Do cosmetic products expire?


Surely all of us will have found at some point a cosmetic product (facial cream, body lotion, perfume, …) at the bottom of a drawer or in a closet, but what should we do in these cases? Could we use it or should we throw it away?

Below, we explain what the symbols that appear on the boxes and labels of cosmetic products mean and recommend what to do in these cases.

The current European legislation on cosmetics (EC Regulation No. 1223/2009) indicates that, in order to inform consumers, information on the date up to which the cosmetic product, stored under adequate conditions, must be included in the packaging fulfilling its function and remains safe (minimum duration date). For this, two distinctions are made: PAO symbol period after opening (Figure A), and minimum duration symbol (Figure B).


The PAO symbol indicates the date (number of months) before which it is convenient to use the product after opening and is used when the minimum shelf life of the product exceeds 30 months. Instead, the minimum duration symbol is used when said period is less than 30 months and must always be accompanied by the exact date of best use (month/year or day/month/year).

Once opened, the life of a cosmetic varies depending on the type of product and how it is used. That is why it is very important to follow basic hygiene rules, close cosmetic products correctly and always store them away from light and moisture.


Does this mean that you cannot apply the creams with your hands or that you cannot have the shampoo or bath gel in the shower? No, the PAO, or best before date, if applicable, is calculated for normal use of the product. That is why they carry preservatives, to protect them, since hands are never completely clean and/or storage conditions are not always adequate.

In addition to remembering the ODP, there are other ways to know if a cosmetic is still fit for use. For example, check if their organoleptic characteristics have changed (differences or separation of colour, texture, separation of some ingredient and smell). Generally, in these cases, the cosmetic product is not dangerous, but its use is not recommended either.

Can cosmetics that have already passed the best before date or ODP cause harm? When the recommended period of use has been exceeded, the cosmetic may have lost the properties for which it was designed and create hypersensitivity reactions in very delicate skin.

Here are some basic tips for the proper use and proper preservation of cosmetic products:


1. Always close the container properly.


2. Always use cosmetics with very clean hands.


3. If you notice a colour change, surely a component has oxidized and no longer has the desired cosmetic properties.


4. Check that the creams have not dried or that a film has appeared on the surface.

5. Do not use cosmetic products with a different smell than the one you had at the time of purchase.


Therefore, if a forgotten cream jar is found at the bottom of a drawer, first check that the organoleptic characteristics are adequate and remember that, if it is in good condition, it is probably not dangerous, but surely it will not have the cosmetic properties indicated on its packaging.