Does lip balm expire?

Does Lip Balm Expire? How Long Does Lip Balm Last?

We’ve all been there: rediscovering that trusty lip balm that’s been hiding at the bottom of a bag or tucked away in a drawer.

It’s been with you for ages, but a nagging thought crosses your mind: “Does lip balm expire?” It’s more than just a fleeting question.

In this article, we’ll delve deep into the lifespan of lip balms, uncovering the reasons they might go bad and offering tips to ensure you’re treating your lips with the care they deserve.

Does Lip Balm Expire?

Yes, lip balm does expire. But why does it expire, and what are the signs you should look out for? Let’s break it down.

Why Does Lip Balm Expire?

Lip balms, whether they’re the fancy kind from a high-end store or the basic ones from your local pharmacy, have a mix of ingredients. These can include oils, waxes, and sometimes even water.

Over time, these ingredients can separate, degrade, or even become a breeding ground for bacteria. Think about it: every time you swipe that balm over your lips, you’re introducing new bacteria to the product.

Without preservatives, which many natural lip balms lack, these bacteria can multiply and thrive. Additionally, the active ingredients that provide sun protection or medicinal benefits can lose their effectiveness over time.

Related: Does Lipstick Expire? How Long Does Lipstick Last?

Signs to Look Out for With an Expired Lip Balm

One clear indicator that your lip balm is past its prime is a noticeable change in its texture. If it becomes hard, crumbly, or even too soft and clumpy, it’s a sign that it’s time for a replacement. A rancid or off-putting smell is another red flag, suggesting the oils within have turned bad.

Moreover, if you observe any separation in the product, or if it starts to appear grainy, it’s best to discard it. A change in color, especially if the lip balm takes on a yellow or brown hue, can indicate oxidation, often due to exposure to sunlight or heat. Always prioritize safety, especially with products you apply near your mouth. When in doubt, it’s better to replace than regret.

What Happens If You Use Expired Lip Balm?

You might be thinking, “So what if it’s a bit old? It’s just lip balm!” But using expired products comes with its risks. At best, the balm won’t be as effective, leaving you with chapped lips. At worst, you could experience skin irritations, infections, or even allergic reactions.

The bacteria or mold that can grow in old lip balms isn’t something you want on your lips. And if you have cuts or cracks in your lips, these microbes can enter your body. So, if you’re in doubt, it’s best to throw it out and get a new one. Your lips will thank you for it!

How Long Does Lip Balm Last?

Lip balm typically has a shelf life of one to two years from its manufacturing date.

However, it’s essential to note that leading brands in the U.S., such as ChapStick and Burt’s Bees, recommend disposing of their products after a year or as indicated on the label. On the other hand, brands like Carmex clearly mark the expiration date on the tube’s closed end.

If you can’t find an expiration date on your lip balm, look for a PAO (Period After Opening) symbol, which might display as “6M” or “12M.” This indicates that the product should be discarded 6 or 12 months post-opening.

Several factors can influence its longevity:

  1. Ingredients: Basic lip balms with simple formulas, especially those based in petrolatum, are more shelf-stable. However, balms containing ingredients like menthol or essential oils, which can be drying, may degrade faster. The more complex the ingredient list, the higher the chances of instability over time.
  2. Sun Protection: If your lip balm contains SPF, it’s crucial to adhere to the listed expiration date. This ensures you’re still receiving the sun protection benefits. Dr. Ivy Lee, a board-certified dermatologist, mentions that some lip balms with sunscreen can separate over time, losing both their sun protective and moisturizing benefits.
  3. Usage and Application: The way you apply your lip balm can also impact its lifespan. Ideally, it should only touch the outer part of your lips. If the balm frequently enters your mouth or is applied over broken or infected skin, it’s essential to be more cautious and adhere to expiration dates.
  4. Packaging: Stick lip balms, where you twist to dispense the product, are generally cleaner and less prone to bacterial colonization than pot lip balms, which require finger application.
  5. Look and Smell Test: A practical approach is to trust your senses. If the lip balm has an unusual smell or its consistency appears off, it’s best to discard it. Dr. Lee suggests that if a lip balm is used in the standard way, there’s less concern about strict expiration dates.

In essence, while lip balms have a general shelf life, individual usage and product factors can influence their longevity. It’s always best to stay informed and prioritize safety.

How to Extend the Life of Your Lip Balm

Taking care of your lip balm can ensure it lasts longer and remains effective. Here are some practical tips to help you get the most out of your favorite lip moisturizer:

  1. Proper Storage: Always store your lip balm in a cool, dry place. Avoid leaving it in direct sunlight, like on a car dashboard, as heat can cause the ingredients to degrade faster. If you’re carrying it in your pocket, make sure it’s not subjected to too much heat.
  2. Cap It Tight: After every use, ensure the cap is screwed on tightly. This prevents air from getting in, which can dry out the product, and also keeps out dirt and debris.
  3. Clean Application: If you’re using a pot lip balm, always make sure your fingers are clean before dipping into the product. This reduces the introduction of bacteria. Alternatively, consider using a small spatula or lip brush for application.
  4. Avoid Sharing: As much as you might want to help out a friend in need, try not to share your lip balm. Sharing can introduce new bacteria to your product.
  5. Regularly Check: Every few months, give your lip balm a quick check. If it smells or looks off, it might be time to replace it. It’s better to be safe and enjoy the full benefits of a fresh product.
  6. Buy Quality Products: Investing in a good quality lip balm can make a difference. Premium products often contain better ingredients that can have a longer shelf life.
  7. Opt for Natural Choices: Choosing natural lip balms with minimal ingredients and without added fragrances is a smart move for both the longevity and safety of the product. Although fragrances add a pleasant touch, they can compromise the balm’s shelf life, making it expire sooner than those with a simpler composition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Diving deeper, let’s address some of the most common queries about lip balms.

Do lip balms expire if not opened?

Yes, even if unopened, lip balms can expire. The ingredients inside can degrade over time, affecting the product’s quality.

How many years can we use lip balm?

Typically, lip balms last between 1 to 2 years from their manufacturing date. However, always check the product’s expiration date or any changes in its texture or smell.

Can expired lip balm cause dark lips?

Using expired lip balm can lead to skin irritations or infections, which might darken the lips. It’s always best to use fresh products to avoid any adverse effects.

Are natural lip balms better than other lip balms?

Natural lip balms often contain fewer chemicals and synthetic ingredients, making them a preferred choice for those seeking organic or clean beauty products. However, “better” can be subjective and depends on individual preferences and needs.

Do natural lip balms go bad quicker?

Yes, natural lip balms, especially those without preservatives, can expire faster than their synthetic counterparts due to the organic ingredients they contain.

Do lip balms become less effective over time?

Over time, the active ingredients in lip balms can degrade, making them less effective. This is especially true for lip balms with SPF, where the sun protection can diminish with age.


So, does lip balm expire? The answer is yes. Like all cosmetics, lip balms have a shelf life. It’s essential to be aware of the signs of an expired product and to store it correctly to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Remember to always prioritize your health and safety. Your lips will thank you for it!

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