The lifespans of body lotions and powders can vary and are largely dependent on ingredients. Use expiration dates, typically on product packaging, as a general guide; many external factors can cause a product to spoil prematurely. Improper storage, high temperatures and frequent contact with unwashed hands can lead to early deterioration. Using an expired or spoiled lotion or powder can impact its effectiveness and could even result in skin irritation or infection, depending on skin sensitivity.
Body lotions typically have a shelf life of about two to three years, according to Real Simple. Natural and organic formulations often contain ingredients that cause them to spoil quicker, making for a shorter shelf life. While sunscreen expiration dates typically range between one and three years, a frequently used cream should be used within a year or so, as exposing the formula to air causes water to evaporate and the product to break down, which can ultimately affect its stability. Unusual or abnormal smell, separation of oils and discoloration can be surefire signs of a lotion that is well past its prime.
Cosmetic powders have a typical lifespan ranging from six months to a year, depending on what the powder consists of, notes Skincare-News.com. Jim Hammer, founder of Mix Solutions, a consulting company for cosmetic and personal care products, says some body powders can last up to two years or more, due to their low moisture content. However, if a powder is stored in a damp environment, it may absorb moisture, increasing the likelihood of bacterial growth and product spoilage. Identifying an expired powder can be a bit trickier than an expired lotion, as powders normally don’t change color or smell. Water spots or a change in texture can mean it's time to toss it.
Maximizing Shelf Life
In addition to adhering to expiration dates, there are a few things that help keep your lotions and powders from spoiling. Store lotions in pumps and tubes, as opposed to jars, to prevent air from entering the container, and keep lids and caps tightly closed. Bacteria from hands can easily transfer to lotions, so use a spatula, cotton swab, sponge or powder puff for application. Frequently wash or sanitize your application materials — brushes, spatulas, powder puffs — to prevent bacteria buildup. Always store products in cool, dry and dark places such as a makeup drawer. Avoid leaving them near the shower or sink, as heat and moisture can speed up the spoiling process; this is especially true for body powders and lotions with all-natural, organic and botanical ingredients. Refrigerators are a great place to keep lotions cool.
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What if There Is No Expiration Date on My Product?
If an expiration date is not indicated, refer to a customer service phone number on the package or on the brand or distributor website. Formulations containing alpha hydroxy acids and/or botanical ingredients are particularly easy to spoil.
- Healthy House Institute: Keeping Germs out of Cosmetic and Personal Care Products -- What Consumers Should Know
- CosmeticsInfo.org: Skin Care Products (Creams, Lotions, Powders, and Sprays)
- Real Simple: Beauty Products Expiration Dates Checklist
- CBN.com: When Beauty Expires
- Real Simple: Expiration Dates for Beauty Products
- Jim Hammer, Founder; Mix Solutions; Uxbridge, MA
Based in Los Angeles, Angela Melero has been a writer since 2008, contributing to various publications. She serves as an assistant editor for a beauty publication and enjoys writing about health, fitness and beauty trends. Melero received her bachelor's degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge.