Know When to Throw Out Skincare Products

Whether we admit it or not, saying goodbye to barely-used serums bought at an expensive price is a tough pill to swallow. Not to mention tossing out all those toners and moisturizers sitting on your closet with minimal consumption could be a headache to you and your wallet. For the skin’s well-being, it’s always important to note when products need to hit the trash. In this article, Dr. Singh advises us on expiry dates and tips to prolong the shelf-life of your products.

Period After Opening

The moment you open any product, the clock ticks on its effectiveness. Every products’ shelf life differs from the other. Dr. Rashmi explains, “The ‘period after opening (PAO) symbol denotes the period (usually in months) within which a product should ideally be used after the packaging has first been opened–in simple terms ‘the best use before’ period for a product from the day of its opening.” She advises that this will only be applicable when stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions located on the label.

What happens past the PAO date?

It may seem easy to shrug away the notice on the label and use it anyway, but dr. Singh says otherwise. “A variety of things can happen once a product is past its ‘PAO’ date, which makes it unsuitable for use- a sunscreen could lose its protection, the formula could become unstable, an antioxidant serum could get oxidized and lose its ability to fight free radicals, or the preservatives could no longer prevent the growth of microorganisms,” she explains. The best thing  to do? Get rid of products past its PAO.

As mentioned earlier, the only way a product can last up to its indicated shelf life is when it’s stored in optimal conditions. “Any change in texture (like separation in two phases, or disintegrating into clumps), smell (rancid and unpleasant), or color (darker or milkier) should set the alarm bells ringing. It could indicate that the product is possibly not fit for further use,” dr. Singh emphasizes. 

How to make products last longer

Thankfully, there are ways to prolong your products. Here are a few pointers that Dr. Singh recommends we keep the following pointers in mind:

  • Carefully read the storage instructions on the products’ labels and follow them. For example, a product with a less stable version of Vitamin C should ideally be stored away from the light, or oil-based products should not be stored in very cold temperatures. A dark and cool (not freezing cold) cabinet works for most products. 
  • Keep track of when you are opening the products and consider labeling them if you are discarding the packaging.
  • Keep your skincare and makeup products out of the bathroom. The damp environment near a shower promotes the growth of bacteria and fungi. 
  • Do not let the tip of a dropper touch the skin of your face or palm while dispensing a product (from dropper bottles)
  • Always wash your hands before dipping your fingers in a tub packaging, or use a spatula.
  • Regularly clean all the applicators, like spatula, spoon, or makeup brushes, that directly come in contact with the products.
  • Close the lid as soon as you take out the required quantity and reduce air exposure of a product to as little as possible. 


Time is of the essence when opening both skincare and make-up products. Shopping for goodies that you can consume on a regular basis will not only help out your skin, but your wallet as well. Be a wise buyer and benefit more.

About the contributor

A clinical and aesthetic dermatologist from India currently based in Berlin, Germany. 

Instagram Handle: @saysthederm 

One reply on “Know When to Throw Out Skincare Products

  • Ami

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