Does Lotion Expire? – Shelf Life of Body Lotions

Published Categorized as Beauty Tips

Many types of beauty products are rather expensive. For that reason, we tend to hang on to them for as long as possible, even past expiration dates. However, for our own health and safety, we need to find out how long lotions last and when it is not safe to use skincare items anymore.

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In this post, we will investigate the possibilities of expiration dates and how long you can hold on to your favorite lotion.

How Long Does Hand Lotion Last?

Table of Contents

Do Lotions Expire?

Yes. Any type of lotion will eventually expire. Moisturizer, body lotion, hand lotion, you name it.

This is because of two things:

  1. First, bacteria, germs, and other microorganisms can contaminate opened lotion containers;
  2. Ingredients (preservatives or desired components) in the lotion’s formula can stop working.

Most of the time, if a lotion’s packaging is kept sealed, it will last at least 3 years.

After it is opened (not after it is made), the lotion will typically last for at least 1 year while it is being used. It may even last a bit longer, depending on how much product you apply.

Most of the time and with regular use, you will use up a container of lotion long before the expiration date comes to pass.

How to Tell When Body Lotion is Expired

Have you ever come across a bottle of Bath and Body Works body lotion that was stashed at the back of your closet for years? When you pick it up, you hear a slosh, and the tube is bloated, unlike when you first got it.

When a lotion is expired and cannot be used anymore, you will most likely be able to see if it has broken down.

  • Expiration Date: Check the packaging to see if the lotion has gone bad according to the manufacturers.
  • Consistency: Expired lotions can become watery or oily. Sometimes, if the packaging let any air in, the lotion can also be hardened or chunky instead of smooth and creamy.
  • Appearance: Discoloration is also very possible. The lotion can appear more yellow or brown, if the original color is meant to be more cream or light.
  • Smell: Your nose will also tell you that the lotion cannot be used anymore if it smells bad or funny.
  • Packaging: If there is anything wrong with the packaging, such as bloating or discoloration, toss it.
Type of LotionShelf Life (Opened)Shelf Life (Unopened)
Face Lotion6-12 months2-3 years
Body Lotion12-24 months2-3 years
Hand Lotion12-24 months2-3 years
Shelf life may vary depending on product and environmental conditions

Can You Use Out-Of-Date Lotion?

While it’s possible to use expired lotion, it’s not advisable.

The main purpose of a lotion is to hydrate the skin. After a lotion has expired, it may lose its potential to do any moisturizing due to its ingredients losing efficacy. These ingredients can also develop properties that can be unsafe when used.

The biggest problem with expired lotion may not be with the lotion itself but with the bacteria that may grow in it. Imagine slathering something contaminated all over your face and body.

You can end up with an unpleasant rash or other bad allergic reactions. The bacteria may also trigger other skin issues, such as acne. Especially if you have sensitive skin or skin problems such as eczema, using expired lotion will negatively affect your skin.

A newly-expired lotion can be relatively safe to use, but products that have been expired for a while should be tossed.

Watch out for odd smells, discoloration, any signs of mold, bloating, and liquid separation. Also, if a lotion stings or makes you itch, it’s not a good idea to continue using it.

Using expired lotions won’t necessarily kill you, but doing so may cause more harm than good, and you’re better off purchasing a new bottle of body lotion.

How Do You Use Expired Lotion?

You should be very careful when you use expired lotion because of the breaking down of its ingredients.

If your lotion comes in a sealed container that was kept away from direct sun or heat, or the bottle has a pump, you do not need to worry as much about bacterial growth inside the bottle.

When your hand lotion is in a jar, the chances are that it could be contaminated with some type of bacteria (from the air or from your own hands). These should not be used for long.

Should you find that the product is expired, the best thing to do is to throw it out. Choose your skin’s health over anything!

Side Effects of Expired Lotion

Lotion that is expired will not necessarily harm you very seriously. Using body cream that’s been in your closet for 5 years isn’t as dangerous as consuming something that’s been in your fridge for half a decade.

That said, expired body lotions can still cause you harm in the form of possible skin problems. Some of the effects expired lotion can cause include:

  • redness/inflammation
  • rash/irritation
  • infection
  • acne
  • exacerbated skin issues (ex. eczema and rosacea)

Here’s a video of a Youtuber named Sejal who experimented with a full face of expired makeup products.

Using expired lotion can have a similar effect, especially if you’re applying expired face cream.

How to Read Expiration Dates on Lotion Products

Normally, you will find the expiration date of a product expressed in the month and year it will expire. It may also show a best before date on the product label.

Does Lotion Expire? – Shelf Life Of Different Lotions

With lotions and other skincare, there might be an icon. This icon may contain the letter M for total months and a digit that will show the number of months after opening the product.

Does Lotion Expire? – Shelf Life Of Different Lotions

Some products used as lotion don’t always have expiration dates or symbols, though. For example, a jar of petroleum jelly or Vaseline won’t always have an expiration date. They still expire, but not as soon as you think.

Does Lotion Ever Expire: Absolutely Yes

Normal lotion will last for quite some time, and if you use it regularly, you should not have a problem.

It is better not to use lotions that are in a container for too long after the expiration date due to bacterial growth.

To be on the safe side, use a container that allows you to either pour the lotion out or that has a pump. This prevents contaminating the product inside.

Remember to prioritize your health over saving a few $!


How Do You Know if a Lotion Is Expired?

Check the lotion’s expiration date. That is the most effective method of checking if a lotion is past its usability. Also check for consistency changes (too watery or oily), discoloration, off smells, and packaging changes (bloating).

How Long Does It Take for Lotion to Get Old?

The best indicator of a lotion’s life is the “consume within X months of opening” icon (an open jar with a number and the letter M). Usually this period is 6-12 months.

If opened and exposed to the elements (ex. extreme temperatures) however, lotion will expire much sooner than its regular shelf life.

How Long Do Bath and Body Lotions Last?

According to the BaBW website, opened lotions last about 2 years, and unopened lotions can last 3 years.

Do Skincare Products Expire?

Like everything else in the world of perishable goods, skincare products also expire at some point and will no longer be good.

Unsealed skincare products usually have a shelf life of 2-3 years.

Usually the product will show the number of months from time of opening that it will last. As long as it is still sealed, you can safely use it for the next months indicated in the label, but not if it is opened.

How Long Do Unopened Skincare Products Last?

Skincare products have a shelf life of up to 3 years if not opened or exposed to heat.

The problem is that you do not know how long it has been on the shelves before you bought the product.

By Ellis James

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  1. Before reading this article. I really was unable about hand lotion shelf life. Thanks for sharing this article. Keep it up.

  2. Definitely better to be cautious than deal with rashes or other unpleasant skin problems. You’re welcome, Carrie!

  3. Thanks so much, Sarah! And yes, these things do tend to pile up; it’s always better to be safe!

  4. This is such an informative post! I did not know all this about hand lotions. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. This is good to know… I have so many hand lotions that sometimes they do expire and I wonder if I should use them or toss. Thanks for these tips!


  6. These are great tips. My hands tend to get really dry in the winter so I always end up using a tube or two per season, but I will have a look to throw out old ones that are left forgotten in the bottom of my handbag!

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