The expiration of cosmetic products
The expiry date of cosmetic products represents the date by which the product must be used, provided that it has been properly stored.
If the cosmetic product has a duration of less than 30 months from production, the date by which the product should be consumed is indicated on the label with the words “Use preferably by …” followed by the day, month and year. If, on the other hand, the cosmetic formulation does not contain easily perishable components, the product shelf life exceeds 30 months from the production date and it’s not mandatory to insert an expiry date on the cosmetic product label, while the timing must be indicated on label to use the product after the first opening, the so-called Period After Opening (PAO).
The label must be drawn up in accordance with Article 19 of Regulation (EC) no. 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council. With regard to the expiration date, cosmetic products can be placed on market if the packaging bear the following information:
- the date by which the product can be used, if properly stored, by which it continues to perform its initial function (date of minimum duration); this date is preceded by the hourglass symbol or the wording “Use preferably by”;
- for products with a minimum duration of more than thirty months, an indication must be given relating to the time in which the product, once opened, can be used without harmful effects for the consumer, preceded by the symbol representing an open jar from the acronym “PAO” (Period after opening). Single-dose products, products packaged in such a way as to avoid contact between the cosmetic and the surrounding environment (e.g. aerosol) and products for which the manufacturer certifies that the formula is such as to prevent any risk of deterioration;
- the manufacturing batch number or the reference allowing the identification of the cosmetic product.
The legislation of the cosmetic PAO, the period after opening
The legislation establishes that if minimum duration date of cosmetic product is less than 30 months, this must necessarily be reported on the label.
The date indication of minimum duration is not, however, mandatory for cosmetic products that have a duration of more than 30 months.
In the event that a cosmetic product has a duration of more than 30 months and therefore does not have to bear any date, the law provides for another obligation: the indication, on the label, relating to the period of time in which the product, once opened, can be used without harmful effects for the consumer. This is the so-called PAO (Period after Opening).
The PaO is indicated in all countries of the European Union with the same symbol: an open jar on which the duration in months of the product after opening is affixed, written in numbers, followed by the letter “M”. The symbol is present both on the primary container (in direct contact with the cosmetic) and, if present, on the secondary container (the outer packaging).
The expiration date of cosmetics: where and how to read the symbols on the package
The PAO is represented by a symbol present both on the package containing the product (primary packaging) and on any external packagin and is represented by the icon of an open jar with a number inside followed by the letter “M “. The PAO symbol indicates the time within which to use the product after opening it, provided that the expiry date of the cosmetic product is not exceeded.
The expiration date of cosmetics can generally be found near the indication of the product batch, and indicates the date by which the cosmetic product can be used as long as the expected times of use after the first opening (PAO) have not been exceeded.
Open or closed cosmetics: what changes and how to understand the deadline
The cosmetic product undergoes changes over time that no longer allow its use on the body and face. Often these alterations are visible, making them easily recognizable, and change depending on whether the cosmetic has never been opened since the purchasing date, remaining closed inside its container (primary packaging), or whether the product has been opened for testing or for start its use, thus favoring the contact of cosmetic with air and with potential bacterial agents.
Provided that the product has been properly stored and if there are no obvious signs of perishable product such as mold, visible mutations of substance or any foul-smelling sensation, for a product correct use it’s enought to read the information on cosmetics label packaging, useful to understand their expiration and usage limit. It’s very important to read the product label and check for any expiration date or the PAO symbol, which is normally found on the back or at the product base.
The PAO is easily recognizable and is represented by a stylized open jar bearing the months number that the product can be used from the first opening. For example, if the PAO label shows “12M”, it will mean that you can use that particular cosmetic product for “twelve months” from the day of its opening.
The PAO is not the same for all products, since it depends on which components are present in the formulation, in fact this varies from 3 months up to 3 years, as in the case of perfumes.
A tip that may be useful is to write down the opening month and year of the cosmetic product with a permanent marker, so as to facilitate the calculation of the cosmetic product expiry date according to the indications given on the PAO symbol.
The expiry date is the date after which the product can no longer be consumed. This is shown on the label with the words “To be consumed preferably by …” followed by the day, month and year.
However, the expiry date is reported only when the cosmetic has a duration of less than 30 months, generally for those products that have easily perishable components in the formulation. Above 30 months of duration, the indication on the label is the PAO.
How long does a cosmetic product last?
Cosmetics are products designed and manufactured to last the time necessary for effective and safe use. Their “durability”, before and after opening, is verified through specific tests such as the stability study, challenge tests for the evaluation of microbiological safety and other analytical data such as the type of packaging used. Furthermore, the indications on the label and on the packaging allow the consumer to know their duration and to use them correctly.
The legislation establishes that if the minimum duration date of cosmetic product is less than 30 months, this must necessarily be reported on the label. This is the date on which the product, properly stored, continues to fulfill its initial function and remain safe. This period must be indicated with the words “Use preferably by …” followed by the month and year. If necessary, the conditions to be respected to guarantee it are also specified on the label.
The date indication of minimum duration is not, however, mandatory for cosmetic products that have a duration of more than 30 months. In the event that a cosmetic product has a duration of more than 30 months and therefore does not have to bear any date, the law provides for another obligation: the indication, on the label, relating to the period of time in which the product, once opened, can be used without harmful effects for the consumer. This is the PAO (Period after Opening).
Can expired cosmetics be used or are they harmful to health?
The expiration date is related to the amount of preservatives, the stability of the formula and the ingredients used (the more water there is, the more the cosmetic will tend to expire sooner). The preservative system after expiration may no longer be efficient, leading to the proliferation of bacteria, which, once in contact with the skin, could cause a rash or an allergic reaction. Therefore, in principle it is always better to respect the indications on the label to avoid unpleasant phenomena.