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Do Unopened Skin Care Products Expire?

by Megan Sheckells


Just about everything in the world has a shelf-life—from our groceries to certain phases of our lives—whether we like it or not, things expire and skincare products are no exception to this rule.

But do unopened skincare products expire? While we expect that half-used bottle of facial cleanser to expire at some point, it’s a little less certain if it will expire at the same rate if it has never been opened. So, let’s take a look at what makes skincare products expire in the first place, and what this means for that expensive skincare product you found at the back of your bathroom cabinet, untouched.

I spoke with Rosi Ross, a business developer at Global Cosmetics LTD to learn more about skincare products and their expiration dates. Ross says that Global Cosmetics LTD, “manufacture[s] skincare for brands like Sephora, Boots UK, Primark, M&S and more.”

According to Ross, “unopened products can last literally whatever they say on the packaging, also depend on the number of preservatives it has inside of the product.” So, yes, even the unopened products you have are going to expire regardless of you breaking that seal.

The notable difference here is that it will stay fresh until that date listed on the bottle because they aren’t exposed to external conditions. Ross stated, “So basically the manufacturer makes a product to complete their shelf life. But some ingredients like actives, heavy on water products or natural derivates can make a product expire quickly.

Also, mixing ingredients and using one ingredient and other without cleaning or washing your hands can intoxicate the product, so these are small actions consumers can do daily that are affecting the life of the product.”

We tend to think of expiration dates as a never-moving date, but it’s good to realize that the way you store and handle skincare products can impact their ability to last as long. Ross discussed the way manufacturers ensure expiration dates are accurate, stating, “First of all, when manufacturing products they must pass a stability test. During this period the manufacturer makes sure that all the ingredients match together, and they don't cancel each other to meet the expiration date.”

It seems to be a good idea to follow the directions for what temperature to store products and make sure we’re not accidentally allowing the contents of the container to come into contact with other products that may have different ingredients. Once you contaminate one skincare product with another, there’s a potential that you can impact the shelf life.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offered advice to consumers to keep them safe when it comes to skincare products and cosmetics. Among them, the FDA suggested throwing out products that are drying up, not sharing makeup products with others, ensuring your products and applicators are clean, and storing products correctly.

The FDA states, “There are no U.S. laws or regulations that require cosmetics to have specific shelf lives or have expiration dates on their labels. However, manufacturers are responsible for making sure their products are safe. FDA considers determining a product’s shelf life to be part of the manufacturer’s responsibility.” However, some products are considered drugs and cosmetics and can be held to both standards at the same time. So regulations regarding skincare products and cosmetics alike, vary.

If the words of wisdom regarding throwing these products out aren’t enough for you, Ross offered an explanation of what can happen if you do use expired skincare products (opened or not). Ross said, “You can get an irritation or acne reaction, most people think they can only get an irritation, but if a product which is oil base is expired the oiliness can cause extra breakouts. Irritation usually occurs when products are heavy on actives or alcohol base.”

So, pay attention to the expiration dates on the products you purchase. But even when you do get them home, be sure you’re storing them properly according to the label. Finally, make sure you aren’t contaminating your products.

You would likely be concerned about cross-contamination when cooking, so treat your skincare products similarly. Wash your hands and read the labels. As unfortunate as it is, sometimes we’re better off not using a product if we didn’t use it within the proper time. Believe me, your skin will thank you. For more, check out one of the best skin care products from COSRX.

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Ross, Rosi. Personal Interview, 23 Aug. 2021

“Shelf Life and Expiration Dating of Cosmetics.” Food And Drug Administration, Accessed 24 Aug. 2021.


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