As promised from the Makeup Shelf Life blog post a few weeks ago, here are some guidelines about skincare expiration. Like all products we consume, there is an expiration date. When it comes to skincare expiration, it can be tricky. Depending on the ingredients and packaging, products can last from a few months to a year once opened. This post is to help you determine when it is time to toss a skincare product. Expired skincare can loose it’s effectiveness and cause skin irritation.  Make sure to read my Makeup Shelf Life post first because many of the factors for makeup also apply to skincare expiration (click to here to read).

serein wu skincare expiration


I recently discussed skincare expiration with Kerry Hite over on Behind The Beauty Podcast Season 2, Episode 7. You can listen to the episode here or watch it here. Product shelf life or expiration differs from brand to brand and product to product. Key factors to how long skincare stays good include packaging and ingredients. While I cannot write a post for every product out there, here is a good general guideline. Time to purge!

Like I mentioned in my Makeup Shelf Life post, for the purpose of today, when I talk about product expiration, we are discussing from the time you open the product. Once product is exposed to air, it starts to go bad. Also refer to my Makeup Shelf Life post for a guide on how to read the handy expiration symbols on all beauty products (click to here to read).

General Questions To Ask Before Tossing

When in doubt, use good judgment. I wish I was diligent about writing the date I open a product on its packaging, but I am not. So I like to ask myself these questions when cleaning out my skincare:

  1. Does it smell funny? (obviously some skincare always smells bad, but does it smell different from when you first opened it?)
  2. Did the color change?
  3. Did the texture change?
  4. Have I stuck my finger in this?
  5. Is it exposed to a lot of air or light?

If you answer yes to any of the questions and can’t remember when you opened it, it’s time to toss it.

Always better safe than sorry, I’ve had some horrible breakouts and rashes from using products that have gone bad.

skincare expiration fresh sugar lip treatment


12 months

This is tricky. If there is an SPF or other skin protectant, the general guideline is 1 year. If your lip product contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, toss after a year.

 Shop My Favorite Lip Balms

skincare expiration foreo luna 2 clarisonic


Brush Heads 3 months

While Clarisonic and most cleansing brushes  recommend replacing every 3 months, make sure you are letting the brushes air dry fully between uses. Cleanse and rinse the brushes thoroughly each time. Consider deep cleaning with an antibacterial soap every week as well.

Foreo Luna ???

The benefit of the Foreo cleansing tools is that it lasts as long as you maintain it. No brush replacement needed. I like to wash my Foreo in hot water with soap. You can even put it in the dishwasher as long as the water isn’t too hot. Once the battery dies for good, that will be when you would need to replace the Luna. Mine is currently on year 2.

Konjac Sponges 3 months

This is something I wouldn’t mess around with. Sponges breed bacteria. Also make sure you are hang drying the sponges. Honestly, I like to replace these monthly.

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 skincare expiration organic pharmacy antioxidant gel indie lee coq 10 toner


3 months to 6 months

This was a hard one to narrow down. Depending on the ingredients, your toner can go bad after 3 months. If your toner has active ingredients such as glycolic and fruit acids, it needs to be tossed around the 3 month mark. Active ingredients can become more active as they expire and cause skin irritation. Organic ingredients go bad faster. If your toner has Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, toss between 4 to 6 months.

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skincare expiration glossier super serum

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6-12 months

Again, this all depends on the ingredients. Check the packaging for the expiration label, and use good judgment.

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skincare expiration beauty oils


6 months to years

From what I can find, oils have the longest shelf life of any skincare product. Depending on the oil, it can be good for a year from opening. My favorite rosehip seed oil has the shortest shelf life at about 6 months. Coconut Oil and Jojoba Oil have undefined shelf life. Now I would not recommend keeping opened bottles of beauty oils around for longer than 12 months, but this is one you might be able to hoard a bit depending on the cocktail.

Shop My Favorite Beauty Oils

skincare expiration masks


3 to 6 months

Again depending on the ingredients in your face mask, it will determine the expiration date. A key factor is packaging. While I love the look of a jar, if you stick your finger in a jar of product, it goes bad after 20 times! DON’T STICK YOUR FINGER IN A JAR OF PRODUCT! I use a metal spatula to scoop out product. Make sure you are washing the spatula between uses. If you really want to be sure to keep your product fresh, use Q tips and don’t double dip!

Anytime the product looks like it’s changed in any way or started to dry out, it’s time to go. Because masks are typically full of active ingredients, they don’t last very long. So do purge frequently.

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skincare expiration serums sunblock


9 to 11 months

The effectiveness of Retinol starts to diminish around this time.

