Baby oil is used for many things but its basic application is to soften and moisturize skin like a baby’s skin. Baby oil has been around for years and many parents rely on it to protect newborn skin so wet diapers don’t irritate or even as a massage oil to connect with your baby through touch. It locks in moisture and keeps the skin soft and hydrated. But does baby oil expire?
Baby oil often includes ingredients that will break down over time to become less moisturizing and fragrant and potentially become sticky and cause irritation. The expiration on baby oil products from most manufacturers is around three years while some recommend replacement after one year.
Keep reading to learn more about how to tell if your baby oil has expired and what expired baby oil actually means.
Does baby oil expire or have an expiration date?
Although most will tell you that baby oil does not expire, most brands will include an expiration date or recommended use-by date somewhere on the packaging.
It is recommended that you check this before purchase to be sure you are buying a fresh bottle of oil. The expiration date may be printed or embossed on the side of the bottle, the crimp of the tube, or the bottom of the jar or tub.
Some manufacturers suggest discarding baby oil three years from manufacture date printed on the bottle if stored at room temperature. It is even suggested by some makers of baby oil that you throw away oils yearly. This really comes down to the ingredients list of your particular baby oil because some oils will break down faster than others and some never really go bad at all.
Most baby oils will contain some form of mineral oil, for instance, which can never go bad or expire under normal circumstances since it is a petroleum-based product. While we don’t recommend those products here, many parents may already have them in their homes and might wonder how long they last.
If a manufacturer mixes other oils or ingredients into their product then the overall expiration date will depend on the ingredient with the shortest shelf life. Essential oils are a very common addition to baby oils and most will only have a shelf life of about three years.
If you or your baby has sensitive skin, you may be more interested in the expiration of baby oil since old oil can sometimes create skin problems.
How do you know if baby oil is expired?
Baby oil is very gentle, but it can have negative side effects once it has expired.
Most baby oil does break down over time, depending on its ingredients. A truly expired baby oil might change in consistency or feel sticky. Or, it won’t necessarily look any different but may have a different smell or a complete lack of fragrance. Skin irritation can also occur if it is used after it has expired, depending on the ingredients. Always do a test patch on the inside of your elbow or another inconspicuous area of your body. Check for any redness or itching after 24 hours.
Mineral oil is a petroleum product so there would not be a problem with it going rancid although it may have a less fragrant smell if it is old. It basically comes down to whether you have skin sensitivities and the amount of risk you are comfortable taking.
If you are unsure of how old a product is or your skin test caused irritation, just toss it to be safe.
Can baby oil really go bad?
The most common commercial baby oil ingredients are 98% mineral oil and 2% fragrance.
Some ingredients in baby oil might degrade over time reducing the shelf life. Expired baby oil generally doesn’t go bad. It is not unsafe but may cause problems or become a skin irritant, unlike its intended use.
It is recommended to replace baby oil yearly if you are prone to skin irritations since expired baby oil can inflame sensitive skin with redness or itching. It’s a good idea to check for the manufacture date by the product lot number located on the label at the bottom, side, or back of the product before purchase. Also, baby oil is packaged in plastic containers. Some of the chemicals can leach into the oil over time leading to potential problems.
Since the product is relatively inexpensive – if in doubt throw it out.
Can you use expired baby oil?
Again, this will largely depend on the specific product and your particular skin.
In general, it is safe to use expired baby oil if the product looks and feels normal. Do not use the expired oil if it appears discolored, has uneven texture, smells sour or rancid, or has a bulging container. Don’t worry too much if the baby oil no longer smells good – while old baby oil may lose its fragrance, this will not negatively impact its performance. Be sure to test the product on your skin before using any baby oil that is past its expiration date.
How long do natural and organic brands last?
The main difference in standard baby oil and organic brands is mineral oil.
