For years, the skin care industry has spent billions extending the life of their products by months or even years. Has anyone asked why?
Today most skincare products are formulated to last at least thirty months, that is 2.5 years or longer. This is a result of EU regulation that was meant to increase consumer transparency, but has in fact resulted in the opposite.
Long shelf lives have become the industry standard and a large share of research and development is still dedicated to enhancing product stability. But even with the help of new preservatives and additives, active ingredients cannot be protected against breakdown over time.
Many active ingredients start losing their beneficial properties in just a matter of a few months
When I started looking into the shelf lives of cosmetic products, I was surprised to find numerous studies documenting that commonly used active ingredients, such as vitamins, are unstable in cosmetic formulations. In fact, many active ingredients start losing their beneficial properties in just a matter of a few months due to oxidization.
Take ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), for example. This is still one of the most effective natural antioxidants you can use on your skin. But the molecule in its natural form is extremely unstable. The graph below shows that once Vitamin C has been mixed into any kind of solution containing water, it starts breaking down immediately.
After 120 days (4 months) there is 70% left of the original concentration, and after 8 months there is only 20% left of what was added in the solution.
So you do need to be a chemical engineer to understand that a cream that has been made, for example, 12 months ago, has very little left of its original efficacy.
Long shelf lives also mean that most skincare formulas contain not only preservatives, but also various other additives such as stabilizers, fillers, color and fragrance enhancers. With no fresh skin care options in sight, we’ve learned to accept compromised performance and purity as the status quo of mass-produced skincare.
This is why NUORI was born from the ambition to bring the ideal of freshness into skincare. All NUORI products are freshly blended in small batches every 12 weeks in the laboratory in Denmark.
But what’s really in it for the consumer?
Personally I believe that fresh skincare makes sense the same way fresh food does – it’s more nourishing and has less additives. Following this logic, freshly blended skincare products have two distinct benefits:
- The efficacy of any given formula is higher since active ingredients are not weakened by time-related breakdown.
- The products can be kept truly pure and highly potent, as no synthetic preservatives, nor other additives, are needed to artificially prolong the stability and shelf life of the products.
What to look for in date stamps?
I would like to start out by clarifying a common misunderstanding: a sell-by-date is not the same things as an expiry date. In food, sell-by-dates signal when a product’s shelf life at the store ends. You can still consume food that is past its sell-by date, but it should nor be sold by the store after this date (that is why it’s called ‘sell by…’). The expiry date tells the consumer when a product is no longer safe for consumption. So for example, the date by which milk turns sour.
Sell-by dates are not at all common in cosmetics. And furthermore, very few brands have expiry dates on their products due to the EU regulation that allows them to leave these out. There are ways to check when your cosmetic product was manufactured, though.
On websites like checkfresh.com and checkcosmetic.net, you can check the manufacturing date by entering the brand name and batch number into their search engine. The batch number is usually stamped at the bottom of the bottle or jar, or imprinted on the top of a tube.
NUORI is the first skincare brand on the market to introduce two dates onto products: a Start-Using-By Date and an Expiry Date. The first one tells consumers when to start using a product, at the latest, in order to benefit from the optimum freshness and efficacy of the formula. The second serves as a reminder of when a product should be replaced by a new, fresh one.
People often ask me if it’s bad for their skin to use a skincare product after it has passed its expiry date. My answer is: “it could be”. Most professional skin care manufacturers carry out safety testing of their products. These tests are done to ensure that their formulas are preserved well enough to prevent bacteria and mould growth during the lifetime of the product. The tests are calibrated to match the shelf life the products are intended to have. Therefore, once a cosmetic product has passed its expiry date (or has been open for too long), the risk of bacteria and mould growth increases. This can pose risks such as allergic reactions, skin irritation, eye infection etc.
There is more to freshness than time
The better we protect cosmetic formulas from exposure to air, light, bacteria and mould, the longer they stay good. So the quality of packaging is really important.
- Always choose products with airless pumps.
- Avoid jars at all cost (the combination of large openings and fingers inside the product is the worse!)
- Do not buy oils that come in transparent bottles, since sunlight causes oils to turn rancid.
- Finally, cosmetic products should never be left in temperatures above 25 degrees (celcius) over long periods of time.