How Long do Skincare Products Stay Fresh?

Unlike fine wine, your beauty products are not getting better with age. In fact, those anti-aging products are aging rapidly.

In this article we dig into the impact of age on the efficacy of your skin care products, what causes them to degrade, and what you can do about it.

How do skincare products degrade?

Once a skincare product is opened, it gets exposed to air, light and possibly water and other environmental pollutants. This is especially true for those types of products that are typically delivered in packaging that allows for a larger surface area of exposure like jars and tubs. One must also consider the fact that every time your stick your finger in the tub, you'll be introducing a little more bacteria that can get to work doing what it does best and rapidly multiply.

In laboratory testing of 25 skincare products containing vitamin C, retinol or CoQ10, researchers found that the majority of creams and serums lost an average of 40% efficacy in 8 weeks and some lost as much as 75%.

The reason these products degrade is because the active ingredients are oxidizing and becoming unstable.

What are active ingredients?

Your products are made up of two main types of ingredients: active ingredients and inactive ingredients. 

Active ingredients are those ingredients highlighted on the product label that are formulated to make it do what it's supposed to do. These ingredients are therefore essential to the efficacy of the product. Examples of active ingredients are:

  • Vitamin C
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Retinol
  • Niacinamide
  • Salicylic acid etc.

Inactive ingredients are those required to deliver the active ingredients onto the skin. Typical inactive ingredients are things like water and various oils.

What is oxidation?

Oxidation is a natural chemical reaction whereby molecules start losing their electrons. Essentially, oxidation is changing the chemical structure of the ingredients in the product. 

The process does not necessarily involve oxygen. This comes from an older definition, because oxygen was the first known agent that triggered the reaction. For example, when iron combines with oxygen to form iron oxide or rust. The iron is said to have oxidized into rust. 

Either way, the effect of this process will be changes in the color, consistency, and integrity of the ingredients. This causes them either to stop working or worse, start doing something different.

What if I use old, oxidized product on my skin?

According to Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, an Assistant Clinical Professor for the Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center, the dangers of using expired skincare products are fairly limited. It's just that they will probably lose their potency or might not work at all.

That said, the risks aren't zero. Sunscreens past their sell-by date will give you a false sense of security when you're out in the sun, offering you little protection.  Some products may even introduce bacteria or an infection onto your skin. People with sensitive skin are also prone to getting rashes or allergies.  

What type of skincare products are most susceptible to oxidation and bacteria?

Products have varying amounts of longevity depending on the amount of preservatives used in their formulas.

  • Those made with sensitive skin in mind usually have less preservatives and therefore will have shorter life cycles.
  • Products that come in jars typically have larger surface areas to harbor bacteria.
  • Products where you need to dip you finger are also more prone to fostering an ecosystem friendly for bacteria.

Applying products containing bacteria may do nothing negative but typical bad reactions can be redness, inflammation, sensitivity, blistering and even swelling.  

Most products produced in Europe and America have a period-after-opening (PAO) symbol, often on the inside of the lid. There will be a number beside the symbol eg.12 or 24 that indicates a number of months. This refers to how long it will stay fresh once it’s been opened.

That said, it’s not too difficult to tell if a beauty product is off. If it looks or smells different to when you first opened it, then chances are it’s gone rancid. If the texture changes or there’s separation, then it's time to trash it.

Serums lose potency over time. From the minute they're opened the good stuff in them starts to deteriorate. Most serums will last for about a year before they need to be trashed. After that the active ingredients really begin to destabilize.

Lipstick and lip gloss. Products in liquid form will go bad faster than powders. There’s not a lot of bacteria in a lipstick so it can last for around two years before it expires. Lipsticks and lip gloss tend to be packed full of preservatives such as parabens and essential oils, so they certainly won’t be as fresh one year later if they’ve been opened.

Sunscreen. Most sunscreens have a shelf-life of a couple of years. But leaving the bottle beside you on the sun lounger at the pool or sitting on a coffee table will encourage the active ingredients in the cream to break down faster. If it’s a different color or smell than when you opened it, don’t use it.

