Just like dental floss, facial toners are one of those products you think you will do daily, but then life gets in the way – and you simply aren’t as adamant about using it as you thought you would be.
But hey, that’s okay! We’ve all been there.
Now, if you are wondering whether or not your neglected facial toner is still good to use, most companies generally state that their toners do not expire. However after two years, the toner will start to lose its efficacy and may not work as well as it did when it was first opened.
If you aren’t certain exactly when you opened the facial toner, we will give you a few tips on how to tell if it is still good to use – including simple signs, how ingredients can affect the shelf life, storage conditions, and finally, how to patch test your toner.
Let’s get started!
Expiration Dates for Popular Face Toners
Here are a few expiration dates for some of the more popular brands that make face toners:
Thayers states that their witch hazel toner is recommended to be replaced once every two years (but it has no expiration date):
Makers of the popular alcohol-free toner, Nuetrogena states that their toner does not have an expiration date:
CeraVe Hydrating Toner
While we couldn’t find an official statement by the company, the closest we came was from a tweet from 2019 where CeraVe stated that “Our products have been tested to have at least a 3-year shelf life if unopened & stored at normal room temperature“:
Here are a few companies we searched for an expiration date but came up empty:
- Baxter of California’s Herbal Mint Toner
- Anthony Astringent Toner Pads
- TreeActiv Balancing Herbal Toner
How to tell if your facial toner has gone bad?
To tell if your toner has gone bad, there are three things you can look for: color, texture, and smell. Here’s a bit about each:
- Discoloration: If the toner had turned a darker shade than when you bought it, it could have oxidized over time due to exposure to air and needs to be replaced.
- Texture: Squirt a bit of toner onto your hand; if it feels clumpy or has separated, this is usually an indication that the ingredients have broken down and likely expired.
- Smell: Some toners, especially those with natural ingredients, may have a moldy smell if they have been exposed to humidity and have gone bad.
Does shelf life differ for different ingredients?
The shelf life of facial toner can vary depending on its ingredients, which is why it can be helpful to check the list of ingredients before investing in a product – especially if it is one that you aren’t quite sure how frequently you will be using it.
Generally speaking, natural-based products with fewer preservatives tend to have shorter lifespans than those with more chemicals or synthetic oils. This means that water-based toners and those containing vitamins, herbs, mineral oils, alpha hydroxy acids, retinoids, and other botanicals are likely to expire quicker than those with alcohol and parabens.
However, witch hazel and rose water are two outliers and have a long shelf life that can remain relatively stable for several years.
The container type may impact the shelf-life
Most owners are available in a squeeze or pump bottle, which greatly extends its life. This is because the bottle is air-tight, preventing contamination from the outside environment. If your toner is in a tub or jar, the open-air design will likely spoil sooner.
Beyond the form factor of the container, the material that the toner is stored in can also impact shelf life. Amber glass jars or foil-wrapped containers that block UV light will help protect the ingredients from breaking down. Clear plastic or glass containers will allow light to penetrate, which can cause the toner to break down and expire more quickly.
What can reduce the shelf-life of facial toner?
Beyond the form and ingredient composition, where you store the bottle could hasten its expiration. While bathrooms are the most common place to store a toner, the constant temperature change creates a rather hostile environment for the product.
If you are serious about your skincare products going forward, we recommend storing your facial toner in a cool, dark, and dry place – preferably away from direct sunlight.
Is patch testing important?
Patch testing is always important when trying out a new product or if you are uncertain if the product is still good. Patch testing entails doing a small swatch test on the inside of your wrist or other parts of the skin and waiting 24-48 hours to see if there is a reaction.
If there is no reaction, then your facial toner is likely still good to use. However, if you start to see redness, rashes, or any other form of irritation, it’s time to toss the toner and grab a new one.
There you have it – the definitive answer to figuring out whether toner is still good. It’s a tricky one because there are a lot of variables that affect its shelf-life. Always patch test your toner if you are uncertain of its age and look for signs of discoloration, texture, and smell that can give you a better idea of how old the product is.