Take a look at your moisturizing cream, foundation, or night treatment serum. See any expiration dates? According to some industry professionals, you should. Particularly if you’re enjoying natural or organic products that have fewer potentially harmful preservatives, you may want to keep an eye on the age of your formula.
Factors That May Speed Up Product Aging
Natural products are more vulnerable to the effects of aging. They often contain plant extracts, vitamins and minerals, essential oils, enzymes, and antioxidants that can be damaged by heat and light, or may simply become less effective over a period of time. Other products contain unique combinations of ingredients that do not last long in each other’s presence. Benzoyl peroxide, for instance, found in many chemical acne products, can degrade in only three months, and may also degrade antibiotics if they’re included in the same formula.
Other skin care products may contain ingredients with different pH levels, which can affect how long the product will last. Some product may be more acidic, and others more alkaline, which can make them less effective over time. In fact, according to Dr. Ruthie Harper, the creator of “Skinshift,” the more products in a formula, the shorter the shelf life.
FDA Doesn’t Mandate Expiration Dates
Expiration dates aren’t mandated by the FDA. That means that so far, companies don’t have to use them if they don’t want to. Many choose not to-after all, they want to sell the older products as well as the newer ones. It also costs money to conduct the necessary tests to create expiration dates-and money to stamp those dates on the product. Testing can delay the launch of a new product, which most companies don’t want to do.
That means consumers are often left guessing as to just how long we can use a product before it either becomes risky, because of contamination, or is no longer as effective as it once was.
The Packaging Matters
Regardless of how long the product is supposed to last, the type of packaging can affect the efficacy of the ingredients. Sterile packaging and one-way pumps, for instance, can help protect the ingredients for longer periods of time. These can block air from getting into the formula, prolonging effectiveness.
Other products provide ingredients in separate containers. You mix the products together right before use. That prevents any interactions that may shorten shelf-life prior to use. This can be especially helpful in treatment products that contain a lot of active ingredients. Finally, packaging that protects the formula from light can also help keep it safe from damaging rays.
Tips for Preserving the Life of Your Products
As we choose to use more natural skin care products, we have to be careful how we use them and store them, so we can preserve their effectiveness. Here are some other tips:
- Store products in a cool, dark place. That means out of the bathroom where the hot shower can affect temperatures. Heat and humidity can cause natural products to go rancid. Some natural formulas with plant extracts may survive longer if kept in the refrigerator. You may also store some in a cool place in the basement.
- Keep products tightly closed and sealed when not in use.
- Avoid products in jars-they are exposed to germs in the air, germs on your fingers, and light.
- If the product is discolored, runny, lumpy, or separated, or if it smells funny, throw it away.
- Avoid products in damaged packaging-they could have been exposed to environmental elements. This includes those with broken seals or other signs of tampering.
- Products that have water as the first ingredient are typically more likely to degrade quickly, because water encourages the growth of bacteria and microbes. Those with plant extracts are also more susceptible to aging.
- Products with no preservatives-those labeled “preservative-free”-are likely to be good for you, but also last a shorter amount of time.
- Wash your hands before you use any products.
- Write the date of purchase on the back of the product package to remind you how old it really is. Don’t rely on memory!
- Any products you carry in your purse are naturally more exposed to the elements-keep them for a shorter period of time.
What do you do to preserve the life of your products?
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