Cosmetic products are everywhere, easily accessible and oftentimes quite cheap, this makes hoarding it extremely easy; but, did you know these products have a shelf life? Did you know the shelf life may not be as long as you think they are? Did you know your product starts to deteriorate as soon as you open it? Let’s dig a little deeper. 

Cosmetics products are mainly made up of water. Water is an amazing solvent, diluent and so much more, however, one of its greatest achievements is its ability to grow things. 

Yes it helps your plants grow, flush toxins and help your skin glow, but it’s also the perfect facilitator for bacterial growth. This comfortable bed for bacteria, yeast and mould growth is why water containing products require preservatives. 

When a cosmetic is made, it usually has a shelf life of 3-5 years. This means it can sit on a shop shelf for this amount of time, however, once you open it, the clock starts ticking and your product could be spoiled in as little as 3 months. 

As a former product junkie, who would try a product then leave it sitting on my shelf for 18 months, thinking I might try it another time – learning about product shelf life blew my mind.

Why Do Products Have a Shelf Life 

Check this out, when a product is opened it starts a process called oxidation, where oxygen causes the deterioration of some of the ingredients in the product. Deteriorating ingredients = deteriorating product

Most creams are made from emulsifying water based ingredients with oil based ingredients. As these two compounds don’t particularly like being bound to each other, over time, the emulsion will separate. 

A change in temperature, exposure to sunlight, other heat sources and moisture are all factors that can cause a product to destabilise and deteriorate. 

Then there’s dipping your finger in the product to scoop it out. No matter how clean your hands are – unless recently sterilised – bacteria will remain on them. This constant opening and dipping into the product introduces new bacteria, and unless the product has a robust preservation system, it won’t be sufficient in killing these bacteria, again, causing rapid deterioration of your lovely face cream. 

Products such as mascara and lip care products that are used close to mucous membranes, usually have shorter shelf lives than body care products for instance. These products are more exposed to moisture of the lips and the little bacteria friends that live in our eyelashes, this type of contact vastly increases the chances of mould and bacteria growth. These areas of the body are also thinner, which makes penetration and infection easier. 

The shelf life displayed on a product lets you the consumer know that a product was tested with varying parameters, and it will be safe for use up to a specified time as determined by the manufacturer of that product. This date is there for a reason, it could be because the ingredients such as the preservation system breaks down after this time, or the emulsion will split after this time or some type of undesirable chemical reaction happens as the ingredients get older, such as discoloration. 

After the expiration date, the manufacturer cannot guarantee that the product will be safe for use and it is recommended that products are not used after their expiry. 

How Will I know When My Cosmetic Product Expires 

There are legal requirements around the world that companies let customers know when a product is likely to expire. You will notice some products have an expiry date, some will have a best before date, whilst others will have symbols. Here are some symbols you may see on your products:

Timer symbol
Period-after-opening symbol

The Hourglass symbol signifies there is a best before date somewhere on the package. There may be no symbol but the words ‘check package for best before/expiry date’ would be an alternative.

The Open Jar symbol usually has a number inside the icon – 3M, 6M, 24M – these all signify the amount of months or years the product is good for, after the product has been opened. 

How Can I Keep My Products From Going Bad

Bacteria isn’t something you see and whilst some are harmless, others are dangerous; as you can’t see them, you don’t know what type may be lurking in your cosmetics. This is why it is imperative you check the expiry date of your products and once open use them as quickly as directed. 

Here are some tips for keeping your products safe as you use them;

  • Unless the product is for use in the bathroom such as cleansers or shampoo, keep them out of the bathroom – the moisture can speed up deterioration of the product
  • Keep products away from water, including wet fingers 
  • Use a spatula to scoop out product instead of dipping your fingers, keep the spatula clean and dry
  • If you don’t have a spatula, ensure your finger is clean before dipping in the product
  • A tip for dipping – place your finger in the product at an angle with the topside of your nail touching the product, swipe up so your nail picks up the product. The reasoning behind this is, underneath your nail will harbour most bacteria, so picking up product in a way where the underside of the nail does not come in contact with the product, reduces the risk of adding bacteria. 
  • Don’t add water to products. Before knowing what I know now, I would add water to my shampoo when it was almost finished, to get it to slide out of the bottle easier. Sometimes I’d leave it with the added water until next washday. I dread to think of the nasties that may have grown and were used in my hair! These nasties may have been the cause of some of my scalp issues. 

So, now you know what to look out for when thinking about how long your product may last before needing to chuck them in the bin. Don’t be like I was, hoarding products for the sake of it and never using them, buy what you need and use them up as quickly as possible. If you come across a product that does not have an expiry date, I would suggest giving it a pass as you don’t know how old that product is. The alternative –  if you just have to have that product – is to contact the company and ask them. 

We ensure all our products at Holpura have their expiry dates attached. We want you to feel secure in the knowledge that the product you are using is safe to use and in date. 

Cosmetics are amazing supplements for great skin and hair, so just like you would with your food, check it’s in date and safe to use. 

If you have any questions or comments reach out to us here or on our Facebook page.

Until next time,

Be Great x

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