How often do you check the expiry of your skincare products?

Prior to becoming a natural cosmetic formulator, I rarely checked for expiry dates on my skincare products and have realised not many others do either.

Shelf life of cosmetic products are very important due to the risk of microbial contamination, less effective ingredients or oils that have gone rancid.

Cosmetic products generally display a Period After Opening (PAO) symbol in the shape of a jar with an open lid. Within this symbol, a number of months is listed indicating when the product should be discarded by after opening.
Vector illustration, flat design. Period After Opening Symbol #316396282 -  Larastock

Another popular symbol is Best Before Expiration (BBE) which is displayed as an hourglass. Regardless of when this product was first opened, it must be discarded before the date displayed.

Are Your Cosmetic Labels Compliant? - Avery

If no symbols are visible, search for an expiry date on the product or packaging.

Conventional products generally have a shelf life of approximately 2 years.

Natural skincare has a much shorter shelf life of anything from 3 to 12 months, as natural preservatives do not usually provide the same extended shelf life as chemical preservatives such as parabens.

Checking storage instructions on labels can help keep products safe and effective. 

Ideally, the best conditions for storing natural skincare products is in a cool, dark, dry area away from direct sunlight or moisture. Ensuring lids are tightly sealed after application and inserting a spatula in creams or balms, rather than your fingers, will decrease the chance of germs and moisture entering the product, causing contamination.

Some indications of a product no longer being safe or effective to use are:

  • A grainy feeling within the product that was not there before.
  • The scent is different to when you first opened it.
  • The contents have changed in colour.
  • The contents have separated.


Product awareness helps keep your skin healthy.