Know when to discard skin care products

You may often look through your skin care products and ask, “How long will these last me?” A general rule is about six months to one year. However, here are some tips to keep in mind when purchasing or discarding skin care products:


  • Opt for pumps rather than screw-on jars. Pumps keep bacteria out, which can fester inside a jar when unsanitary fingers are dipped in it. Pumps also help keep oxygen out, which can degrade the product over time.
  • Some products will have a “Period After Opening” (PAO) symbol, which is an outline of a jar with a lid and a number followed by an “M” (months) on it printed next to the list of ingredients. The number indicates how many months the product will be effective after opening. Always write the month and year on all your skin care products with a marker when you first use it to remind you how long you’ve had it.
  • Sunscreen should be discarded after one year. Always check the expiration date and store in a cool, dry place. Heat can cause sunscreens to become unstable and ineffective.
  • Acne products typically last four to six months. Common ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide break down rather quickly once exposed to air and may cause more irritation to the skin. When treating acne, consistency is key and when morning and evening rituals are practiced, the product should not last more than six months.
  • Anti-aging products with ingredients like retinol, glycolic acid and vitamin C can break down quickly and typically last nine months to one year, depending on how they’re dispensed. Opt for vacuum-sealed products in air-tight pump bottles for a longer lasting product.

Check all of your products annually to make sure they’re not expired and are still effective. If you’re unsure how long you’ve had the product, it’s better to be safe and toss it than to risk any possible irritations to your skin due to decaying product.

Additional Resources

Beware of counterfeit skin care products sold online

Acne and makeup: What you should know

-By Kim Chang, aesthetician with the Baylor Aesthetics Studio

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