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If you can’t seem to find the expiration date on your shampoo or sunscreen, use this overview as guidance.

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Our bathroom drawers and shelves are lined with toiletries of all kinds: sunscreens, deodorants, shampoos and conditioners, lotions, and make-up products. But did you know that these products have a shelf life, just like the items in your pantry? Many products have an expiration date on the bottle, but unfortunately, some don’t. If you can’t seem to find the expiration date on your shampoo or sunscreen, use this overview for guidance.

Sunscreens and lotions.

Sunscreen is one product you definitely don’t want to mess around with. Putting an old, expired sunscreen on your body may mean it’s lost its effectiveness – and the result could be a painful sunburn! Since sunscreens are an important part of our health, they should include an expiration date somewhere on the bottle. In fact, Laura Williams says that since sunscreen includes SPF, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to put the expiration date on the bottle. Typically an open bottle of sunscreen can last six to 12 months – but don’t stretch it much longer than that! “As tempting as it may be to go ahead and keep using the tube of sunscreen from last year, the SPF can degrade over time, making it less effective,” says Williams. Face and body lotions can last for a much longer time – anywhere from one to three years. The best way to get the most bang for your buck is to purchase lotions in squeeze or pump bottles to minimize the transfer of bacteria from your hands to the product.

Beauty products.

It’s extremely important to keep track of expiration dates for the cosmetics and make-up products that you put on your face. These items are a breeding ground for bacteria, which can affect your health. Paula Begoun says that using products past their expiration date could result in skin irritation, rashes, blemishes and various skin or eye infections. “Know when to let go,” Begoun stresses. “If you’re hanging on to your skincare or makeup past its expiration date, chances are microbes and bacteria have taken their toll and might be causing skin problems you’re trying to solve!” If there’s not an expiration date listed on the package, make note of when you open the product and go by that date. Use a sharpie marker to write the date you open it on the product to help you remember. Eye products have one of the shortest shelf lives – and since they are applied around your eye, you definitely don’t want to mess with this! Mascara and eyeliners should be tossed every four to six months. Foundations and concealers should be replaced every six months to a year; powder-based products every two to three years; and lipsticks, lip glosses and lip pencils every two to three years. Begoun advises that these dates are just guidelines. “If it smells funky, looks gunky or the texture has changed significantly – definitely toss it out!” she says. “Watch (or sniff) for any new odors, as smell is one of the first qualities to change when a formula has expired.”

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Shampoos and conditioners.

Shampoos and conditioners have a fairly long shelf life – three years for unopened bottles and 18 months for opened bottles. Anything after that and your product may have lost its effectiveness – it may not de-frizz like you wanted, add moisture like you wished for, or remove dandruff like you needed… Worse case scenario is you could get a scalp infection from the bacteria that gets into the bottle over a long period of time. Jyl Craven says to increase your shampoo or conditioner’s shelf life, store them in a cool, dark place when not being used, and buy products that are in spray containers or tubes. “The less chance oxygen or water droplets have to get inside to hurt the product the longer your stuff will last,” she says.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to the expiration dates for all of your toiletries. Perhaps the best way to keep it under control is to minimize the amount you have. No one truly needs 25 mascaras, lipsticks or lotions. Try to keep your collection to your favorite two or three products, and you’ll never have to worry about the products expiring and affecting your health.

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