Sep 13
A Guide To When To Ditch Your Skincare Products

Do you know when to throw away skincare products? Read on to find out.

Surely we all know when a box of milk passes due, and that if the T-shirt is stained unrecognizably, it might be better to use it as a cleaning wipe than for style. But it can be hard to know when our beloved skincare products have changed.

Not only do certain products lose their efficacy over time, in the case of some items, such as SPF and anti-aging moisturizers, using expired skin care can cause long-term damage.

That's why it's important to know the age of what's in your beauty collection. Read on to find out what to look for in some of the most preferred K-beauty formulations, so you always use the most potent and efficient products on the face.

What is PAO?

The symbol "Period After Opening" usually appears on the back and near the bottom of health and beauty products. It usually looks like a small illustration of a jar and will have an image in it that contains the number and the letter M, for example, 6M. This means that in laboratory testing, the brand has determined the product will remain fresh and strong for up to six months after opening. It's a good idea to use these numbers as a guideline for remembering when to throw away your product, but that's only if you can remember when to buy/open it.

Expiration date

Other products, such as sunscreen, often have an expiration date printed on the bottom or near the lid. This date is the period of time until a product can be guaranteed to be effective.

If your product doesn't have an expiration date or PAO, or you can't remember when it opened, there are some important signs you should pay attention to to make sure that the product is still fresh.

Oil-based cleaners

Oils are an unforgiving environment for bacteria—it's much harder for them to grow and thrive on an oily base. Therefore, oil cleaners, especially those in balm format or those that require you to open a bottle to access the product, can separate after being exposed to oxygen for too long.

Pay attention to changes in texture and smell, and discard them if you notice anything is wrong. Pump-based oil cleaners, such as Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil,are your best option for maintaining freshness, and if used as needed daily, will run out after two to three months.

Water-based cleaners

Bacteria are much happier in aqueous environments, so it's important to use a water-based cleanser quickly after opening—a maximum of 6-8 months, but foamy soaps that contain acids like glycolic acid or salicylates (like Benton Deep Green Tea Cleansing Foam)have a slightly longer shelf life, because bacteria and acids don't get along.

Just like the greasy ingredients, using a daily water-based cleanser as part of your Double Cleansing routine will ensure you get the freshest product until the last drop.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and serums containing this ingredient can help brighten skin tone, smooth fine lines, and help heal scar tissue. Vitamin C should always be packed in a dark or opaque bottle, and oxygen exposure should be minimal— always close tight.

A pure and strong vitamin C serum will become clear. When you start to see the serum turn a translucent brown or orange color, it's time to throw it away. This means ascorbic acid (vitamin C) has oxidized, and no longer has antioxidant power.

That's why we love Skin &Lab Vitamin C Brightening Serum. The lightening formula is made fresh in small amounts and dark blue bottles help protect ascorbic acid from minor damage.


A general rule for moisturizers and eye creams is to throw them away one year after opening, but things can get a little more complicated with bottle packaging. Since more oxygen can get into the product and encourage bacterial growth, it is advisable to remove it after six months.

Look for moisturizers in hygienic pump packs, such as ElishaCoy Tetraforce Cream,and try keeping small jars such as those containing eye cream in the fridge. This will slow down some of the expiration process, and will serve as a refreshing swollen face removal treatment in the morning.


The general rule with SPF is that one bottle should be used per season of the year. And although SPF is one of the few products we wear on our bodies that is set to have an expiration date, it's important to remember that if you still have sunscreen left over as it approaches its expiration date, there's most likely not enough protection!

The point:

Remember to always pay attention to any changes in the texture, color or smell of the product, and if the product that always works for you suddenly causes irritation or doesn't make your skin fresher like it used to, it's time to say it. Goodbye. When you're ready to throw away the product, empty all the contents in the trash before cleaning the inside (if possible) with paper towels, then recycling the packaging. We care about the environment as much as our skin!