Does Lotion Expire? The Truth About When To Throw It Out

Makeup and other forms of cosmetics have an expiration date. However, unlike food, personal care products contain preservatives to make them last a little longer for daily use. Lotions, which differ from moisturizers, have a long shelf life. But for how long? That is the question.

Unlike food, lotions and other skincare products usually don't have a specified expiration date. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not mandate companies to add best-by dates on labels for items that have a long shelf life (via WebMD). Although it does not mean they can't, it is just not required, so most manufacturers don't bother adding expiration dates. However, makers need to produce products that can last for a specific time. The said, products usually have a shelf life of up to three years. Technically, you can keep your favorite sunscreens and moisturizing lotions for a few years. Then again, it depends on its state.

"But like anything in nature, even preservatives lose their optimal function over time," Dr. Fran E. Cook-Bolden, a New York-based dermatologist, explains (via Real Simple). Some products can be heavy on the pocket, and the thought of throwing them out may not even cross your mind. Sometimes, drugstores have promotions for buying lotions in bulk — then you have a couple of bottles that can last you for more than three years. So, when is the best time to toss out personal care products?

Visual cues can help determine a lotion's expiration date

Many people tend to forget when they opened their lotions or any other personal care products, while others are meticulous and detailed — they often write the dates when they first opened the products on the bottles. If you belong to the latter, good for you. However, experts still recommend checking the formula itself if it smells and any changes in color or texture occur (via WebMD). If your lotion has that rotten egg smell and has a light yellow hue instead of the usual creamy white color, you may want to consider throwing it out.

Sunscreens and other specific types of lotion contain particular ingredients, like skin protectants. Air exposure is usually the cause of why the products oxidize and spoil faster. Lotions with titanium dioxide, benzone, and zinc oxide spoil faster than normal creams. Some experts advise consumers to keep the products only for a few months as opposed to years. Sunscreens have specific Sun Protection Factors (SPFs), and it may be best to get a new bottle every few months to get the product's optimal benefits. Your sunblock that is over a year old may not give you the same level of protection as when you first got the item. For hygiene purposes, consider buying lotions with pumps, as you don't have to stick your fingers inside the product (via Real Simple). In general, lotions can last up to three years if unopened and less if already in-use.