The Toiletry Expiry Guide

collection of toiletry itemsMost of us (hopefully) go through the fridge and pantry every now and then to weed out food items that have expired. But what about toiletry items? Do they expire? And does it matter? The short answer is yes, most personal hygiene items will eventually expire. And yes, it does matter (sometimes). It often depends on the type of item and where on your body you’ll be using it.

FDA regulated items

Products that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers “drugs” will have an expiration date printed on the packaging. These include dandruff products, acne treatments, fluoride toothpastes and sunscreen. The main danger with these products is that they lose effectiveness over time, so it’s important to at least check your sunscreen before depending on it to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.

Non-regulated products

While these typically won’t list an expiration date, look for something on the label that says how long it’s good after opening—it might look like an open container with “24M” or similar. In this case, it means the product expires two years after you open it. A good rule of thumb is if it looks or smells different from when you first opened it, throw it out.

Skin and hair care
Hair products last a couple of years after opening. They don’t present any danger after expiration; they may just break down and not work as well. Expired skin products, however, could cause irritation and possibly even infection, due to the growth of bacteria. Moisturizers and creams in jars should be tossed after nine months; those in a pump dispenser can last about a year. Deodorants are an exception—they often list an expiration date of three years, but they stay effective longer and don’t present any health risks once expired.

Liquid makeup, like foundation or concealer, is good for up to a year, while powdered products last two to three years. What you really want to keep an eye on are your liquid eye products, like eyeliner and mascara—toss these after three months, or sooner if they get dried out or if you’ve had an eye infection.

Health and beauty tools
It’s not just bottled and jarred products that go bad over time. Here are some guidelines for when to throw out beauty and hygiene tools:

  • Toothbrush: Replace every three months
  • Shower pouf: Plastic ones are good for a couple of months, but natural loofahs should be trashed after three or four weeks.
  • Eyelash curler: If cleaned properly with rubbing alcohol after each use, it can last two or three years.
  • Nail clippers, tweezers, other metal tools: Replace after four years, or sooner if you notice dents, nicks or rust
  • Disposable razors/blades: Replace every week; those in the package will be good indefinitely, as long as there’s no rust