Does moisturizer expire?

Does Moisturizer Expire? How Long Does It Last?

You know that feeling when you stumble upon a moisturizer you haven’t used in a while? Maybe it’s tucked away at the back of your drawer or hidden in your travel bag.

You pick it up, and the question pops into your mind: “Does moisturizer expire?” Well, you’re not alone in this. We all have those skincare products we’ve held onto for a bit too long.

And with the skincare industry booming, many of us are investing more in our skin’s health. But here’s the thing: no matter how much we spend, it’s essential to ensure we’re using fresh products.

In this guide, you’ll uncover the truth about the lifespan of moisturizers, learn to spot the signs of an expired product, and get tips to keep them at their best.

Does Moisturizer Expire?

Yes, moisturizers do expire, and their lifespan can vary depending on their type and ingredients.

Over time, their ingredients can break down, reducing their effectiveness and potentially causing skin irritation or infections.

How Long Does Moisturizer Last?

Moisturizers, like all skincare products, have a lifespan, but there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long they last.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t set strict guidelines for moisturizer expiration, nor does it mandate manufacturers to provide expiration dates. However, some insights can guide you:

1. Expiration Dates and Suggested Timeframes:

  • While the FDA doesn’t require it, some moisturizers, especially those with sunscreens, might have expiration dates. Using them post-expiration can render the active ingredients less effective, leaving your skin unprotected.
  • Many moisturizers come with a “time after opening” indication, often represented by a number followed by the letter ‘M’, denoting the number of months. For moisturizers, this can range between 12 to 24 months. It’s a good practice to mark the date you opened the product to track its age.

2. Ingredients and Their Lifespan:

  • The longevity of a moisturizer is closely tied to its ingredients. Preservatives, vital for preventing bacterial and fungal growth, break down over time. Once they do, the product becomes vulnerable to contamination. Those with natural preservatives or fewer preservatives might have a shorter shelf life, expiring within a year or even less.
  • Moisturizers containing active ingredients like retinol, peptides, SPF, or vitamins might degrade faster.
  • Lightweight moisturizers, which are often water-based, can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Even though they contain preservatives, their lifespan is typically shorter.
  • On the other hand, oil-based moisturizers, with their rich and buttery textures, tend to last longer. The absence of water in their formulation makes them less susceptible to bacterial growth. However, if you introduce water into the product, say by using wet fingers, its shelf life can be compromised.

3. Storage and User Behavior:

  • Jarred moisturizers are particularly vulnerable. Every time you open them, they’re exposed to the elements, which can hasten their degradation.
  • Unopened moisturizers generally have a longer shelf life than their opened counterparts. But, as a golden rule, if a moisturizer, whether new or old, looks or smells off, it’s best to discard it.

So, while moisturizers don’t have a fixed expiration timeline, being aware of their ingredients and your usage habits can help you gauge their longevity.

Related: Does Body Wash Expire? How Long Does It Last?

Signs Your Moisturizer Has Expired

Recognizing when your moisturizer has passed its prime is crucial for your skin’s health. Using an expired product can lead to skin irritations or even infections.

So, how do you know when it’s time to toss that bottle? Here are some telltale signs:

  1. Change in Texture: A fresh moisturizer has a consistent texture, whether it’s creamy, gel-like, or oily. If you notice any separation, clumps, or a watery consistency, it’s a sign that the product has degraded.
  2. Off-Putting Smell: Every moisturizer has its distinct scent, whether it’s fragrance-free or infused with essential oils. If your moisturizer starts to smell rancid, sour, or just different from when you first opened it, it’s time to let it go.
  3. Discoloration: If you spot any changes in color, like darkening, fading, or the appearance of spots, it’s a clear indication of spoilage. This can be due to the breakdown of ingredients or the growth of mold.
  4. Skin Irritation: Your moisturizer should make your skin feel good. If you suddenly experience redness, itchiness, or any form of irritation after application, it might be because the product has expired.
  5. Reduced Efficacy: If you find that your once trusty moisturizer no longer delivers the hydration or benefits it used to, it could be losing its potency due to age.
  6. Separation of Ingredients: While natural separation can occur in some organic or all-natural products, a clear separation of oil and water in your moisturizer indicates it’s no longer stable.

How to Properly Store Your Moisturizer

Storing your moisturizer correctly can significantly extend its shelf life and keep it effective for longer. Just like you wouldn’t leave a chocolate bar out in the sun, your moisturizer needs some TLC too.

Here’s how to ensure it stays in tip-top condition:

1. Keep it Cool:

Avoid storing your moisturizer in places with fluctuating temperatures, like near radiators or windowsills. A cool, dry place, such as a drawer or a cabinet, is ideal. If it’s a particularly heat-sensitive product, consider keeping it in the fridge.

2. Avoid Direct Sunlight:

UV rays can break down the active ingredients in your moisturizer, reducing its efficacy. Always store it away from direct sunlight.

3. Tighten the Cap:

Sounds simple, right? But ensuring the cap or lid is tightly closed prevents air from getting in, which can degrade the product. Plus, it keeps out contaminants.

4. Use Clean Hands:

Always make sure your hands are clean before dipping into a jar of moisturizer. Bacteria from your fingers can contaminate the product. If you’re extra cautious, use a spatula or a spoon.

5. Opt for Airless Pumps:

If you have the choice, go for moisturizers with airless pump packaging. These limit the product’s exposure to air, keeping it fresher for longer.

6. Avoid Humidity:

Your bathroom might seem like the perfect place for your moisturizer, but think again. The humidity from showers can compromise the product’s integrity. Instead, store it in a bedroom or another low-humidity area.

7. Keep Water Out:

If you’re using a jarred moisturizer, ensure no water gets inside, as it can introduce bacteria. Always dry your hands before using or opt for a spatula.

What Happens If You Use Expired Moisturizer?

According to Real Simple, using an expired moisturizer isn’t likely to cause any direct harm to your skin. However, the moisturizer’s potency in terms of locking in moisture and providing deep hydration is compromised.

This means that, even if you don’t feel any immediate discomfort, you’re potentially missing out on the full skincare benefits the product was designed to offer.

This is especially true for specialized lotions, such as those with cooling properties, where the reduced efficacy can be more noticeable.

Additionally, factors like the introduction of bacteria from our hands can further destabilize the product, accelerating its degradation and reducing its shelf life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s address some of the most common queries about moisturizers and their expiration.

How do you know if moisturizer is expired?

The most straightforward way is to check the product’s expiration date. If there isn’t one, observe any changes in its texture, smell, or color. A rancid scent, separation of ingredients, or discoloration are telltale signs that the moisturizer has gone bad.

Is it OK to use expired moisturizer on face?

While using an expired moisturizer isn’t typically harmful, it might not provide the intended benefits. The active ingredients can degrade over time, reducing their effectiveness. For facial skin, which is more delicate, it’s always best to use fresh products to ensure optimal care.

What happens to moisturizer when it expires?

When a moisturizer expires, its active ingredients break down, making them less effective. The product might also undergo changes in consistency, develop an off-putting smell, or show signs of bacterial or fungal growth, especially if it’s been stored improperly.

How long before moisturizer expires?

Typically, moisturizers last between 6 months to 2 years, depending on their ingredients and storage conditions. It’s always a good idea to check the product’s packaging for a specific expiration date or the “time after opening” indication.


Ensuring your skin remains radiant and healthy involves understanding the products you use, including the crucial question: “Does moisturizer expire?”

Now that you’re equipped with this knowledge, you can make informed decisions about your skincare routine. When in doubt, it’s always best to check the product’s condition and expiration.

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