Can Hand Lotion Expire?

Woman hands holding cream.
Expired hand lotion won't properly hydrate your skin. (Image: lucky_spark/iStock/Getty Images)

Hand lotions are designed to keep your skin healthy and soft. Like all cosmetics, they have individual shelf lives. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require companies to list expiration dates, but this doesn’t mean your hand lotion will last forever. Good judgment will help you determine when it's time to toss your lotion.

Role of Expiration Dates

Expiration dates are useful in helping you to determine whether a particular product works or not. If you use a hand lotion on a daily basis, chances are that you’ll use it all up before it has a chance to expire. A listed expiration date on cosmetics is not a guarantee; the FDA says cosmetics can expire well before their expiration dates.

Lack of Expiration Information

Hand lotions do go bad, but it can be difficult to determine the longevity of a product if the manufacturer doesn’t print an expiration date. Lotions generally last one to two years in ideal conditions, so you may consider writing the date of purchase on the bottle in permanent marker as a guideline for when you should toss it out.

Causes of Early Spoilage

Some hand lotions go bad before the expiration date or the one-year mark. There are a few reasons for this unwanted spoilage. First, using tubs of hand cream increases the presence of bacteria from your fingers. “Cosmopolitan” magazine recommends using pump-dispenser lotions. Decreased exposure to bacteria can make the lotion last for two years. Also, the more active ingredients there are in the lotion, the quicker it can spoil. Hand lotions stored above room temperature are also likely to spoil before their expiration dates.

Unopened Containers

Unopened and sealed containers of hand lotion can last longer because they aren’t exposed to bacteria. “Real Simple” magazine says lotions can last for up to three years when they are left sealed or unopened. If you open an old container and it smells unusual or has a yellow cast to it, you’re better off tossing it.

Health Concerns

Using expired hand lotion is unlikely to harm your skin. If your lotion contains sunscreen, however, concerns may arise over the effectiveness in UV protection once the product is no good. Once a lotion’s active ingredients lose efficacy, then the hand product won’t work as it’s supposed to.

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