Do Expired Skincare Products Still Work?

All skincare products do expire and begin to lose effectiveness as soon as the bottle is opened. However, only sunscreens, acne medications, and other OTC and prescription treatments are required to list an expiration date on the bottle. So how do you know when it’s time to throw away old products and buy new ones? 

It depends on the product type, how it’s been stored, and whether or not it’s been opened yet. Opened products lose effectiveness more quickly than unopened products, since they’ve been exposed to air, light, and bacteria from your fingers. Below are some general guidelines for replacing specific types of products. 


SPF has a two-year expiration date, which should be printed on the bottle. However, keep in mind that chemical sunscreens lose efficacy much more quickly if they are left in a hot car or in the sun. If you forgot to bring your sunscreen inside or place it in the shade while you were out, replace it immediately. You also do not want to use the same sunscreen that’s been sitting in your beach bag all winter long. I recommend replacing SPF products at least every six months if opened even if it has been stored properly. 

Acne Products

Acne medications also have a two-year expiration date. If you are taking any oral medications for acne, be sure to check the expiration date and discuss with your doctor if it has passed. Doxycycline, the oral antibiotic used to treat acne, can be dangerous if used after the expiration date, as it can injure your kidneys. Never take oral medications after their expiration date without consulting your doctor first.


Retinol can quickly lose efficacy once it has been opened. For this reason, I recommend replacing these products every four to six weeks. If you accidently leave the lid off of the bottle for any period of time, it’s best to replace it immediately. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C serums are highly reactive to light and heat, so store these products somewhere cool, dark, and dry. They should be packaged in dark bottles to help preserve their effectiveness. Replace vitamin C products within four weeks or when the color of the serum turns dark.


Moisturizers can last longer than some other products, as long as they are stored somewhere cool and dry. Always apply moisturizer with clean hands to not only keep dirt and bacteria off your face but also out of the bottle. Replace properly stored moisturizers within two years.


Cleaners should also be replaced within two years and stored in a cool, dry environment. Do not keep your cleanser or other skincare products in the shower, as the heat and moisture causes their ingredients to break down more quickly.


Oils such as argan oil, evening primrose oil, grapeseed oil, and others break down more quickly once opened. They often smell bad and change color when they turn rancid. Replace these products every six to eight weeks and store them in a cool, dry environment.

Bottom Line

Skincare products do lose effectiveness over time, so it is important to regularly replace old products for new ones. Store your products in a cool, dry place – not in the shower – to help prolong their efficacy. Always check with your doctor before taking expired oral medications, as some can be dangerous if taken after the expiration date.

Don’t forget to follow Baumann Cosmetic on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for more skincare tips and tricks from Dr. Leslie Baumann! 

©2019 Metabeauty, Inc.

October 5, 2019 Skincare