A Guide to the Shelf Life of Your Korean Skincare Products

With the rise of K Beauty and online shopping, getting Korean skincare to our cupboards is as easy as clicking a few buttons. It is so readily available that many of us may have a few moisturisers, toners and serums piled up. Some of these products may even be collecting dust. You may be delighted to know some of these products can last years while others have a much shorter shelf life. Using an unopened product that has already expired may be more harmful than you think, and it is much better in the bin. We will explore the basics of the shelf life of your K Beauty products.

Where to find and how to decipher the expiry date

All K Beauty products will eventually expire, so they either have manufacture or expiry date to indicate their shelf life. The characters ‘제조’ will tell its manufacture while ‘까지’ means its expiry date. Generally, the expiry date will be printed on the box or the bottom of your product and if it is a tube it will at the top on the back of the tube. If you’re picking up an older product, remember to check carefully as some products may be harder to see. Etude has a clear engraving, while the Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner has black printing on a blue bottle.

The expiry date will be in a YYYY/MM/DD format compared to our standard DD/MM/YYYY layout. Products can also feature an icon depicting a tub with an open lid; this highlights the shelf life of your product after opening. Many products last up to 12 months, so it can be essential to remember when you first open the product. Even if your product does not expire for another 2.5 years, the product lifespan diminishes once you expose it to air.

Shelf Life of Different Skincare Products

Product type, actives, preservatives, moisture, heat and light, can affect how long your product will last. Most Korean skincare and makeup products will last 24 – 36 months from their production date. Popular products from COSRX, Missha and Some By Mi will generally last up to 36 months if you do not break open the packaging. However, expiry dates due differ vastly between each product.

Organic skincare/Clean Beauty and Vitamin serums have become increasingly popular with consumers. Unfortunately, these popular products often have a shorter shelf life than products of the same type.

  • Vitamin Serums: The high concentration or pure form of a Vitamin often means these products are commonly prone to oxidation once they are exposed to air. Most products in this category last 18 months before opening and 3 months after opening.
  • Organic Skincare/ Clean Beauty Products: Made with pure ingredients from food, plants and flowers, these products often lack preservatives such as phenoxyethanol, parabens and essential oils. They usually last 18M – 24M and be used within 6M – 12M.

Your favourite products will always come with a warning that mentions your skincare should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. So, it is essential to keep your cosmetics in an appropriate location. Brands are also becoming more innovative, packaging products into airless pumps that minimise air exposure and are more hygiene-friendly.

Product Type

Shelf Life (Before Opening)

After Opening

Toners, Moisturisers, Essences, Eye Creams, Serums

30M – 36M


Cleansing Foam, Facial Oil, Wipes, Exfoliator


30M – 36M



Sheet Masks



Wash Off Masks / Sleeping Masks



Lip Products: Lipstick, Lip Gloss, Lip Balms.


6 – 18M

Eyeliner, Mascara



Eyeshadow, Blush, Concealer, Foundation, Primer/Base



Face Powder




Are Expiry Dates Regulated?

Korean cosmetics must adhere to the Cosmetics Act set by KFDA. The cosmetics state that all cosmetic products must have the product name, manufacturer/marketing authorization holder, lot number and expiry date/manufacture date. Products with contents over 50ml (or 50g) will include the complete list of ingredients too.

Unfortunately, within Australia, the regulations are more relaxed, and no legislation calls for the inclusion of an expiry date on cosmetics available for sale.

With the rising popularity of Korean cosmetics globally, we see many brands registering with foreign regulations such as CPNP and FDA. These regulations encourage beauty brands to adhere to stricter standards. For consumers of Korean Cosmetics, there is peace of mind knowing how long their product will last or the production date of your skincare.

The Risk of Using Old Cosmetics

Before checking the expiry date, products that have gone off might shows signs of a rotten smell, production separation, different consistency, mould or a colour change. Using an expired product might seem okay, especially if you have not opened it or only used it once. However, there can be hidden dangers to using expired cosmetics.

  • Failure of actives – When products expire, the vital active ingredients lose their efficacy and no longer deliver the benefits and results intended by the product. It is dangerous with sunscreen, which is crucial in protecting the skin against UV damage and sunburn.
  • Infection – Most products contain preservatives to minimise the growth of bacteria and mould. As the expiry date approaches, microorganisms may begin to multiply and causes rashes, breakouts and infection due to contamination. After opening your cosmetics, you introduce moisture, air, and contaminants to your skincare, increasing microorganism growth. So it is crucial to use most products within the 12M timeframe.
  • Irritation – As products age, unwanted chemical reactions can happen, and active ingredients can begin to break down. Potentially, you could expose your skin to a more acidic formula and unwanted elements that cause skin irritation.

What Korean Skincare Products Have a Long Shelf Life?

  • Neogen Real Vita C Powder Lemon - A powdered form of Vitamin C features 17% Vitamin C and offers the same brightening, antioxidant, and firming benefits. This easy to use product can be mixed with your favourite toner, emulsion or cream to deliver its effects. Vitamin C serums are known to oxidise once opened rapidly, and the efficacy of the actives reduces once this process starts. This powdered brightening product lasts 36M from the product date and lasts 12 months after opening.
  • Dr.Ceuracle Vegan Kombucha Tea Essence - For K beauty lovers who prefer vegan products, this milky essence is filled with the goodness of Kombucha to help purify, hydrate and nourish dry and sensitive skin. The clean formula is free of artificial fragrance and alcohol to nurture sensitive skin. It will last for 30 months from its production date and can be enjoyed within 12 months of opening.
  • AXIS-Y Dark Spot Correcting Glow Serum - Leave your skin glowing and reduce the appearance of dark spots with nourishing serum filled with 5% Niacinamide. The formula boosted by botanical extracts accelerates the recovery of damaged skin and soothes irritation. Sensitive skin types will enjoy its recipe free of artificial fragrance and alcohol. This brightening serum expires within 36 months of its production date.