How Long Do Your Skin Care Products Have A Shelf Life?

Usually my skin care products run out within a few months. But sometimes I buy products that I don’t use immediately and they disappear in a drawer or cupboard.

And then I forget them for a very long time, until I find them again by chance.

Or I buy a new product, use it a few times and then I decided that I don’t like it that much, like the SOME BY MI Cleansing bar. These products also disappear in a drawer or cupboard, until I find them again.

Recently I was wondering how long these opened and unopened products can be kept. It’s often not clear stated on the label (the label is often written in Korean). So I went looking for the answer and I share it with you!

How to read a Korean skin care product label

Most Korean skin care products I have, have a label on the back with a lot of Korean text on it. There is often a short English translation at the bottom.

What I find striking: the English text doesn’t even come close to the Korean text in terms of length. Often it’s a short manual and that’s it.

Production date and expiration date

Apparently in the Korean text there is a production date and expiration date written.

The production date can be found with the Korean word 제조. This word means literally produced. In general, the expiration date of many cosmetics is 2 years.

The expiration date can be found with the Korean word 까지. This word means literally until. This means that the product may be used until the specified date.

But be aware, Asian countries have different order for writing dates. First they write the year, then the month, followed by the day: YYYY/MM/DD.

Some brands have a symbol that indicates how long a product can be used after it is opened. It looks like a cap opening with a digit and the letter M in it. This means that you can use the product for that number of months after opening before it expires.

Expiration symbol
Photo: CalypsoArt via Getty Images

General guidelines of the shelf life of skin care products

I can imagine that searching for the expiration date on Korean labels can be a bit overwhelming. At least for me, finding the right Korean word isn’t always easy. So here is a table with the general guidelines of the shelf life of skin care products:

Product type:Shelf life:
Cleansing gel/ foam/ oilBefore opening: 30 months
After opening: 12 months
EssenceBefore opening: 30 months
After opening: 12 months
ExfoliatorBefore opening: 30 months
After opening: 12 months
Eye creamBefore opening: 30 months
After opening: 12 months
MoisturizerBefore opening: 30 months
After opening: 12 months
SerumBefore opening: 30 months
After opening: 12 months
Sheet maskBefore opening: 30 months
After opening: immediately after use
Sun screenBefore opening: 30 months
After opening: 12 months
Wash-off maskBefore opening: 30 months
After opening: 12 months

As you can see, you actually store unopened products for a while.

Can I use a product after the expiration date?

No, unfortunately not. Using expired products or products that have been opened for too long can be harmful to your skin.

The composition of a product can change over time. This can lead to skin problems, such as irritations and pimples.

Here are some tips to keep your skin care products safe:

  • Store products in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
  • Only open a new product if you intend to use it.
  • Write on the product the date you opened it.
  • Is the product supplied with a small spatula? Use and clean the spatula.
  • If the product start to develop a distinct smell and discoloration, then throw it away.

Front photo: The Junessa Rendon Collection

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