And in a parallel exercise, I have also been testing some out-of-date toiletries, to see how injurious and/or efficacious they are, long after they notionally expired. For the increasing complexity of modern skincare regimes, with specific products for this or that step - preferably several indeed, so you can toggle between products offering different active ingredients / benefits - inevitably leads to a greater stock of bottles and tubes etc in the bathroom, many of which have a life expectancy of just 12 months - expressed as a PAO (Period After Opening) date. Cue Wikipedia:
"In the European Union, cosmetics products with a shelf life of at least 30 months are not required to carry a 'best used before end of...' date. Instead, there has to be 'an indication of the period of time after opening for which the product can be used without harm to the consumer'."
So from the off, it becomes a bit of a race against time to use the blinking things up before they 'turn' in some way. Which is more or less difficult, depending on whether you are meant to use a pea-sized blob or a generous palmful per application. I simply don't have enough eyes to get through an eye cream in its allotted lifespan.
But that all said, I am not completely reckless about my health, and am prepared to believe that sun creams lose their efficacy over time, for example, such that it would be foolish to slather old lotion on and expect the SPF factor to be anything more than a shadow of its former self. And by the same token, maybe the dizzying array of acids and peptides and retinol and hydraluron etc that are in so many hero serums and creams nowadays also degrade over time, I don't know.
But when it comes to more basic cleansing / exfoliating products, I figured that they might still be up to the job, and decided to test my rather old tube of Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème and equally senescent tub of REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm - in the same bath session, no less, how brazen is that?! As for how old these products each are, I can date the Ormonde Jayne Shower Crème quite precisely, as it was a freebie at a Basenotes event in 2009. And yes, that IS an expensive freebie, but it was a very expensive event to start with, including a seminar and lunch with Roja Dove. I wouldn't drop that kind of money to see him today, I might add, but I was 'young' and impressionable back then...So yes, the shower creme is six years old, and carries a 12 month PAO symbol. The REN exfoliating balm is from a similar era at a guess and carries a PAO of just 9 months.
So how did they perform?
Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème
Well, the Ta'if shower creme left my skin clean and silky smooth - the gel is a pale yellow now, but to be honest I don't remember what colour it was when I first got it. The main difference between how it used to be and how it is now is that it no longer smells of Ta'if!! Or anything. The perfume has definitely left the building. But as a substitute for soap that has a very nice hydrating effect, nothing wrong with it at all.
NB I had such a job squeezing any more gel out of this one for photographic purposes that I think I can confidently say it is more or less finished at last!
REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm
The REN scrub - 'balm' is such a misnomer for such a vicious toiletry! - looks okay in the tub. I detect a little bit of a darker cream colour in a streak across the middle, but nothing offputting like a puddle of ooze or major 'separation' issues. When I first used it, it really stung and left my skin a bright red colour, and also had a sort of salty, sauna-ish scent to it. It was very sticky and awkward to clean off, but left my skin feeling nice and smooth like the proverbial baby's bottom. Six years on(!?!), it doesn't sting nearly as much, though is as gritty and generally gunky as it ever was. Overall, I'd say it still seems to work in terms of the exfoliating aspect, but like the Ormonde Jayne it doesn't have a scent anymore - well, other than that generic kind of wallpaper paste smell which these scrubs tend to have in their base.
So in summary, I wouldn't say that the experience of using either product is quite as pleasurable as if they were scented still, but I don't think they have lost their functional benefits, and I am assuming that they are not doing me any mischief either. I would be more wary of old sunscreen, as I say, or a product I am going to use on my face. Old shampoo is probably okay, thinking about it.
And maybe I could also do my bit to increase my throughput of toiletries by...um...just washing more...;)
Oh, and finally, here is a toiletry product that comes without any kind of best before date - soap. I don't know how old this bar is, but evidently if you let it hang about for too long, it will crack, split and turn into a pair of upturned coracles.