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Does Diaper Rash Cream Expire (3 Things to Consider Before Using It)

Does Diaper Rash Cream Expire? (3 Things to Consider Before Using It)

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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? You may have even wondered does diaper rash cream expire?

Diaper rash cream typically expires after three years if unopened and 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 to determine if it’s still safe to use. Even factors such as humidity, sunlight, and heat impact the shelf life of ingredients in diaper rash cream. Keep reading to find out how long diaper rash cream is good for and how to tell if yours has gone bad.

Caregiver changing a baby's diaper

Does diaper rash cream expire?

The actual shelf life of diaper rash 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. Since it’s an over-the-counter medication, the creams don’t typically have to be reviewed and approved by the FDA, but they do have to comply with existing FDA regulations to be marketed.

Most diaper rash creams have an expiration date on the box and crimp of the tube. The expiration date does not necessarily mean the product will be spoiled after that date. Instead, it 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 may not fully protect your child, so it’s important to carefully consider factors such as whether the cream has changed in appearance and how long it has been expired.

If you’re trying to figure out whether your diaper rash cream is safe to use, always consider:

  • Type of cream
  • Appearance and smell
  • When it 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 while 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 inevitably 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. This means that it 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 might be perfectly fine to use. However, when you use an expired cream, you could also run the risk of using a less effective product or a product that could cause irritation.

It’s best to promptly discard expired products containing essential oils, which are made from plant fragrances. 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 can become rancid. It’s important to monitor creams containing carrier oils for changes in texture, smell, or color so that you know when to discard it.

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. This is because it doesn’t contain essential oils in the ingredient list. However, since cod liver oil is an ingredient, a rancid smell is an important clue that your tube of Desitin should be thrown out.

Parent changing baby's diaper on bed

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 include some oils, including cod liver oil and coconut oil. Before you choose to use it on your child, consider the smell, appearance, and texture of the cream. If it is separated, discolored, or smells off, it’s 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 lasts a long time, however, an ancient container of petroleum jelly can trap bacteria and serve as a breeding ground for microorganisms. It’s best to discard petroleum jelly products after their expiration date to keep these germs from continuing to grow.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What to do with expired diaper rash cream?

Not all diaper rash creams have to be thrown out after the expiration date. If you have a zinc oxide based product and it doesn’t look or smell off, it’s likely safe to use. If your diaper rash cream is made of essential oils and it’s past the expiration date, it’s best to throw it out.

How many times can I use diaper rash cream?

Diaper rash cream can be used as often as necessary. Even if your baby doesn’t currently have diaper rash, it’s often used as a protective barrier as well, especially if your baby is prone to diaper rashes.

Do you wipe off diaper rash cream?

Diaper rash cream doesn’t need to be wiped off. If you previously applied diaper rash cream to your baby, simply clean the soiled area and make sure your baby is clean before placing a new diaper on or applying a new layer of cream.


When you have a little one at home, there are so many baby products you have to purchase. If you’ve had a tube of diaper rash cream on the shelf for a while, you might not have noticed that it expired.

If you’ve ever wondered does diaper rash cream expire, the answer depends on the type of cream as well as the conditions of the environment. Expiration dates are typically there because skincare products are no longer guaranteed to be fresh or effective after that point. When in doubt, throw it out and protect your little one’s skin!

Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!