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Date on package and/or 12 months

The cool thing about SPF is that the expiration date is stamped on the box or bottle. For full protection use before the expiration date on the box. Once opened, I keep my SPF around for the year. Every Spring, I toss out my SPF and refresh my stock. Not going to take any chances on sun damage because of old SPF exposed to too much air, light, or plastic. Yup! The packaging, if plastic can affect the potency of your SPF over time.

skincare expiration cream moisturizer lip balm


6 to 12 months

The dangers of expired moisturizers isn’t just less effectiveness, but the growth of bacteria, which can lead to irritation and/or infection. Packaging with pumps are less likely exposed to bacteria. Moisturizers in jars should be tossed after 6 to 9 months, but this is IF you are NOT sticking your fingers in the jars.  After speaking with Kerry and doing more research, I’ve taken to using Q tips when applying my skincare now. First it makes traveling easier and second, I just don’t want to take any chances.  I have had too many odd rashes and flare ups on my face.


Confession time!

Okay, so how bad are you? You guys shared some pretty good makeup confessions, now it’s time to spill on your skincare. What are you guilty of hoarding and keeping way past it’s expiration?






  1. January 13, 2019 / 1:02 am

    Okay wow, I have so much here I wasn’t aware of in terms of expiry dates…definitely need to do a good clear out of my skincare stash, and makeup stash for that matter.

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

    • Serein Wu
      January 17, 2019 / 2:11 pm

      Yes, especially if congested skin is a concern for you!


  2. Krista
    June 3, 2017 / 3:22 pm

    Is the shelf-life the same if the product has never been opened before? Like plastic packaging and all? I love to stock up on spares but now I’m worried that its too late. If so, most of my stuff will have to be thrown out. 🙁

  3. Melinda B Stowers
    May 12, 2017 / 12:26 pm

    I buy plastic coffee stirrers with a paddle end from Sams Club. They work as well as a Qtip but no stray fibers. I just toss them every use. A box lasts me over a year. I keep them in a clean closed mason jar.

  4. May 8, 2017 / 9:34 pm

    I’m so excited to see that oils last for so long! They are my current obsession and I got a bit worried I would have to toss them out soon. (Though I use them so much they definitely don’t make it an entire year!) I think masks though are my aboslute worst ones because I just love to hoard them… I’ll have to force myself to go through them. xo

    Kelsey |

  5. May 6, 2017 / 2:07 pm

    This is a really great topic for a blog post.
    It was so great to read it.
    I am a bit confused on the shelf life of some serums I buy too!
    Set to Glow

  6. Jenny
    May 2, 2017 / 11:29 am

    Omg, I am a skincare junkie & I buy new skincare all the time. So there are definitely products in my collection that are at least 1.5 years old. I really should go back & check the expiration dates/ when I purchased them. Thank you so much for this article! It will be challenging but I will definitely try to not hoard as much skincare anymore since I don’t want to do more damage to my skin.

    • Serein Wu
      May 6, 2017 / 12:58 pm

      I love skincare too! I’m trying to be better about purging and tossing things especially once I open it. Some stuff I go through fast and a lot of, but the others need to just be purged if I’m not going to finish it. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  7. May 1, 2017 / 2:29 pm

    This was pretty helpful I must say. Confession time, I have products which I never used and are older than an year. I always thought will gift it to someone or something and now they must be expired only. Huh. Cleaning Time. Thanks for sharing girl.

    • Serein Wu
      May 6, 2017 / 12:57 pm

      I use to feel the same way. Now I won’t even give old products away incase it’s bad and might cause a reaction on someone’s skin. Don’t want to be responsible for that!

  8. Samantha
    April 30, 2017 / 9:11 am

    Serein, what spatula do you use and where do you get yours? I know it’s a bit nit picky but I like the way your tool looks and how much product you can get out of it. Haha. Thanks so much for the info!

    • Serein Wu
      May 1, 2017 / 1:32 am

      Aw thank you! I bought mine from Namie’s a makeup store here in LA. You might be able to get it through their website or check Nigel’s online as well or Amazon has everything! It’s stainless steel.

  9. Jo Vee
    April 28, 2017 / 2:04 pm

    Darn !! I did not know my masks did not last very long and I ALWAYS stick my finger in the jar. I guess I’ll have to do a lot of masking soon to use up what’s opened and start new habits with a spatula !! Thanks for sharing Serein ! xo

    • Serein Wu
      May 6, 2017 / 12:56 pm

      Yes! I forget how fast the masks in those jars go bad. Definitely try and use a q tip or spatula with any new products. It will help it stay fresh.

  10. Faiza Arshad
    April 28, 2017 / 1:19 pm

    DEAR LORD! This is one of those I didn’t know I needed to know this until someone told me kinda posts, thank you!