If you have researched mineral oil before, you probably came across some warnings about mineral oil. Although mineral oil is generally considered safe to use by the cosmetics industry, it is not always the most popular oil to use because mineral oil is a possible carcinogen if left unrefined. Typically, however, any mineral oil uses in cosmetics will be very highly refined and considered much safer to use.
In fact, I recently created an entire resource all about what baby oils are normally made of and if they are safe for babies.
There are lots of organic or more natural brands of baby oil you could opt to use. Organic brands use several natural ingredients to compose their baby oil. Coconut oil, Jojoba oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Chamomile are the most popular. They can also include essential oils such as lavender, orange, and lemon for fragrance.
In my house, we absolutely love anything made by Earth Mama and that includes their baby oil that you can find here. It is petroleum, fragrance, and paraben-free and works VERY well!
Although their ingredients are 100% organic, they too have a shelf life. Makers of both organic brands Badger and Hello Bello, for instance, recommend throwing out old product within two to three years. Coconut oil is another great natural option that can be used on its own to use as a massage oil or to soften skin.
How can you store baby oil to make it last longer?
If baby oil is stored properly, it should last at least as long as the listed expiration date, if not longer.
Here are a few best practices when it comes to taking care of your baby oil and other products:
- Do not open the product until you are ready to use it. Generally, the listed dates don’t kick in until after the product is open.
- Always tightly close the lid or screw the top on tightly when finished using it.
- Store your baby oil in a cool, dark place.
Does Johnson’s baby oil expire?
The most popular brand of baby oil Johnson and Johnson boasts that over 96% of their ingredients are of natural origin.
Even still, their baby oils have an expiration date of three years to ensure their product is safe to use. Although the expiration date is three years from the date of manufacture, Johnson and Johnson recommend replacing products annually.
The manufacture year is the fourth digit of the product number embossed on the side of the bottle. So Lot 0913L was made in 2013 and is therefore good until 2016. If the product is expired, Johnson and Johnson’s products are biodegradable and most baby oil bottles are commonly accepted at recycling facilities.
What do to with expired baby oil
If you find yourself with expired baby oil and don’t feel comfortable using it then you might wonder if you should simply throw it away.
Expired baby oil might not be suitable to use as intended but there are other ways that you could take advantage of it around the house. Here are a few examples:
- Cheap lubricant – It might not be as good as some other lubricants, but baby oil can quiet squeaky hinges temporarily as well as help unstick things like doorknobs, latches, or tools.
- Remove stickers or band-aids – Baby oil, especially ones made with mineral oil, are great at removing sticky things from your skin. Simply soak the oil on and peel or scrap it off.
- Condition leather shoes or bags – After testing on a small patch to avoid discoloration, you could use old baby oil to shine boots, briefcases, and other leather accessories.
- Stainless steel polish – Baby oil can be used as a protective cover on stainless steel appliances and other kitchen accessories.
What is an alternative for baby oil?
If you are looking for an alternative to baby oil then you are probably looking for ways to avoid mineral oil. Or, perhaps you simply don’t like the consistency of baby oil and want to try something in a different form.
In our house, we don’t typically buy baby oil at all because we find that we get better value and performance out of lotions and balms. If you are going for maximum moisturizing effect, for instance, then you should probably look to get a thicker product such as a balm.
Here are my top picks for baby oil alternatives:
This stuff is absolutely great and works particularly well on cradle cap but it can also do a great job for diaper rash and dry skin, in general.
It’s made from calendula oil, manuka honey, and lavender essential oil to create a super thick and premium moisturizer for your little baby’s skin.
This stuff is awesome and I actually think it works better than the first product I recommended above.
The only reason that I recommended it second is because it’s pretty pricey. Like, a little freakishly pricey. With that said, this stuff absolutely works and it was the only thing that worked when my youngest daughter was starting to lose her hair because of a weird case of cradle cap. I admit that I yelled at my wife a little over the purchase, but I couldn’t argue with the results.
Check it out if you can afford it!