Cosmetic products, like food products for example, have an expiration date. And also in the case of cosmetics it is important not to underestimate this date.

Where can find the expiry date of a cosmetic

First of all, there are three ways to know the expiration date of a cosmetic:

    1. The PAO, which in English stands for “Period After Opening”. The PAO is indicated on the package with the symbol of an open jar with a number followed by the letter “M”. For example, if we find 18M it means that the product, since it is open, has a duration of 18 months.
    2. The expiry date clearly marked on the package by the manufacturer (month and year). This is more rarely indicated on cosmetic products
    3. The lot number (alphanumeric code, also called “Shelf Life”, literally “period on the shelf”) thanks to which it is possible to trace the date of manufacture of the product and therefore to an expiration date determined by law or by the characteristics of the product. The batch number is indelibly printed on the package.


Knowing the expiration date of the cosmetic product is very important. In the best of cases, the product no longer has any effect after the expiration date, it begins to change color and the smell becomes unpleasant. In the worst case, the expired cosmetic can cause dermatitis, major irritation, allergies and infections.

In the case of the clearly indicated expiry date, the expiration date is clear and therefore easily interpretable. Unfortunately, in the other two cases it is more difficult.

Let’s take an example: we buy a cosmetic in perfumery and we see that its PAO is 12 months. Perfect! The next day I open it and start using it for a maximum period of 12 months. In the 12-month period, however, the product may have already expired and therefore after only 2 or 3 months I could find myself with an expired product despite being respecting the PAO.


The scenario just described is possible if we have not dated the manufacturing date determined by the batch number. Let’s imagine that the product has by law a maximum shelf life of two years from the moment of its production and that the product has remained a long time on the perfumery shelf. At the time of purchase we are probably buying a product that is still, for example, 6 months of life according to the information of the manufacturing batch, but which I will use for a period of 12 months with all the possible consequences already mentioned for my skin.

The lot number or Shelf Life is also and above all important to more easily identify a series of products that have suffered some health problems at the time of manufacture. The industrialist then proceeds to recall and withdraw from the market the products with a specific lot number.

However, we have seen that it is also important to determine the true expiry date of a product.

How to trace the date of manufacture with the batch number? There are some applications on the web that offer this service. Another option is to contact the manufacturer directly through its website or Customer Care.

However, it is important not to neglect this aspect and do some more in-depth research if you have doubts about the actual lifespan of our cosmetics.

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