How Long Moisturizer and Lotion Last
Most skincare products, even those with natural ingredients like your favorite aromatherapy lotion, contain preservatives to keep them fresher longer. "But like anything in nature, even preservatives lose their optimal function over time," says Fran E. Cook-Bolden, MD, a New York City dermatologist. When it comes to body moisturizer, throw away unfinished containers that have been open for more than two years. (If you're using a lotion on a regular basis, though, odds are you'll need to replenish it before it expires.) An expired lotion doesn't hurt or damage skin, but the product won't lock in moisture or hydrate as thoroughly. (In the case of cooling lotions or other specific-use items, they probably won't work as well.) Sealed and unopened bottles should be good for three years.
If, however, you notice changes in your moisturizer's smell or texture before the two- or three-year mark, toss it. The more active ingredients a lotion contains (like SPF) and the more bacteria introduced (as when you put your fingers into a jar), the less stable the lotion will be and the more quickly it will expire. Check the product's back label to find out how many active ingredients there are. Also, opt for pumps or tubes, which keep germs out effectively, over screw-top tubs that your fingers have to reach into. Finally, if you're not storing the lotion in a cool spot (about 10 degrees lower than normal room temperature), the lotion will probably spoil faster than usual.
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In short, yes: Moisturizer and lotion do expire. Still, in most cases, that can take two to three years. If you have a stash of lotion from holiday and gifting occasions in the past, do a smell and touch check before you apply it. If it smells different than expected or has a strange texture, you're better off tossing it. But if you're using your favorite lotion or moisturizer regularly, you're probably going to use it up before it expires—no need to worry about if it's expired.