When to Trash the Goods


Most people know when it’s time to replace their mascara or when the toothpaste gets crusty, but how do you know when your moisturizer has had its day?

Few companies actually state how long the product will last and how long it’s good for, the first referring to the amount in the jar, and the latter referring to its shelf life. Dr. Perricone’s website indicates that most products used twice a day should last two to three months, but his products have a shelf life of two years. If you’re anything like me, a slew of creams and fragrances crowd your dresser and few rarely get used within three months. Elizabeth Murchison, Director of Education for Guinot Paris, agrees that most bottles will last for about a season, depending on usage. “It depends on the size of the packaging but most products for the face, including moisturizers and serums, last about two and a half to three months. Eye creams last about the same time however it depends if you use different eye creams depending on the time of day.”

The FDA, however, suggests that users may replace eye creams sooner as a precaution to reduce the risk of infection. But, that doesn’t mean the product will become contaminated or the ingredients inactive after mere months, it simply suggests taking extra precautions when dealing with sensitive areas. The FDA doesn’t specify anything about cosmetic expiration dates or ingredients, because aside from sunscreen, anything that is not meant to prevent or treat a disease is considered a cosmetic item. They mention that natural products that rely on plant extracts may become less effective over time if organisms in the product’s main ingredients stop functioning. An FDA statement says, “among other cosmetics that are likely to have an unusually short shelf life are certain “all natural” products that may contain plant-derived substances conducive to microbial growth.”

But not everyone is in accordance with this statement. Murchison says people wrongly assume products without preservatives aren’t worth buying because they assume they’ll become useless after mere weeks. Dr. Neal Schultz of Park Avenue Skin Care shares this outlook. “As long as the product has not separated out, water on top and cream on bottom, the product is good indefinitely in the jars.”

One thing most parties agree on is that more isn’t always merrier. There’s only so much the skin can absorb, so layering products should be treated seriously because it impacts the efficacy of the product. Dr. Schultz explains that it’s not so much about how long products last but using the right ones at the right time. “It’s more a matter of layering the proper order of vehicles. Layering is, for example, using the thinnest vehicle, a solution, first and the heaviest last. The order of use of the products is active ingredient first, like a glycolic acid or a sunscreen, before moisturizer.” Or, as Murchison explains, layering too many products or two powerful products can be “too much of a good thing.”

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