Moisturizers. Same thing with your moisturizer. If there's a change in texture or smell then throw it out. Most moisturizers containing preservatives can last for around one year.

Shampoo. A shampoo bottle which hasn’t ever been opened can last for years. If it has been opened then you can keep it for up to two years without noticing any difference in its quality, so long as no water gets in it.

Tips on ensuring products remain fresh

  • Oil based creams last longer than water-based versions. The former can last up to two years while the latter starts losing potency after only six months.
  • If buying a water-based moisturizer or face cleanser, then opt for one with a pump dispenser, rather than a jar. That way there’s less likelihood of bacterial contamination from your fingers.
  • Always keep beauty products that contain vitamin C in a cool, dark place since the sun’s heat and light makes them less effective. Shelf-life can often be prolonged in natural creams and oils if they’re kept in the fridge during the summer months.
  • A gel shampoo or body cleanser lasts longer than their cream versions.
  • When it comes to packaging, glass bottles are better than plastic, which can leach into the product over time. The darker the glass the better, as it protects from UV light.
  • To ensure you get value for money when buying beauty and skincare products, always look for an expiry date. 

How does Glorio solve the skincare product freshness problem?

it took us over a year to fully develop the Glorio clay mask system from the ground up. Our goal was to develop a set of formulas that could be more focused on different skin types and different skin states, rather than producing a one-size-fits-all product that most brands offer as an add-on product to their extensive lineups. 

Central to this philosophy was to keep the masks fresh and optimally effective. We did this by packaging them in convenient, one-time-use treatments that are airtight and deliver the exact amount you need for one mask treatment. This means no oxidation, no loss of efficacy and no introduction of bacteria through dirty fingers. 

In summary our four mask formulas are as follows:

Detox. Cleansing Clay Mask.
This mask uses Beraclay Light Green (with clinical testing). Beraclay Green contains Montmorillonite which offers several benefits to the skin, especially on oily skin where it is both effective and does not trigger the skin oil production feedback effect.

This clay is often recommended for the treatment of acne and excessive oiliness. In addition to Beraclay Light Green we will also add Beraclay Yellow which provides a purifying, astringent and remineralizing action. It also absorbs oiliness without dehydrating the skin which has a strong anti-acne effect.

Ingredient include: Beraclay Light Green, Beraclay Yellow, Andiroba, Copaiba, Acai Oil Complex, Glycolic Acid, Alpha Hydroxy Acid, Salicylic Acid, Beta Hydroxy Acid.

Renew. Collagen Boosting Clay Mask.
This mask uses Beraclay Red (with clinical testing). The natural red coloring of Beraclay Red comes from its concentration of iron. It softens the skin, causing an immediately perceptible effect. The presence of active oligoelements gives this clay a distinct beneficial result for sensitive skin. It improves cutaneous elasticity by 173% and helps to repair cutaneous damages caused by natural aging or photoaging. It also promotes a tensor and long-lasting effect on the skin.

Ingredients include: Beraclay Red, Beraclay Brown, Glycoin natural (Glyceryl Glucoside), Glycoin, Niacinamide, Bakuchiol (Natural Retinol alternative).

Glow. Revitalizing Clay Mask.
This mask uses Beraclay Gold (with clinical testing) which has a purifying, astringent and remineralizing effect while providing a lush appearance to the skin. Added is Beraclay Purple which promotes cell maintenance and has magnesium, essential for providing a younger appearance of the skin while promoting the adsorption of impurities.

Ingredients include: Beraclay Gold, Beraclay Purple, Supercox C-AF™ (Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit Extract), BV-OSC (Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate), Active form of Vitamin C.

Calm. Restoring Clay Mask.
This mask uses Beraclay Purple (with clinical testing) which promotes cell maintenance and has magnesium, essential for providing a younger appearance of the skin while promoting the adsorption of impurities. Also used is a Punarnava Plant extract that reduces inflammation and soothes stressed skin. Think wind, salt, sunburn etc. 

Ingredients include: Beraclay Purple, Mediacalm™ (Punarnava plant extract), Black Cumin Seed oil, Neem Oil, Oat Beta BGlucan and Aloe.