Most of us have at least one cosmetic product in our bathroom cupboard, hand bag or in the glove box of the car that has been there for a few months too many. While it may seem completely harmless to use the product, it may actually be doing you more harm than good.
Step 1 – Know when your product has passed its expiration date.
It is not a requirement in Australia to have an expiration date on most skin care products (unless they contain an SPF). If there is an expiration date, it’s most likely going to be on the box that the product first came in which you would have most likely throw away. Most skin care products contain a little symbol that tells us how long after we open that product we need to throw it away. It looks like this:
This symbol gives us the PAO which stands for ‘Period After Opening.’ If it says 6M than that means you need to throw the product away after 6 months after opening it (as an example)
There’s a number of reasons skin care products need to have an expiry date or a PAO just like we do with food and beverages. Just like consuming food or beverages can make you sick internally, applying expired products on your face can create problems for your skin.
Here I’ll discuss 3 main reasons why skin care must be thrown out after the PAO date.
- No longer effective
Reason #1 PRESERVATIVES
In order to keep products active for as long as possible, skin care manufacturers must add multiple preservatives into their product. Usually, the more preservatives, the longer the product will last; simple. Nowadays however, most of us hear the word “preservative” and want to run the other way. The reality is that most products need them if we want them to last longer than a few days once the jar is opened. So it’s almost impossible and definitely not practical to not include any. Cosmedix products have a shorter life span than a lot of brands as they don’t contain any added artificial preservatives as the active ingredients inside the product act as a natural preservative.
So to put it simply, when you’re using a product past the ‘period after opening’ date it means that the preservatives are no longer working to keep the product in its original state and what you may be applying on your skin can contact unwanted bacteria.
Reason #2 BACTERIA
You wouldn’t think applying an expired product on your skin could mean you’re applying bacteria on your skin would you?! Well guess what, you just might be. Just like in food, skin care can also harvest bacteria- the bad kind, not the good. Look out for signs such as a change in colour, texture and smell. Furthermore, when choosing products always go for the pump applicator rather than a jar because dipping your finger into the product may add extra germs from your hands which will go mix into the entire product.
Reason #3 ACTIVE INGREDIENT BECOMES INACTIVE
So you’re using a particular product thinking it’s treating your skin condition, well you could be wasting your time if it’s past the PAO date! In most cases the active ingredient is no longer doing its job and has lost its potency. The sunscreens are no longer protecting you from the sun and your retinol is no longer giving you youthful skin. The only real way to test if your product is still working for you is to take it to a lab for chemical analysis, which most people don’t have access to. So to be safe, don’t use it.
Take Home Message
If you have skin care products at home without an expiry date (or the original packaging has been thrown out) here are some basic tips:
- If your creams begin to seperate from the base (oil, water) and the consistency is no longer thick, the product should be discarded.
- With your SPF sunscreens, the smell will start to change first; If you smell something different please discard this as it’s not worth the risk!
- Changes in colour; If your product has changed colour immediately throw this out as this could cause unwanted reactions on your skin.