She was happy for me to take them because at least then they'd be getting used. But on closer inspection some of these samples were VERY old. We're talking pre-website-address on packs, brands that don't exist anymore (remember Organics shampoo?) or exist but under a different name...
From a time long ago when Cif was Ajax, Snickers were Marathons and Olay was Ulay.
I use the same method for checking that toiletries are good to use that I would with food: if it looks ok and smells ok then I will use it. Make-up (especially mascara) and medicines I use a lot more caution with, and anything used by the kids.
Does anyone really take notice of the icon on the back of the pack that says when it should be used by? For ages I wasn't even aware of the significance of the "open pot with a number on it" symbol. I know that there are bottles in the bathroom that pre-date the birth of E (and probably K).
According to the British Skin Foundation, the use by date on cosmetics is from when you open the product. So if it says 18 months on the box, it should last for 18 months from when you open it, provided it's been stored correctly. Many of these samples didn't have that symbol or any indication of when they were manufactured. If it's hermetically sealed in its foil sachet how long will it survive and what happens when it does go off?
So far, one pack was ripped open to reveal contents that had separated and resembled cottage cheese... nice. A couple haven't had the strong perfumed smell I'd expect so perhaps that's worn off over time. I even used the vintage Ulay – out of sheer morbid curiosity – and it was fine; my skin didn't burn/start itching/hair fall out.
I reckon I have enough here to last me for a few months so I'm setting myself a challenge to not buy any new products until I've used up these first. But I'll be giving the foundation samples a miss. They turn me a worrying shade of orange even before they've gone out of date so I'm not taking any chances.