Does Diaper Rash Cream Expire? (And Can You Use It Anyway)


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Have you ever looked at a tube of expired diaper rash cream and wondered if it was still safe to use? Did you ever wonder if diaper rash cream expired in the first place?

Diaper rash cream typically expires after three years if unopened and after one year after opening, depending on the ingredients and manufacturer’s recommendation. Natural products containing essential oils tend to spoil faster, while standard creams containing zinc oxide as the active ingredient will usually remain safe to use for longer.

It is important to consider the ingredients, storage method, appearance, consistency, and smell of the cream in determining if it is still appropriate to use on your baby. Even factors such as humidity, sunlight, and heat impact the shelf life of ingredients in diaper rash cream!

Does diaper rash cream really expire?

The actual shelf life of the cream varies depending on its ingredients and how well it has been stored. In the case of natural creams containing essential oils, it is best to discard after the expiration date due to the potential for skin irritation.

Creams containing zinc oxide should be carefully evaluated by parents to determine if the smell, texture, or color has changed. Changes in these qualities can indicate that important inactive ingredients are disintegrating, reducing the effectiveness of the cream and potentially causing irritation.

As a medication, the FDA requires that diaper rash ointments have an expiration date. As an over the counter medication, the creams do not typically have to be reviewed and approved by the FDA, but they do have to comply with existing FDA regulations to be marketed.

Most creams have an expiration date on the box and crimp of the tube. The expiration date does not necessarily mean that the product will be spoiled after that date, it simply means that the manufacturer can no longer guarantee the stability of the item after that point.

Diaper rash creams, sunscreens, and other skincare products can be less effective after their expiration date and not fully protect your child, so it is important to carefully consider factors such as whether the cream has changed in appearance and how long it has been expired. The questions of “Should I use this cream that expired last month?” and “Can I use this cream that expired five years ago?” probably have very different answers!

How long does diaper rash cream last?

It is hard to determine exactly how long diaper rash cream lasts because this depends on the brand and ingredients, but expiration dates are generally set in a range of 1 to 3 years. Some ingredients have an indefinite shelf life because of their chemical properties, and other ingredients begin oxidizing somewhat quickly and will become useless or harmful around the time of expiration.

Exposure to heat, light, and oxygen also affects the chemical process of ingredients and impacts the preservation and spoilage of the cream. A general rule of thumb is to store diaper rash cream in a cool, dark location and to keep the cap tightly sealed when not using the product. Leaving the cream in the diaper bag in your hot car for long periods of time will speed up its spoilage and lead to waste that could have been avoided.

Does expired diaper rash cream work?

Whether a diaper rash cream continues to work is completely dependent on the ingredients.

Natural creams are often formulated with essential oils, which oxidize over time and can lead to irritation. Oxidation happens when the atoms in the product lose electrons and bond to oxygen, which leads to chemical changes in the product and means that it chemically turns into a different substance than what you originally purchased at the store.

Standard diaper rash creams often contain zinc oxide as the active ingredient. Zinc oxide is chemically inert and unlikely to lose its effectiveness because it does not undergo chemical changes. However, the inactive ingredients in diaper rash cream also play an important role in its effectiveness, such as helping it evenly distribute it in the diaper area.

Diaper rash cream can continue to work after expiration, but the manufacturers label it with an expiration date for an important reason—they are not willing to guarantee that it will still work after that date.

Is it bad to use expired diaper rash cream?

Expired creams could be perfectly fine to use. You could also run the risk of using a product that will be less effective, or worse, will increase irritation.

It is best to promptly discard expired products containing essential oils, which are made from the fragrance of plants. Expired, rancid essential oils can cause skin irritation, peeling, rashes, and burns. Oxygen, light, and heat speed up this process. Just opening and using diaper rash cream exposes it to oxygen! The safest option is to use or discard natural diaper rash creams containing essential oils before the expiration date.

Carrier oils, such as olive, almond, or coconut oil, are oils that come from plants and are made of fatty acids. Carrier oils also undergo oxidization and go rancid. It is important to monitor creams containing carrier oils for changes in texture, smell, or color to be able to discard if the oil becomes rancid.

Does Desitin diaper rash cream expire?

The primary active ingredient of Desitin is zinc oxide. This cream has an expiration date due to FDA regulations but likely has a longer shelf life when compared to natural products because it does not contain essential oils in the ingredient list. However, cod liver oil is an ingredient, and so a rancid smell is an important clue that your tube of Desitin should be thrown out. 

Does A&D diaper rash cream expire?

The active ingredients in A&D are zinc oxide and dimethicone. We already discussed the fact that zinc oxide is inert, or chemically inactive. Dimethicone is a man-made silicone and is also inert. Therefore, both active ingredients are chemically stable and likely remain effective past their expiration date.

Inactive ingredients contain some oils, including cod liver oil and coconut oil. Before you choose to use it on your child, it is important to consider the smell, appearance, and texture of the cream. If it is separated, discolored, or smells off, it is probably spoiled and should be thrown away.

Does Aquaphor expire?

One of the primary active ingredients in Aquaphor is petrolatum or petroleum jelly. This ingredient is very long-lasting, however, an ancient container of petroleum jelly can trap bacteria and serve as a breeding ground for microorganisms. It is best to discard petroleum jelly products after their expiration date so that these germs can not continue to grow.

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Josh

I'm the dad in charge of Natural Baby life. With 10 years of parenting experience across three children, I am constantly learning how to raise children more naturally. I'm passionate about doing whatever it takes to raise a happy and healthy baby! Find out more about me here.

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