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Shelf Life: Cosmetic Expiration Dates and Point After Opening

Jamie Newman | December 28, 2016 | 10:29 AM
Photo By Vincent Longo

Did you know once products are opened, their longevity has a specific end-date? Even if a product isn’t labeled with an expiration date, it often has a mark that indicates when a product is no longer as effective as when it was formulated.

After a trip to South Korea, where this labeling is a well-known tool used for buying and selling products, Meghan O’Brien, manager of product and packaging development for Vincent Longo Cosmetics, learned that products have both an expiration date and something called a point after opening (PAO) date, so both professionals and clients can know when a product is past-due.

“Products have expiration dates because, after time, they can become ineffective and rancid, which can cause a possible reaction,” says Alicia Grande, founder and CEO of GrandeCosmetics. “These expiration dates are calculated based on the ingredients in the container for efficacy and safety.”

“On the other hand,” O’Brien says, “all cosmetics have a PAO date. “The PAO has a label icon of an open jar with a number followed by an M inside it. This means it is safe to use the product for that many months (for example, 12M) after opening.”

Look at your products—odds are it has this symbol on it indicating how long the product is at its most e ective after opening it.
Look at your products—odds are it has this symbol on it indicating how long the product is at its most e ective after opening it.

All brands note their specific product PAO or expiration information on the package, which has been verified in the manufacturing process. According to O’Brien, foundation lasts between six months and two years; lipstick, two years; eyeliner, between six months and two years; mascara, between three months and six months; pressed powders like blush or face powder, one to two years.

Henry Owegi, Malibu Wellness Laboratories cosmetic chemist and manager of regulatory and compliance for the Malibu C brand, says some ingredients have a shorter life expectancy than others for their full effectiveness.

“Natural ingredients, such as oils and plant extracts, can have a shorter shelf life,” Owegi says. “Often times ingredients such as color pigments, silicas and silicones can take the longest amount of time to expire, however ultimately it would be dependent on the final product formulation.”

Also, certain factors can make products spoil faster. For example, storing products in a damp bathroom can foster mold and yeast buildup leading to faster expiration. Mascara’s shelf life is short because the brush is stored in a dark, wet environment inside the tube (hello bacteria!).

Once a product has expired or lived its PAO timeline, Owegi says they should be disposed of at the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove old products from retail shelves to keep clients safe and to ensure they are buying effective products. Do the same for styling products and cosmetics kept at your own station.

By arming clients with this knowledge, they will ultimately be more satisfied with product performance, but it can also increase retail revenue. Clients will know not to try to ration their favorite product and make it last too long, but rather use it before its PAO date comes, and then buy more, thus, returning to the salon, spa or makeup bar more often to restock.

“It’s beneficial for salons to share knowledge with retail clients as part of being an informed retailer,” Grande says. “Being upfront with these dates gives the client the trust in their decision to purchase and repurchase from you.”

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