I'll be the first to admit that visiting a TJ Maxx, particularly in times of stress, can be a religious experience. Something about the soft lighting, aisles, and aisles of seasonal candles ripe for the sniffing, and easy-listening mix from about 2009 is instantly soothing. As we all know, though, the crown jewel of any low-price department store is the beauty section. But what if something sinister was lurking amid tubs of your favorite moisturizer reduced from $50 to $15?
In a viral TikTok that's now racked up nearly 9 million views, shoppers can see just how easy it is to accidentally pick up a long-expired product. As user Canon Ryder demonstrates, some jars or tubs sitting on the shelves have been there longer than your younger siblings have been alive; he uncovered a sealed Olay moisturizer manufactured in 2011 perched on a shelf. And while 2011 feels like it was only two years ago, the moisturizer's 9-year lifespan renders it ineffective at best and possibly damaging at worst. Using expired skincare products can leave you susceptible to breakouts, infection, irritation, or something even more serious.
Luckily, Ryder and his excellent manicure found a solution. In his video, he shows he discovered the product in question's expiration by plugging its batch code into a website, Cosmetics Calculator, to see when it was manufactured. Every product, either on the item itself or on its packaging, has what's called a batch code: a series of characters denoting specifically when and where a product was made—in other words, its batch. Plug that number into Cosmetics Calculator and you'll see not only exactly when and where the product you're holding was made, but also its shelf life. In the instance of Ryder’s Olay cream, like many tubbed moisturizers, it was only viable for 36 months after manufacture.
"This product is almost 10 years old and they're trying to sell it to you," Ryder says to-camera in the video. "Don't get scammed."
Of course, many products found on the shelves of popular third-party retailers are perfectly safe and a great bargain to boot. Everything from cult classic Dr. Jart+ rubber masks to huge pots of First Aid Beauty night creams pop up on the crowded shelves of places like TJ Maxx and Marshall's all the time, and most of it is completely legitimate. But if one little search can save us the horror of realizing our moisturizer was manufactured while we were still in middle school, it’s worth doing every time.