Not everyone knows that cosmetics have a maximum period of time after opening beyond which they should not be used: that's what it is
Not everyone knows that even cosmetic products, like food, have an expiration date: this is the so-called PAO, or Period After Opening (period after opening), easily identifiable thanks to the symbol of a small open jar shown on all the packages, with the expiry date of the product next to them. In fact, cosmetic products are the result of a combination of ingredients designed to obtain a certain effect and to be functional for a certain purpose: all these raw materials, as well as the cosmetic that is the result of their interaction, naturally have a shelf life. , which also affects the efficacy and safety of the product.
It is often tempting to use every drop of makeup or skincare product, especially if it is a particularly sophisticated and expensive product. However, every beauty and make-up product has an expiration date and its shelf life may be shorter than you think. According to the EC Regulation 1223/2009, if a cosmetic product has a shelf life of less than 30 months, an expiry date of the product must be clearly indicated on the package. In cases where the shelf life exceeds 30 months, it is not necessary to enter an expiration date on the packaging, but it is sufficient to specify the period after opening (PAO).
- The shelf life of cosmetic products
- Expiry date and EAP: meaning
- Why it is important to respect the EAC
The shelf life of cosmetic products
Since 2013, all companies that market cosmetic products in the European Union must necessarily mention the duration of the product. The exact amount of time it takes for a cosmetic product to expire depends on:
- from the specific cosmetic;
- how it is stored;
- whether it is sealed or open.
But how long do cosmetic products last? Typically, when stored properly in a cool, dry place, most unopened, fully sealed cosmetic products should last 2 to 3 years. On the other hand, creamier products that contain oils or butters, such as cream concealers or liquid blushes, or preservative-free natural makeup products, may degrade faster, even if sealed: therefore, you should never store any cosmetic product for longer. 3 years. The duration of each cosmetic product is reported to consumers through two indicators: the expiry date and the Period After Opening (PAO).
The expiry date indicates the shelf life of a closed product stored in the recommended storage conditions in its original packaging, it is shown on the product packaging in the classic format dd / mm / yyyy with the symbol of an hourglass next to it and the words "to use preferably by… ”, as for drugs and food. The Period After Opening instead indicates the shelf life of the product once opened. The PAO of cosmetics is indicated on the packaging of each product with a symbol representing an open jar of cream accompanied by the indication of the time period shown as a number and an "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 letter "M" literally means months, so if the word 12M appears next to the symbol, it means that it is recommended to use the product within 12 months of opening. Another data that can help to establish whether a cosmetic can still be used safely is the manufacturing batch, an alphanumeric code that is used to identify a "batch", that is a certain number of cosmetics produced for a specific period of time. with specific raw materials. The manufacturing batch can be very useful especially in case of health problems such as allergies, to identify particular additional information on the product, perhaps not shown on the packaging.
Expiry date and EAP: meaning
Cosmetic products must be safe for human health and the law requires that a cosmetic product safety report be prepared, including a section on stability. The goal is to determine the shelf life of finished products (the expiry date) or the period after opening (PAO). The reasons why the stability of cosmetics is evaluated are:
- maintain the quality and specifications provided (relating to the appearance and skin tolerance of the product);
- determine if a shelf life or PAO is required and, if necessary, calculate the PAO value;
- assess the microbial stability of the product and thus ensure safety for consumers;
preserve the image and reputation of manufacturing companies.
To establish the stability period of a cosmetic product, i.e. the minimum shelf life date or the shelf life of the unopened product, the manufacturing companies carry out special tests and use sophisticated equipment capable of determining the stability of the physical parameters of a cosmetic and evaluate over time the functionality of the components used. Due to the wide variety of cosmetics, there is no standard general protocol: companies therefore apply various studies that consider the normal foreseeable conditions of storage and use of the product, verifying its stability under specific conditions of temperature, hygrometry, light and duration. for at least 5 months.
During this period of time, product samples are evaluated at regular intervals, taking into consideration parameters that generally include criteria such as color, odor, appearance, pH, viscosity, density, weight, microbiology. Any variation in one of these parameters may indicate a change in the quality of the product and therefore in its safety. As already specified, the shelf life of the product determines the indications that must be reported on the package:
- if it is less than 30 months, generally for those products that have easily perishable components in the formulation, the expiry date of the product must be indicated;
- if it is more than 30 months, the period after opening must instead be indicated (PAO).
In addition to products with a shelf life of less than 30 months, even single-dose packs, samples and products that do not come into contact with the external environment do not require the indication of the EAC, since by their very nature they are intended for limited use in the time. The PAO therefore corresponds to the period during which the manufacturer of the cosmetic or makeup guarantees the effectiveness of a particular product, which can be used without any risk to the health of consumers, after opening it for the first time.
This does not automatically mean that it is strictly necessary to throw away an unused product once the PAO is passed, but simply that it may be less effective. However, it is a good idea not to go too far beyond the opening period and pay a minimum of attention especially to the consistency and integrity of the product, its color and scent, which should remain unchanged until the end of use. In general, cosmetic products have a standardized period after opening, depending on the type:
- lipstick 18–24 months;
- lip gloss 12-18 months;
- foundation and concealer 12-18 months;
- mascara 3-6 months;
- liquid eyeliner 3-6 months;
- cream products 12-18 months;
- powder products 12–18 months.
Powder cosmetics therefore last much longer than cream: powders, eyeshadows and pigments can be used for a long time, while lipsticks, foundations and concealers deteriorate faster and, applied to the skin, could cause irritation or, worse, infections.
Why it is important to respect the EAC
Respecting the PAO of cosmetics is very important, because the studies to which cosmetic companies submit their products presume that contact with the external environment can alter the characteristics of the product over time, from the "simple" change in color or consistency up to development of microbial contamination, which can cause annoying problems such as:
- skin rashes
- staph and eye infections
The products for which more attention must be paid to the period after opening are mainly cleansing creams and balms, which can be easily contaminated and spread infections, as well as organic and natural products, which in most cases contain practically no antibacterial agents or preservatives. . Another product for which it is essential to know the PAO are sunscreens: using them once the period after opening has elapsed is absolutely useless, since the product is no longer able to protect the skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Most sunscreens remain effective for 12 months, but it is a good idea not to use them for more than 6 months. If you really can't decide to throw away a cosmetic product that is only half used, it is possible in some cases to evaluate whether it is possible to continue using it even after the recommended limit, obviously avoiding doing it if the cosmetic has been open or expired for years. If, on the other hand, a few weeks have passed since the PAO, some characteristics of the product can be checked:
- if the liquid part has separated from the solid part, and they divide again even after having mixed them, it is better to throw away the cosmetic;
- if the product looks different than usual, has lumps, defects or stains that were not there before, it is better to stop using it;
- if the cosmetic smells different, acrid or sour, it is best to throw it away immediately and buy a new package.
It is important not to waste anything: neither food nor cosmetics. However, just like food, even make-up, creams, sunscreen have expiration dates that it is always advisable to check, in order not to encounter potentially more serious problems.