Take a look around your fridge and within a few seconds, you could probably tell at first glance what should be thrown out. Your veggies and spices start to wilt and dry up, while prepared meals start to form oil at the top of the plastic containers. And that milk? One whiff and you know it’s not okay to drink. But what about when you look in your makeup bag, your shower or medicine cabinet? It’s not always clear if your foundation or shampoo is okay to use, or if it’s time to toss it out and replace the goods. Using expired products is not only a little gross, but it can also be troublesome for your skin.
“The main problem with old products is that they can decompose. The chemicals can separate and cause problems with the skin. I have seen burns and irritation from old products. They can also harbor bacteria and cause a skin infection or even worse: they can have viruses and cause a herpes outbreak,” explains Dr. Debra Jailman, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Yikes, right? As Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, Calif. explains, generally speaking, you should look for three things when considering how healthy your product is: “If the product looks different than when you first opened it, throw it out. Or if there is any change in texture, color, smell or if the product begins to separate, throw it out. Or if you used the tool or product over an infected area and can’t sanitize it, probably throw it out, too.”
The PAO symbol—or, period-after-opening symbol—is another thing to look out for. It looks like a small jar of body butter with a number and the letter “M” written inside or underneath it. The number represents a product’s expiration date once opened for the first time. For example: If you open a product labeled “6M,” you have 6 months to use it before it’s considered expired.
Want to know specifically how long your coveted items last? Here, dermatologists tell all.