How old is that moisturizer?!

“The microbiology experiment in this refrigerator will cease this Friday. All food not labeled will be thrown away,” read the sign on my work refrigerator. And it was WAY overdue. I had just been talking with a co-worker about the disaster that was our work refrigerator and how I was compelled to just throw everything away when I saw that sign. FINALLY. It was much needed.

Yet not even one week later I was asking a friend, “does my nail polish smell weird?” I had painted my nails earlier that day and my nails smelled…off. Not the typical nail polish smell, but something funky. I kept getting a whiff of it and it was not pleasant. And I realized, I keep my refrigerator and medicine cabinet clear of expired food/medicine – but when was the last time I checked my beauty products??

I started looking at the expiration dates and shelf life of my beauty products, and truthfully – I was horrified. Being a dietitian, I know all about food borne illnesses and microbiology and it makes me very cautious about food. But how had I let this happen to my beloved beauty products? Especially organic and natural products that use natural preservatives, it made me wonder what kind of microbes were growing in my favorite products.

In the United States, companies have to provide a “shelf life” label to let you know how long the product is good for after opening.


You’ve probably seen it if you’ve ever looked at the ingredients list (No? Am I the only dork who reads the ingredients list?).

Most skincare and liquid makeup has a shelf-life of one year (although many natural/organic products are 6-9 months), powder makeup is typically 2 years, and nail polish is also usually 2 years. The best way to tell though is to look at the back of the product itself, it will tell you.

So I took a night and brought out EVERY beauty product I owned into my living room and looked up when I bought it and how long it was good for. Needless to say, I had to throw away a LOT of products. Which made me sad, but it was also a good purge. What’s the point of holding onto expired products?

You may be wondering – what’s the worst that can happen with older beauty products?

Well, the worst is that bacteria and mold can grow which could lead to an infection, irritation and/or breakouts on your skin. And don’t think you need to visibly see something for it to be bad – bacteria are itty bitty and can grow undetected to the naked eye. Heat and humidity can make this worse – so it’s always a good idea to store products in a cool, dry place (if possible).

But even if bacteria and mold don’t grow, products lose their effectiveness over time. I knew this about medicine but it never occurred to me beauty products could too! Sunscreen will become less effective. Antioxidants and other active ingredients in moisturizers and other beauty products will degrade, making it less effective at keeping your skin healthy and awesome.

Now that I’ve done the beauty stash “cleanse”, I feel good knowing that all products I own are fresh and effective. It worked out well I did this in January. Since most products have a one-year shelf life, I plan on doing this every January.

So if you haven’t looked at your beauty stash in awhile – I strongly encourage you to do so! I feel lucky I only had some off-smelling nail polish and didn’t end up with a skin infection or worse.

When was the last time you looked at the expiration dates of your beauty products? Were you surprised at how old some of your makeup/skincare is?

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