Friday, 11 October 2013

Best by: beware expired soaps & creams

Every so often I'll go through a period that I like to call the "Hippie-dippie phase." I think that anything I'm putting in my body should be natural from - food to beauty products. That I should ditch all my Bath and Body Works paraphernalia and buy Arbonne or another all-natural brand (which I probably should). Then I open all my drawers and gather all my creams, shampoos, and soaps, trying to sort out what I should do with them. And then I smell them and think about how lovely they are and how sad it would be to to waste them. And how I enjoy that there are seasonal scents like peppermint, blueberry pumpkin, and pink lemonade. And how much all the natural stuff smells like soil. And I'm back where I started - with a plethora of creams that I never use.

Genetically, it's not my fault. Italian women are known to hold on to things and save them for later. Mason jars for sauce, boxes, linens, bits of string - I kid you not.

I have come leaps and bounds from where I was before I moved in to the condo - this is because of a very stressful two day move-out of my last apartment that ended up with my mom yelling at me in our driveway and her garage littered with garbage bags full of my stuff.

We dedicated an hour every night to going through them all so that when I moved in to my new home, I would never have this problem again. I love her for it and I definitely learned my lesson.

But my stockpile of soaps and such didn't seem to warrant a visit from TLC's hoarding police.

I know it doesn't look like a lot, but it's all almost unused.

However, as time does pass, so must I go through another chronic cleansing of my beauty products. This time, as I was looking through some old Fruits and Passions purchases, I noticed the expiration date, which I only recognized as such because my girlfriend had explained it to me. The number (usually found on the bottom right of the back of the product and usually 12 or 24) is how many months it's good for after purchase.

This one said 12 - and I hadn't gotten anything from F&P in at LEAST two years.

Then I got curious and started looking at everything else.

Everything that was expired

everything without an expiry
I didn't know what I was more perturbed by - the ones that were already expired (at least half) or the ones that didn't ever expire (so unnatural - and yet it goes into my skin).

There was only a small group that had not expired.

definitely not expired
I'd been using some of the expired creams for a while, and nothing bad had happened. My only experience with a beauty product gone bad was in the Dominican this past April when I thought I was doing my due diligence by applying and reapplying sunscreen on a catamaran afternoon. I was shocked when I woke up with a sun burn. I looked at the bottle and it had expired seven years earlier.

After looking into it, I learned that expired sunscreen won't do anything bad to you, but it won't protect you anymore. So I was essentially roasting myself by rubbing an oily liquid on my body all day and laying on a boat in the middle of the water.

Sunscreen lasts 2-3 years but you should be going through a bottle in one year if applying appropriately (which I obviously don't, but this is according to the Mayo Clinic)

So the only thing that made sense to do this time was to google some more. Everything I've found below is from forums and blogs, so it's not rock-solid science, but it made sense to me.

Shampoos and soaps:
All liquid soaps contain preservatives to protect them from all the icky things that may be floating around your bathroom. But after the expiry date, you may end up using shampoo or soap that has been contaminated with bathroom bacteria. That contaminated product then goes on your skin, face, eyes, etc.
Liquid soaps also have additives to kill the bacteria that is on you. But when these break down, you're not getting any cleaner than you would by running your hands under hot water.

The chemicals and ingredients in creams will eventually change and stop working like they used to, making the product useless. Most people won't notice a difference, but I found a blogger who noticed strange symptoms after using an expired hand cream. Her hands became cracked and she lost the ability to feel the texture of anything she touched.

It's so ingrained in most people to be frugal, to save things, not let them go to waste - that last bite of dessert, the three day old leftovers. But it's not always good: why force yourself to eat to the point of being painfully full? Or get sick from eating the bad leftovers?

Truthfully, I will very likely still do both of those things. But I learned my lesson about the creams and shampoos.

I threw out all the expired products, including:
- Sarah Jessica Parker hand cream that I had always been "saving for special occasions"
- Paris Hilton glitter cream (don't judge me)
- Elle magazine nominated face wash from Fruits & Passions
- Spectrogel that didn't have an expiry but I'd had since my ear piercing from when I was 17 (making it 8 years old)

I kept:
- a hair protecting serum for heat
- Redken shampoo and conditioner
- an all-natural muscle relaxing cream
These were all a few months past the date, but the date put on the product is usually generous on the shorter side so that the companies can protect themselves

I had a small group of middle-y type things - some creams and soaps that I couldn't remember buying but knew it was at most two years ago. I put them at the forefront of my beauty patrol and when I got home from soccer last night, used a soap from Bath and Body Works that I had never used before but was probably close to expiry.

I went in to the shower looking as normal as I possibly can, but came out with a red rash on my neck. Between the time of going in and out again, the only things that had touched my neck were the towel and the soap.

Likely the product was expired and because the hot shower opened my pores and skin on your neck tends to be more sensitive, their was a reaction. Obviously I threw it out and will be throwing out all other questionable products. It's a lot better today, but a few red splotches remain and there are a few on my arms and knuckles.

you can see a few patches of redness today - honestly i do NOT know why this photo is sideways.

Now terrified of having some weird break out on my skin, I'm looking into DIY body creams and soaps. I have a couple of natural bars of soap at home that I've picked up from craft fairs (which I've been saving... for what? Well obviously for the time to come that I got scared of commercial soaps) that I will be switching to and I am going to attempt using coconut oil as a body cream as this mom and daughter duo do.

Of course this does not mean you should go and do the same thing. Everyone's body is different, just be weary of expiry dates, check the back of your products, and, for the love of gawd, don't hoard body cream (or re-gift it, can you imagine? Giving someone a nice rash? MERRY CHRISTMAS).


  1. If you want a good company for natural beauty products, try Purple Urchin. They're local, located on Somerset St., and they sell their stuff in terra20, which does a lot of research about the products they put in their store.

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