Baby powder will generally have an expiration date printed on the container. Many modern baby powders contain cornstarch instead of talc, which means their shelf life is limited. If the container doesn't have a printed date, you should assume it has expired if you've had it longer than three years. If the container is open, you should discard it even sooner.
Shelf Life of Cornstarch-Containing Powders
Cancer concerns have prompted many manufacturers to replace the mineral talc that was once the main ingredient in baby powder. Unopened, cornstarch may be good indefinitely, but that's assuming you are storing it in a very cool, dry place (not a warm nursery or bathroom). Once opened, cornstarch has a shelf life of about 18 months, which means your baby powder may not be at its best after that point.
According to Amazon, the following brands are among the best-selling baby powders. They all contain cornstarch instead of talc.
Johnson's Pure Baby Powder
Johnson's Pure Baby Powder is printed with an expiration date. You should always discard the powder if the printed date has passed. If you have a Johnson's product without a printed expiration date, the company advises that you discard it after three years.
Burt's Bees Baby Dusting Powder
Burt's Bees Baby Dusting Powder may not be printed with an expiration date, since it is intended for cosmetic, rather than medical, use. However, the company recommends that you use opened products with 12 months and that you discard unopened containers after three years.
Gold Bond Medicated Baby Powder
Gold Bond Medicated Baby Powder does not include an expiration date and offers no guidelines about when to discard the product. In this case, it makes sense to follow the guidelines for cornstarch, the main ingredient in the powder, and discard it after it has been open for 18 months or within three years of purchase if it hasn't been opened.
Shelf Life of Talc-Based Powders
Johnson's & Johnson's maintains that talc is safe and that talc-containing powders don't represent a threat to consumers. The company, and others, still make some talc-containing baby powders. Because talc is non-organic, it has a longer opened shelf life than cornstarch-based powders. Johnson's Baby Powder is printed with an expiration date, and Johnson's rule of discarding products more than three years old applies to this powder as well. Opening the powder does not significantly reduce its shelf life.
Similar products from other manufacturers may not have clear guidelines, but the three-year rule is a good guideline to follow for these products too.
Be on the Safe Side
Baby powder does expire, but the expiration date depends on the main ingredient of the powder and the guidelines set by the manufacturer. In general, it's always good to be on the safe side with baby items, and you should discard opened power within 12 to 18 months and unopened powder within three years.