    • Serein Wu
      May 6, 2017 / 12:55 pm

      sorry, not sorry! Sometimes we just forget how long something has been sitting there and wonder why our skin is freaking out. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  11. April 28, 2017 / 9:59 am

    Oh my goodness – this is one of the best AND worst blog posts I have ever read! Thank you so much for sharing all of this information, even which ingredients go bad faster. This post is the worst though because I literally think I need to throw away ALL of the skincare I have open!! EEK! 🙂 You always share such useful information – I love it!

    Kate |

    • Serein Wu
      April 28, 2017 / 12:09 pm

      Aw thank you Kate. Yeah, when you start to look into more on expiration and products that go bad and what they can do to you, you get a bit grossed out! LOL. Happy this helps 🙂

      Now go clean out your cabinet!


  12. Abryda
    April 28, 2017 / 9:28 am

    I like to get the smallest size because I know I’ll go through it quicker & use everything. I am definitely guilty of sticking my finger in a jar also eek!! Good info thank you Serein.

    • Serein Wu
      April 28, 2017 / 12:10 pm

      Thanks for reading Abryda. I agree, buying smaller sizes to make sure you use it up is a great way to avoid rancid skincare.


  13. Tina Young
    April 28, 2017 / 9:05 am

    I love trying new skincare products but am really bad of throwing out the old. Recently though I went through my cabinet and threw out my mud masks, vitamin c serums, and near empty containers. At first I was saddened by how much I wasted but it did give me an opportunity to buy new products and try them out. I love Ole Hendrickson moisturizer in the jar but am guilty of sticking my fingers in it. Q tip idea is good. Will have to buy a new jar and try that. I wish all products that are in a jar came with spatulas. That would be great.

    • Serein Wu
      April 28, 2017 / 12:12 pm

      I love trying new skincare too and do tend to keep things around after opening for no reason other than I feel bad for tossing it. But trust me it’s not worth the skin irritation. I’m surprised Ole Hendrickson doesn’t have a plastic spatula that comes in the box. Usually higher end jar products have a little plastic spatula (which I’m told, still isn’t as sanitary).

      Thanks for reading!


  14. Savannah Vu
    April 28, 2017 / 8:21 am

    It’s bad how much I hoard my skincare. Even though I have super sensitive skin, I refuse to throw away a product until I use it all up, no matter how old it is. The worst I got about skincare was that I once had a jar of that Cetaphil moisturizer that I used for 2 years and used my fingers to apply it for each use. I know, grosss. I’ve gotten better about trowing away old products or getting sample sizes so I don’t feel guilty about wasting lol but I’m still really bad about hoarding masks. Also, I really love the extra feature you included by adding links to your favorite products!

    • Serein Wu
      April 28, 2017 / 12:15 pm

      Hi Savannah, thank you so much for reading. Oh you sound like my sister and mom, hehehe. I would go in and try and throw away their products even before I realized how bad it was. I just always felt years is too long for a jar of cream. Definitely try buying smaller sizes of stuff or consider buying products and splitting it with a friend or family member. You can buy empty containers on Amazon, I recommend glass whenever possible. Make sure it’s Amber Glass or dark if you are splitting serums and oils.

      Thanks! Those shopping links too FOREVER! Happy you like the feature.


  15. Melissa
    April 28, 2017 / 6:45 am

    Ugh! I am definitely keeping my masks for too long! Maybe some of my moisturizers as well! I need to go through them this weekend! Thanks! Melissa

    • Serein Wu
      April 28, 2017 / 12:16 pm

      Thanks for reading Melissa! Happy to help inspire a purge session.


  16. Barbara
    April 28, 2017 / 6:30 am

    I’m not bad at keeping around expired products as bad as I thought I would be. I rotate if I purchase a new but my collection is just what I’m currently using. This is a great article and very interesting!!!

    • Serein Wu
      April 28, 2017 / 12:18 pm

      That’s wonderful! Believe it or not I use to only have 3-4 products that I would go through and repurchase all the time every few months. Occasionally I’d want to buy new things to try and start a new routine, but not as bad as I am now. When I first started my channel, I wanted to try everything and stuff is so expensive I wouldn’t throw anything away feeling guilty. THen I started to get samples from brands and felt rude for tossing things. It just became a huge problem. I try to think it’s the cost of research now and I have to purge if I won’t use it or it’s gone bad.

  17. Sharmain Tang
    April 28, 2017 / 3:20 am

    Oh my, I think I tend to keep my masks around for too long! Especially mud masks!! I think now I’m gonna go through them and bin those that have been opened from monthsss ago!

    • Serein Wu
      April 28, 2017 / 12:19 pm

      Thanks for reading Sharmain! I’m guilty of that as well! I would be like oh it’s kind of turned and gotten dry, but let me just mix it in. EEEK! Now I know better.

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