What happens if you use expired lip balm?

Using expired lip balm poses some risks, but it likely won’t make you sick. The main things that happen when lip balm expires are:

Changes in Texture and Performance

As lip balm gets older, the ingredients can start to break down. This affects the texture and performance of the product. Expired lip balm may become grainy or separated. It can also become too hard or too soft. This makes it harder to apply smoothly onto lips.

The oils and butters in lip balm can go rancid over time. This causes an unpleasant smell and taste. It also makes the product less effective at moisturizing lips.

Waxes are another major ingredient in lip balms. Beeswax and synthetic waxes give lip balm its solid form. As lip balm expires, waxes can change texture and make the balm too soft or too hard.

While unpleasant, changes in texture and performance usually aren’t dangerous. But expired lip balm becomes less effective and enjoyable to use.

Loss of Moisturizing Effects

The main purpose of lip balm is to moisturize dry, chapped lips. Most types contain humectant ingredients like glycerin that draw moisture into the skin. Oils and butters create a protective layer to seal in that moisture.

When lip balm expires, the moisturizing agents degrade. Glycerin can evaporate over time. Oils like coconut oil can oxidize and become less effective emollients.

This causes expired lip balms to be less effective at treating dry, flaky lips. Using old lip balm may temporarily make your lips feel softer. But the effects don’t last as long.

Preservative Breakdown

Many lip balms contain chemical preservatives to prevent bacterial and fungal growth. Common preservatives in lip balm include:

  • Parabens
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Benzoic acid
  • Dehydroacetic acid

Over time, these preservative compounds can start to break down. This makes the lip balm more prone to contamination by mold, yeast, and other microbes.

Preservatives help extend the shelf life of lip balms. But once they degrade, the products become more hospitable environments for microbial growth.

Increased Microbial Contamination Risk

Without effective preservatives, expired lip balms are at higher risk of contamination. Bacteria, mold, and fungi that contact the product can start to multiply.

Some microbes that may contaminate lip balm include:

  • Pseudomonas bacteria
  • Candida albicans yeast
  • Aspergillus mold
  • Staphylococcus aureus bacteria

Signs of contamination include changes in color, smell, and texture. You may see black dots or unusual colors develop in contaminated lip balm.

In most cases, microbes that grow in lip balm won’t make you sick. But it’s best to discard expired lip products with visible contamination.

Higher Risk From Used Lip Balms

Sharing lip balm with others or using it in unsanitary ways increases contamination risks. For example, applying lip balm after it Falls on the ground can introduce bacteria.

When an expired lip balm is contaminated from use by multiple people, it is more likely to contain potentially infectious microbes like cold viruses or bacterial infections.

However, as long as you aren’t sharing lip balms with others, this is less of a concern.

Color and Smell Changes

Lip balms can change in appearance and odor as they expire. Some common changes include:

  • Darkening colors
  • Separation of pigments
  • Cloudy appearance
  • Rancid odors
  • Loss of scents

These changes don’t necessarily indicate the lip balm is contaminated or dangerous. But significant alterations from the original color and smell can be signs the quality is degrading.

Less Risk From Unopened Lip Balm

Unopened lip balm lasts longer than opened tubes or pots. The seal helps prevent evaporation of moisturizing ingredients. It also protects against contamination.

As long as the seal is intact, unopened lip balm poses less risk. But its quality still diminishes over time.

One study found that the antioxidant activity of vitamin E in lip balm decreased by about 50% after one year of storage at room temperature. This shows that even sealed lip balm deteriorates.

Negative Reactions Are Uncommon

It’s rare for expired lip balms to cause significant negative reactions or health issues. Allergies or infections from contamination are unlikely.

In sensitive individuals, old lip balm could potentially trigger:

  • Mild rashes
  • Chapped lips
  • Cold sores

Discontinue use if any irritation or reactions develop. See a doctor for persistent symptoms.

Shorter Shelf Life After Opening

Once opened, lip balms have a shorter shelf life. Exposure to air and light speeds up the breakdown of ingredients.

Most lip balms expire within 1 year after opening. Unopened tubes may last 1-2 years beyond any expiry date printed.

Pay attention to when you open the product to gauge if it might be expired. Discard opened tubes after one year to be safe.

How to Extend Lip Balm Shelf Life

To help lip balms stay fresh longer:

  • Store in a cool, dry place out of direct light
  • Apply cleanly with clean hands
  • Don’t share with others
  • Keep lid tightly sealed when not in use
  • Avoid excessive heat or sunlight exposure

Refrigeration can also extend the shelf life by slowing ingredient breakdown. But take the lip balm out 15 minutes before applying for easier glide.

