One of the first few things we check while buying makeup and cosmetics is their date of expiry. But seldom do we notice that there is also a ‘shelf life’ of these products.
You may wonder why two different dates signifying the life of a product. The confusion between ‘expiry date’ and ‘shelf life’ is pretty obvious regarding their meaning. Also, which date to follow, is a question mark for many. What we must know is that these two terms are different and cannot necessarily be interchangeable.
Meaning of Expiry Date:
As far as the ‘expiry date’ is concerned, we all know the meaning and reference. The expiry date refers to the date beyond which the standard and quality of the product starts to deteriorate. It is like an estimated time period or a guarantee that the product will be safe for use till that date. The product may be risky to use after this date. To eliminate this risk, the manufacturer may not mention the ‘shelf life’, but will very clearly mention the ‘expiry date’ on the packaging.
What does Shelf life mean?
Shelf life means the extent of time for which a product has its quality intact. If that product has surpassed its shelf life, it does not necessarily mean that it has expired. One may still use the product and it may even be safe for use but a quality check is desirable.
The expiry date of a product is printed on its packaging at the time of manufacturing. Later, during the process of its distribution, storage, display or delivery, a lot of factors affect the product. To name a few, there is heat, cold, moisture, light etc that has an influence on the life of that product.
When we buy and open the packaging of a product, it comes in contact with the surrounding environment. Also, the ways in which we store and handle a product alters its quality. If we do not store it the way it is prescribed by the manufacturer, its shelf life may shorten. The preservatives can break down with time, allowing microorganisms to grow.
For instance, using finger, by dipping them in the product, adds microorganisms, like bacteria, yeast etc. Certain cosmetics, like the ones that are used on and near the eyes, have shorter shelf lives than other products. Each time we use such cosmetic, it gets exposed to bacteria and fungi.
That is why cosmetics like Mascara, kajal, eye liners, etc are advised to be discarded two to four months after purchase. Same is the case with lip cosmetics. We can say that the shelf life is in fact the time frame between the dates of manufacturing and the date of expiry.
Where exactly is this ‘shelf life’ mentioned on the product?
Almost all the products, that are perishable, have expiry date mentioned on them. But as a general trend, a date indicating the ‘shelf life’ specifically is not mentioned on the packaging of the product.
These days an icon is printed on the package (refer to the picture for example) which indicates the durability of the product once it is opened. This symbol is known as the PAO or Period After Opening. This icon or symbol was introduced by the European Commission in 2005. It directs all the cosmetic brands with a shelf life of 30 months or more to mark this icon or symbol on their packaging.
On looking closely at this icon, one can see number or numbers written along with the alphabet ‘M’. The alphabet ‘M’ stands for months. The numbers indicate the total number of months of the durability of the product. The countdown starts from the date you open the product. So if the icon has ‘6M’ written on it, and you open the pack on 1st January, the shelf life of the product will be until 30th June.
This does not mean that looking at that icon is enough. There are the ‘directions of storage’ also mentioned somewhere near the list of ingredients. These directions specifically prescribe the conditions and environment for storing the product. It helps maintain the ‘shelf life’ of the product as a result of which the quality of the product does not degrade before its ‘expiry date’.
So if you haven’t yet checked the shelf life of those cosmetics lying on your dresser for months, hurry on and get them sorted today.
Read also – “5 Ways To Clean Your Makeup Brushes”