A good lotion is one that matches your skin type and offers hydration and other specific benefits you’re looking for without irritation and other negative reactions.
It’s sometimes beneficial to buy lotion in bulk to save money. You might even have multiple body lotions for different fragrances, or even different face moisturizers that address your evolving skin care needs throughout the year.
Still, the old adage that “all good things come to an end” certainly applies to lotions. When stored properly, lotion can last a long time, but it does expire.
Using lotion past the expiration date won’t necessarily cause any harm, but expired lotion won’t work the way it should. Read on to learn how to tell if your lotion has expired and what you can do to make it last longer.
Your skin needs hydration in order to stay healthy, which is the primary benefit of lotion. Some are formulated for dry skin, while others are used for combination, oily, and normal skin types. These products may also come in variations for additional purposes. Some common lotions include:
- facial moisturizers
- body lotions
- anti-aging creams
- eye creams
- eczema lotions
- hand creams
- baby and child formulations
- tinted moisturizers
- self-tanning lotions
There’s no set timeline for the life of lotion. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t offer any guidelines nor does the agency require manufacturers to establish expiration dates.
Some products, such as sunscreens, have expiration dates stamped on them. This means that if you use the sunscreen after it’s expired, the ingredients might be less effective and you’ll be at risk for sunburn.
Other lotions also have suggested timeframes for when to use the product after it’s been open — this can range anywhere between 12 and 24 months. It may be helpful to write the date you opened the lotion directly on the container with permanent marker so you’ll know when to toss it.
Preservatives and other ingredients only last so long, and they become less effective over time. Preservatives eventually break down, putting the product at risk for bacterial and fungal growth. This is especially true of jarred lotions, which are already exposed to the elements each time you open them.
According to the FDA, eye products have the shortest shelf lives of all beauty products. This is especially true if the particular product is applied with a tube, or if it has a wand or built-in applicator you use over and over. Expect to replace any eye creams within a few months.
Unopened lotions last slightly longer than opened products. As a rule of thumb, if you open a new or old bottle of lotion and it looks or smells bad, you should throw it away.
Lotion is best kept at or below room temperature. A cupboard is an ideal place to keep the product cool and away from light exposure. Heat and light can penetrate the container and warp some of the ingredients, making them less effective.
Additionally, heat can interact with any bacteria that’s inside, causing it to multiply. Sun exposure may also warp the lotion’s color, smell, and texture.
The type of container is another consideration. Jars or tubs don’t last as long as tubes and pumps because they’re exposed to germs every time you use them.
If your lotion is available in a jar only, you can help keep bacteria out by using a fresh cosmetic stick to scoop out the lotion each time you use it. If no sticks are available, make sure you wash your hands before placing your fingers inside the container.
Using lotion past its expiration date isn’t likely to cause any harm. The only exception to the rule is jarred lotion, which may harbor bacteria over time.
Even if expired lotion won’t hurt you, it won’t necessarily help you, either. The active ingredients in your lotion won’t do their job and can leave you with less hydration and other intended benefits.
Your best bet is to toss expired lotion and grab a new product. This way you can make sure you’re getting the benefits you need without guessing whether it’ll work.
You can also help reduce the odds of premature expiration by taking the following steps with your lotion:
- Buy only from reputable stores or directly from manufacturers. Online stores, flea markets, and resale stores often sell products that are old. In some cases, the products may even be tampered with.
- Don’t buy any lotion missing a seal. This could indicate product tampering either directly at the store or during transit, compromising the lotion’s ingredients. The product could also contain bacteria.
- Read the expiration dates on sunscreens. If the lotion you’re looking at is set to expire in a few months, then you’re better off passing on the product for another one.
- Don’t expose your lotions to any unnecessary heat sources. This includes heat in your home, but also your car and workplace. Store all cosmetics in a cupboard or medicine cabinet, if possible.
- Call the manufacturer with further questions. They may be able to give you an estimated manufacturing date and expiration timeline based on information you provide them from the product label.