Expert Advice

Product Knowledge: Cosmetic Expiration Dates and Point After Opening

Jamie Newman | June 15, 2016 | 9:15 AM
Photo By Vincent Longo

Did you know once products are opened, their longevity has a pretty specific end-date? Even if a product isn’t labeled with an expiration date, more times than not, there is a marking that lets you know when a product is no longer as effective as it was made to be. After a recent trip to South Korea, where this labeling is a well-known tool used by both consumers and beauty professionals for buying and selling products, Meghan O’Brien, manager of product and packaging development at Vincent Longo cosmetics, explains how you can know when a product is past-due.

MODERN SALON: Do all products have expiration dates? 

Meghan O’Brien: In cosmetics, this generally this applies to SPF (Sun Protection Factor) that is an OTC (Over the Counter) drug and FDA-regulated for performance. All cosmetics have a PAO (Point After Opening) which is different.

MS: Can products last past the expiration date?

MO: Cosmetics have a PAO (Point After Opening), which is different than an expiration date. The PAO has a label icon of an open jar with a #M inside it. This means that it is safe to use the product for that many months (for example, 12M) after opening. These are general guidelines for PAOs, however,  all brands note their specific product info on the package that has been verified in the manufacturing process: foundation, six months-two years; lipstick, two years; eyeliner, six months-two years; mascara, three months-six months; pressed powders like blush or face powder, one-two years. Note that natural and preservative-free products may have a shorter shelf life.

This symbol means the product is safe to use for 12 months after opening.


MS: What happens to a product once it has expired?

MO: The regulated ingredient or complex loses its 100% performance value but is not spoiled.

MS: What factors in storing or using cosmetics make them expire faster? What factors preserve quality?

MO:  Storing products in a bathroom can lead to mold and yeast buildup because of dampness leading to faster expiration. Powders with oils start to crumble faster than those without due to evaporation. Mascara’s shelf life is very short because it is a dark and wet environment (hello bacteria!) so get a new one every three months. Cleaning your brushes regularly helps keep your products fresh, so you’re not dipping bacteria into your products

Remind clients to buy a new mascara every three months. 

MS: How can salons benefit from sharing this knowledge with customers?

MO: Honor the marked expiration dates, remove expired products from retail sale. 


Whether it be the cosmetics in your makeup bag or on your retail shelves, or shampoos, conditioners and other hair product, take a peek at the PAO label and think about if or when the product was opened. If it was way past what the PAO label says, it's time to replenish. Happy cleaning!

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