Among all the skin products on the market, Tretinoin (or retinoic acid) creams are one of the most popular ones—and for good reason. They help to treat acne and damaged skin from sun exposure. However, if you are here, you might be looking at your tube of old tretinoin cream and wondering: does tretinoin expire?
Before we discuss it further, let’s provide a little more clarity about what tretinoin really is and what its uses are.
Does Tretinoin Expire?
The answer is, YES, tretinoin does expire; however, you can likely extend the shelf-life of your tretinoin cream by storing it properly. That said, a cream stored properly beyond its expiration date might not be as effective as fresh cream.
Where To Find The Expiration Date on Tretinoin
So now that you know it can expire, we’ll show you where to find the expiration date on your tretinoin. It an be found in two places:
On The Tube
To find the expiration date on a tretinoin tube, look to the crimp on the bottom edge of the tube. The number stamped on the crimp will include the batch number followed by the expiration date. In the case of the image below, the expiration date would be 02/23.
On The Box
To find the expiration date on a box of tretinoin cream, look to the square edge that displays the labels ‘Lot’ and ‘Exp’. While the ‘Lot’ label refers to the batch number, the ‘Exp’ label will show the expiration date in a month/year format, in some instances the month will be spelled out, in others, it will be numerical.
Tretinoin Cream and Its Uses
Tretinoin can be found under a number of different brand names (for example, Retin-A (cream or gel), Atralin (gel), Avita (cream), etc.). It is basically a retinoic acid topical cream, gel, or lotion that’s used for the treatment of sunburned, rough skin, and skin prone to acne. It can also be beneficial for your skin beyond just these reasons.
To Treat Sunburned Skin
Naturally, as time goes by, your body removes skin cells and grows new cells in their place. But damaging rays from the sun can slow the process of skin cell renewal, resulting in dark spots and even rough skin. Tretinoin works by replacing older skin with a layer of newer skin in its place. It helps to lighten the skin and is most effective when paired with a routine including sunblock.
To Treat Acne
Tretinoin is great for treating acne as well. It does so by speeding up the process of producing new skin cells and allowing the old dead cells to separate from the skin before causing damage.
Tretinoin can also help diminish the size of pores and hair follicles to reduce the accumulation of sebum, which can lead to acne.
Tretinoin can be used to treat fine wrinkles, dark spots, and lines on your skin as well. All of these benefits make this an exceptional prescription skincare product. So how long is tretinoin good for and does it expire?
How Does The Shelf Life of Tretinoin Work?
Most conventional moisturizers and face creams have a rather short shelf life. But tretinoin can be considered an exception to most of these conventional products. Yes, there is still an expiration date on the tretinoin product you use, but if stored properly, you can increase the chances of using beyond this recommended shelf-life.
Tretinoin and retinol in general typically stay good for 6 to 12 months—which will vary based on how well it was preserved. In most cases, as long as the ingredients haven’t separated and the product doesn’t smell bad, you can still use tretinoin for a little bit of time beyond the expiration date. Note that the effectiveness may dwindle over time.
Do not forget that the product will bear the best results and longest shelf-life only if stored properly. Look out for changes in product color, smell, or texture, and pay attention to product ingredients separating. In some cases, using an expired or old product could cause skin irritation. The best advice is generally, if in doubt about using, throw the product out.
How to Keep Tretinoin Properly Stored?
It is of utmost importance to keep tretinoin stored properly.
Make sure the cap of the tube or the container is very tightly sealed immediately after use to limit the chances of natural elements and foreign substances from getting inside of it. This will eliminate the risk of any kind of contamination of the cream.
Keep tretinoin stored in a closed container at room temperature. Ensure you avoid storing it in direct light and keep away from moisture (i.e., don’t store in a bathroom). Additionally, tretinoin should never be frozen.
How to Use Tretinoin?
There are some things that you need to keep in mind before applying tretinoin to your skin. Before using, it is advised to clean your face with warm water and a cleanser or a very mild soap, rubbing it in gently with the tips of your fingers.
Ensure your face is completely dry, waiting even 20-30 minutes to apply the tretinoin as applying it to wet skin may cause irritation.
Apply using a pea-sized dab to the affected area of skin only. Gently rub in until a thin layer has covered the affected area. Avoid getting it in your eyes and mouth and do not apply directly to sunburned skin.
It is also suggested that you don’t use other lotions or creams in the same area which contain peeling agents like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
You can however pair it up with some moisturizers which will help with hydration and keep your skin from drying up too much and becoming irritated.
So, does tretinoin expire? Yes, tretinoin does expire; however, even though there will be and there has to be an expiry date on the product, proper storage and use of the product can help extend the product’s shelf-life.
Tretinoin will typically be most effective for up to 6-12 months, but if ever in question whether to continue using well beyond the expiration date, err on the side of caution and either consult your physician or safely dispose of the product.
Glow Zone’s content is for informational and educational purposes only. Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.