  

Over time, skincare and beauty products become less effective, meaning that not only will they no longer help you to look your best, but in some cases can actually cause damage to the skin.

When it comes to keeping track of the shelf life of your beauty and skincare products, some carry a much greater risk than others. From irritation and infection to burns. Our Head of Clinic, Kimberley Hulme, has broken down exactly what skincare products you need to be most careful with and how long they last.  

expiry dates
expired skincare
skincare expiration

How Can I Tell If A Skincare Product Has Expired?   

Some skincare products will show clear signs that they are past their best. If you notice changes in colour and consistency or a change in the smell of a product, this is your sign that it is time to replace your skincare.  

While it might be tempting to ignore these changes, you could actually be limiting the effectiveness of your skincare routine, leading to dull, dry or breakout prone skin.  

It is important to remember that some products, such as cleansers and scrubs might not show clear signs of expiry but can still start to irritate your skin. Once a product has expired it will become completely ineffective as the active ingredients will no longer work as they should.  

What Do The Symbols On My Products Mean? 

On a product you might find a few symbols that could easily be mistaken for an expiration date but don’t let this confuse you - here is what they really mean: 

Period After Opening (PAO): Look for this little open tub symbol to understand how long a product is safe to use after it has been opened. The number followed by the letter M (for months) acts as guidance for how long a product can continue to be enjoyed after first use. 

        Image source: https://www.recycle-more.co.uk/


Best Before Date: While you might not find this on all your skincare products, the hourglass symbol tells you how long you have to use a product. It is only required on products that have a shelf life of less than 30 months.  

While these timeframes can be really useful, they don’t tell the whole story. To find out exactly when your product is set to expire, you might need to do a little more digging.  

All brands have different regulations on expiry dates meaning there isn't a set rule for where an expiry date would feature on the packaging. If you can’t see a clearly marked expiry date, look for a batch number and this will help you find out when a product should be replaced.  


Expiry date labelImage source: https://www.interpack.com/

What Does A Batch Number Do And How Do I Use It? 

When it comes to beauty and skincare products, the batch number refers to a combination of numbers and letters that will usually feature both the product and packaging. This code will be unique to an individual product batch and will help decipher when a product is set to expire.  

The easiest way to find out the shelf life of any product with a batch number is to use an online batch code calculator (like this one) to tell you exactly when a product was manufactured and therefore how long you have until the expiry date. 

If you can’t find the information this way, you can always get in touch with the supplier you purchased the product from - they should be able to reach out directly to the brand to find the information you need.  

Image source: https://inventorysol.com/

So, How Exactly Do I Find Out If A Product Has Expired?  

There are two main factors to consider when it comes to figuring out exactly when a product is set to expire. The expiry date, which starts from the moment the product is manufactured and the period after opening (PAO), which is only relevant once a product is being used.  

As a general rule, you will always want your expiration date to be longer than the open date to ensure you have enough time to use a product before it expires.  

For example, if a face cream is set to expire in May and has a PAO of three months, you would want to open it no later than January to ensure you have enough time to get through the product before it is no longer effective.   

Even if it looks and smells normal, there is no value in continuing to use skincare products that have expired.  

how to know when skincare expires

What Can I Do To Help Make My Products Last As Long As Possible? 

While knowing when your products will expire is really useful, storing your skincare incorrectly can seriously reduce its shelf life.  

As a general rule, skincare should be kept in a cool, dark place to ensure their stability and keep them working effectively for as long as possible. If you keep your products in direct sunlight or a humid bathroom you risk altering the formula and damaging the active ingredients. 

Always try to go for products that come in smaller quantities to ensure you are minimising waste - usually if used as instructed there should be no issue using the whole product in the suggested time frame.  

If possible, opt for packaging that uses pipettes and pumps. This reduces the chance of a product oxidising too quickly and becoming ineffective. 

If your favourite product is only available in a jar, be really mindful about using your hands to collect the product. Instead, opt for a spatula and don’t double dip! After each use, be sure to wash the spatula and allow it to dry fully before putting it away.  


How Can I Keep Track Of The Expiry Dates On My Skincare Products?  

Even with the best will in the world, it can be tricky to keep track of the expiration dates on all your skincare products.  

With multiple products opened at different times, it is easy to forget exactly when you started using that new serum or cleanser. That is why we believe that adding our skincare expiry stickers to your products will act as the perfect reminder to stop you falling back into bad habits.  

skincare expiration date sticker

Not only do the stickers look great but offer a simple solution and make it as easy as possible to know when it is time to replace your products. Simply include the date you opened the product and when exactly it should be used by - meaning there is no excuse to keep using that luxury eye cream you got for Christmas in 2018. 


Order at Face The Future today and receive complimentary Shelf Life Stickers with your delivery or stock up and purchase them in a set of 5!

We surveyed 2,021 people with skincare routines to find out if they keep track of skincare expiry dates. Read more about the results we discovered here. 

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