Thursday, 3 February 2011

Cosmetic shelf life

In 2005 the European Union introduced a rule where by cosmetic and beauty products had to display an icon stating how long they were safe to use once opened. This icon is called the period after opening (PAO) symbol. Today all of the products in health and beauty retailers (unless the stock is ancient) will show this information on the packaging. Products which don't need to show this information are:
  • single use products (e.g. hair dye)
  • products which don't get exposed to the outside environment (e.g. aerosols)
  • products which have a shelf life of a minimum of 30 months
The symbol you need to be on the look out for is this:


It is an open pot with an amount of months in it which the specific product is 'safe' to use. The symbol above shows that that product, once opened, must be used within 12 months. Some examples of this on products are below:

No7 Eye make-up remover - PAO: 6 months

 Good Things Miracle Mattifier - PAO: 12 months

 Bourjois Little Round Pot eyeshadow - PAO: 18 months

No7 Shine Free make-up base - PAO: 24 months

As well as the PAO symbol we're told by retailers and manufacturers that we should only use cosmetics for a certain period of time as these will then become 'out of date'. Typical use by dates are:
  • Mascara:  3 - 6 months
  • Blusher: 12 - 18 months
  • Lipstick: 18 months
  • Tinted moisturiser: 12 months
  • Foundation: 6 months
  • Eyeshadow: 12 months
  • Liquid eyeliner: 3-6 months
  • Eye pencil: 24 months

I can see the logic for these for certain products. Mascara's, for instance, can be a breeding ground for bacteria. You stick the wand into the tube and reuse over and over again and as it sits in the product you can't clean or sanitise it. This is also the same for lipglosses. Bacteria in these products can result in you contracting infections such as conjunctivitus in your eyes and cold sores around your lips and mouth. Items which require sharpening, e.g. lip pencils and eye liners, can be used longer as any nasties are sharpened off but don't take this for granted. Also never share items like these as you'll be swapping and spreading germs and infections about, ewwww!

I would also use with caution sun creams which were opened the previous summer. Yes the bottle might have a PAO of, for instance, 24 months but in time the SPF factor can decrease meaning the first summer you open your factor 50 you'll get maximum protection but the next summer when you finish off you half used bottle you might only be putting on factor 25.


But how strongly should we grasp this concept of PAO and use by dates?

I personally only use the PAO symbol as a guide to how long you should keep a product. The majority of us know when it's time to throw something away. This can be judged by smell, look and texture. I recently was using a L'Occitane cleanser and toner which had a 6 month PAO but after using them everyday they lasted me 9 months. They still smelt fine and didn't irritate my skin so I judged them to be ok to use. On the other hand I also had a lipgloss which I went to use which looked fine in the tube but when I went to apply it, it had a strong alcohol smell. This obviously wasn't right so it got thrown away.

If I did religiously listen to PAOs and use by's it would cost me an absolute fortune every year to replace my products just because I was told that they weren't safe to use anymore.

To maximize product life there are some things you can do to get the most out of your products and to protect yourself from harm which include:
  • not adding anything to your products e.g. water to mascara if it's become clumpy
  • not sharing them with anyone to prevent the spread of germs
  • throw away any products which have come into contact with parts of your body with infections e.g. eyes if you have conjunctivitis

What are your feelings on PAOs? Do you stick to the use by periods or do you judge yourself by when it's time to throw your products away?

4 comments:

DebDobDoorNob said...

I always wondered what that little symbol meant. Really interesting post hun x

Karla said...

@Deb - Glad you found this interesting, wasn't sure if it was too long winded! x

Amyboo said...

I keep in mind the POAs of all my products, but like you, I don't really bother throwing it away unless I notice a difference in texture , smell, etc! POAs are probably based generally on how often you use a product.

Karla said...

@Amyboo - I agree, I think it's pointless chucking something away just because the container says so. It annoys me when people got OTT with 'best befores' on food too! Hmm I sound abit of a freak! lol x

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