Cosmetics go off as well! What’s the use-by date of a mascara, foundation and oil?

Girls, did you know that each ane very cosmetic has its own shelf life? Sometimes, it is not as clearly marked on the packaging for instance, with a certain date. 

Many of us do not even realize that the cosmetic expiration dates are determined the same way as food products are. If you are keeping an eye on the dates, this rather concerns creams, lotions, shampoos and conditioners. We know that such products can make more harm than good if used after the best before date. Although, we do not rigorously apply to the dates on the packaging anyway. Most of my friends treat the expiration date as a suggestion. Today, I’d like to explain why such approach is unacceptable.


Very few people check the expiration date of cosmetics and even fewer apply to them. It’s a huge mistake! Guided by the principle “I will not throw it away, it would be a waste of money, it will still be useful” is a simple route to many problems. Cosmetics that are past due not only do not have their properties anymore – so they are simply ineffective, but they can also harm us.

In my case, the point has been proven very painfully. I had a strong allergic reaction to an overdue eye cream (and that was only two weeks!). I remember having swollen under-eye skin which was itching and even my beloved aloe gel didn’t bring relief to the irritation. I have learnt my lesson that the best before date is there for a good reason and it’s not just a suggestion. Hopefully, you will not want to see it for yourself – just learn from my mistakes!:)

Why do cosmetics go off?

In this case, the preservatives are to be blamed – they prolonge the shelf life of cosmetics but not forever, which many people tend to forget about. They work only for a limited period of time after which the stability of the active ingredients of a given product ends. Remember that a cream has a two-year use-by date and it owes it only to the content of preservatives. The simplest example – homemade cosmetics should be used within a short period of time because they do not contain preservatives and go off quickly.

How do I know what’s the use-by date of a certain cosmetic after opening?

The expiry date can be expressed in various ways. It depends on two things: the production date and the moment of opening the packaging. The manufacturers always put such information on the box but it does not always look as expected. How to read the cosmetics’ expiration dates? It’s easy!

It is a lot easier if we have specified expiration date. Then, regardless whether the cosmetic has been opened or not, it cannot be used once it’s passed this date. Where is the information placed? From my observations, it appears that most often it is placed on the weld, on the cap or on the bottom of the package. Sometimes, it’s in the area of the barcode, but less often.

European standards state that a cosmetic released for sale must withstand a minimum of 30 months. So we can take it in advance. However, this is not always the case, especially if you are buying natural and organic cosmetics which shelf life is definitely shorter because they do not contain preservatives or only natural preservatives. However, in most cases, the shelf life of cosmetics is more than 30 months, and in accordance with the European Directive, for example, the manufacturers are not obliged to put an expiry date. However, they should use other signs.

There are two types of indicating use-by date:

  • PAO (Period of Time After Opening) – a graphic that shows an opened jar means the expiration date of cosmetics after opening; inside the jar, there is a date defined most often in months (6M, 12M), which means that you can use this product for given number of months after opening;
  • Exp. (Expiration day) – indicated the exact date (usually month and year) of the cosmetic’s best-before date; it is a designation required for cosmetics that have a shelf life of less than 30 months to avoid endangering consumers.

What about a situation when we cannot find any of these signs?

Expiration dates are determined in advanced in regard to particular types of products. It is connected with similarities in the composition and directions for use. Whenever you cannot find the PAO sign or a specified date, be guided by the type of product you’re dealing with. Additionally, it is always better to take the lowest limit than use an out-of-date cream. Therefore,

  • a mascara can be used for 3 – 6 months after opening;
  • creams in jars can be used no longer than 9 months;
  • eyeshadows, pressed blushes and powders have a long shelf life – up to 3 years;
  • creams and body lotions are suitable for 6 to 9 months.

Remember: if you have any doubts, you can always write to the manufacturer!:)

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