Signs Your Lip Balm May Be Expired

Watch for these signs that your lip balm is past its prime:

  • Change in color or smell
  • Separation, graininess, or texture changes
  • Greasy feel or rancid odor
  • Mold growth or strange spots
  • Loss of moisturizing effects
  • Irritation when applied

If you notice any of these issues, consider replacing your lip balm with a fresh tube.

Safety Tips for Using Expired Lip Balm

To be extra cautious with old lip balm:

  • Do a patch test on your arm before applying to lips
  • Stop use if irritation occurs
  • Avoid using if severely discolored or malodorous
  • Discard if contamination is visible
  • Don’t use on cracked lips or rashes
  • Avoid licking lips after application

While not very risky, it’s ideal to use lip balms before expiration whenever possible.

Will Expired Lip Balm Make You Sick?

It’s very unlikely. There are no reports of expired lip balms causing major health issues or sickness.

Lip balms don’t provide ideal conditions for harmful germs like salmonella or E. coli to grow. Contamination occurs rarely.

Ingredients also break down into harmless compounds rather than toxic byproducts.

At worst, using old lip balm might cause some irritation or dryness. But serious risks are very low.

How to Tell When Liquid Lip Balms Expire

Liquid lip balms in tubes or roll-up containers have similar expiration patterns as solid balms. Signs they may be past shelf life include:

  • Changes in consistency – becoming too thin or thick
  • Settling or separation of ingredients
  • Change in color or smell
  • Grainy texture
  • Loss of moisture and softness

Pay attention to the feel on your lips. If a liquid balm becomes too greasy or slippery, it’s likely expired.

Do Natural Lip Balms Expire Faster?

Not necessarily. Both natural and conventional lip balms typically have a shelf life around 1-2 years.

Natural lip balms do tend to use fewer synthetic preservatives. This can potentially shorten shelf life by a few months.

But many contain antimicrobial essential oils that help prevent contamination. As long as the seal is intact, natural lip balms can still last over a year.

Can You Still Use Discolored Lip Balm?

It’s best to discard significantly discolored lip balms. Slight darkening is normal, but extreme color changes indicate declining quality:

  • Brown or orange shades – Lip balm can take on a brownish tinge as ingredients oxidize. This isn’t harmful but impairs moisture.
  • Gray coloring – Lip balms can lose vibrancy and turn dull or grayish. The oils are likely oxidized.
  • Greenish hues – This can signal mold contamination. Toss green-tinged lip balm.

If the color change is subtle, you can try doing a patch test. But notable discoloration means it’s time to replace the lip balm.

Do Lip Balms With SPF Expire Faster?

Yes, lip balms containing SPF tend to have shorter shelf lives. The sunscreen ingredients break down over time.

SPF lip balms usually expire within 1 year after opening. Unopened, they may last up to 3 years before becoming ineffective.

Once SPF lip balms expire, they won’t provide adequate protection from UV rays. The sunscreen ingredients degrade.

It’s important to replace old SPF lip balms to get the full sun protective benefits.

Can You Still Use Lip Balm After Mold Growth?

No, you should discard any lip balm with visible mold contamination. Mold species that grow on lip balm can potentially cause health issues.

Some molds that may colonize lip balms include:

  • Aspergillus – Allergic reactions or respiratory issues
  • Chaetomium – Rare infections
  • Alternaria – Allergies, asthma

Inhaling airborne mold spores or having them contact skin can trigger reactions. It’s not worth the risk.

Can You Use Lip Balm After Being Sick?

It’s best to discard lip balms that you used while sick. Illnesses like colds, strep, and flu can potentially contaminate the balm.

Viruses and bacteria from your mouth and lips can transfer onto the lip balm surface. If another person uses the contaminated balm, they risk infection.

The general rule is to toss out and replace lip balms within a week after being sick. This removes the infection risk.

Does Lip Balm Need Refrigeration After Opening?

Refrigeration can help extend the shelf life after opening lip balm. But it’s not mandatory for most types.

The cool temperature of the fridge slows down ingredient degradation. It also inhibits microbial growth.

To refrigerate lip balm:

  • Store in a sealed container to control moisture
  • Allow to warm up before applying to avoid tugging
  • Use clean applicators to prevent contamination

Even refrigerated, opened lip balm should still be replaced after one year.


Using expired lip balm comes with minimal risks. While it may not be as effective or pleasant, old lip balm likely won’t cause major health issues.

Pay attention for changes in smell, color, and texture which signal declining quality. Discard if any mold or contamination appears.

Replace opened tubes after a year. Follow proper storage and application practices to optimize shelf life.

Though not very dangerous, it’s still ideal to use lip balms within the manufacturer’s recommended timeline.

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