If you’re making homemade cosmetics for yourself, your friends and family, or selling it for profit, you need to be aware of their shelf life to make sure they are safe for use. You don’t want your homemade cosmetics to start to smell, change color, or start growing harmful and ugly looking mold and bacteria.
Shelf Life of Cosmetics without a Preservative
- Cosmetics with oily ingredients only:
Cosmetics without a preservative and with only oily ingredients such as lip balms, lotion bars, salves, and body butters don’t grow mold or bacteria because they don’t contain water. But oils are prone to oxidation so they will go rancid with time. Rancidity will cause them to smell unpleasant, change color, and lose their effectiveness.
The shelf life of cosmetics with only oily ingredients is as much as the oil with the shortest shelf life. The shelf life of the oil is calculated from the moment you have opened it for the first time. See the list of oils and their shelf life to calculate the shelf life of cosmetics with only oily ingredients.
- Water based homemade cosmetics:
On the other hand, water-based cosmetics such as creams, lotions, emulsions, and moisturizers without preservative will grow mold and bacteria in not more than 5-7 days if refrigerated. If not in the fridge, they can grow mold and bacteria in as much as 3 days. This is why you need to use preservatives in homemade cosmetics that contain water ingredients. See my list of natural preservatives you can use.
Shelf Life of Cosmetics with a Preservative
Using preservative in cosmetics with water ingredients will prevent mold and bacteria growth. But this won’t prevent oils from going rancid. This is why the shelf life of cosmetics with a preservative is as much as the ingredient with the shortest shelf life.
The shelf life of oils can be prolonged by using an antioxidant: vitamin E oil. But it is impossible to say for how long vitamin E delays oxidation. If you see that your homemade cosmetic product is still acting fine after the shelf life of the ingredient with the shortest shelf life has passed, it’s probably because vitamin E is doing a good job at keeping your product from going rancid. But to be on the safe side, it is the best not to use it too long after the shelf life of the ingredient with the shortest shelf life has passed.
Here is an example. If you’re making body lotion that contains:
- rose water
- sunflower oil that has a shelf life of 3 months
- a preservative
this body lotion will have a shelf life of 3 months because of the sunflower oil. If you also include vitamin E, the product will probably be just fine for additional month or two, but keep an eye on it.
If you’re making cosmetics in larger patches or you’re not planning on using it very soon, it is best to use a preservative and choose the ingredients with a longer shelf life. See the list of oils and their shelf life to easily calculate the shelf life of cosmetics you make.
One thing you should also keep in mind is that preservatives have a limit in prolonging the shelf life of cosmetics. Different companies make different preservatives with different shelf life.
Most natural preservatives last at least a year but some manufacturers make preservatives that preserve cosmetics for 6 months. Make sure to check the shelf life of the preservative you use to preserve your cosmetics.
For example, let’s say you’re making a facial moisturizer that contains:
- lavender hydrosol
- olive oil with a shelf life of 2 years
- a preservative that has a shelf life of 1 year
This facial moisturizer will have a shelf life of one year because of the preservative.
How to Know if Your Cosmetic Product Has Gone Bad
- Spots start to appear
This is the most obvious sign that the product has been contaminated with mold and bacteria and should be thrown away. But this will not happen if you use the preservative as regulated.
- Change in color
If your product is not the same color as it was when you first made it, it has most probably been contaminated.
- The smell has changed
Another sign of contamination can be the change of smell.
- It becomes thin
If the product is more sparse than it was when you first made it, it could be contaminated.
Be sure to throw the product away if you notice any of these changes.
Tips to Ensure Your Cosmetics Don’t Spoil Before Their Shelf Life Has Passed
- It is best to store your products in a cool, dark, and dry place to make sure they last as long as possible (within their shelf life).
- Always use preservatives when making cosmetics with water ingredients that you won’t use in the next few days.
- You can keep oils in the fridge to make them last longer.
- Use vitamin E to prevent oils from going rancid too soon.
- Make sure to use clean containers to store your cosmetics.
When you’re making cosmetics, take a look at the shelf life of the oils you use and write down the shelf life of cosmetic product you make on its container. This will ensure you don’t use the product after its shelf life has passed. It is easy to forget the shelf life if you don’t write it down.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the expiration dates of the ingredients you use too 🙂 You don’t want to use ingredients that are about to expire or already did.