Friday, 30 November 2012

Expiration Ambiguation - How to tell when your beauty products expire?

Before you know it, Sunday will soon be upon us so it's CONFESSION TIME!! ψ(`∇´)ψ

After a chat with some fellow beauty junkies, I found that there is an area of concern that needs addressing because it is too often forgotten.

Now, I'm not just talking about the shelf life but also the life of the product after it's been opened. Most products already have the manufacturing date printed on the product packaging and most of these will also have the expiration date (shelf life) stated as well. But what if they don't?

I've heard of many people going by pure guesswork, the shelf life labelling or the smell, look or taste of the product. While I haven't yet heard any horror stories about anyone using a 6 yr-old lipstick, I think we can all spare a couple of minutes for the good of our skin.

At this point, all my products with obvious PAO (Period After Opening) dates have been labelled like so:

It's not too pretty but I have a notoriously bad memory so I'd rather pop a label on after calculating the expiry date from the date of opening. (Note: If the Expiration Date is earlier than the PAO date, you should adhere to whichever date is earlier.)

Generally, products from American, Australian, French etc and some imported Korean(e.g Laneige) and Taiwanese brands carry all the necessary labelling that's understandable without too much effort. However, Japanese brands, while having the date of manufacture, typically do not carry an expiration date nor the easily understandable PAO (Period After Opening) label like the one below from Sukin (Australia) >_<.

6M - Expires 6 months after opening
A brief check online revealed that you can get an approximate Expiration Date off websites like Check Cosmetic, which lists about 170 international brands including Japanese (e.g: DHC, Shiseido and Kanebo) and Korean brands (e.g: Laneige, Tony Moly and Skinfood), or pop by the respective brand counters for some advice. There are also helpful apps on the Apple store like Makeup Life and Cosmetics Tester.

I noted the disclaimer on Check Cosmetic though:
'Warning: occasionally calculation results can be incorrect.
Algorithms used for production date calculation are partially based on the information published on official websites, and partially on the information privately provided by consultants and resellers. Unfortunately we can’t guarantee and do not guarantee that such information and algorithms based on it will always be actual, complete and error free.
That’s why we recommend contacting the company or its authorized agents directly to get the complete and exact production date information.'

I double checked a couple of my products with stated dates on Check Cosmetic and the results were more or less in the correct region. So if you're alright with an approximate value, it's ok.

How Check Cosmetic works: Enter the product's batch code or lot number, usually found somewhere on the product or base of product packaging, and your expiration date will be calculated for you. In the case of Kanebo and Kiehl's, I found it on the base of the packaging.

But if the packaging is missing or has already been discarded, then let's just rely on the general rule of thumb for PAO:
  • Foundation/Blush/Eyeshadow (etc powders) - 1 to 3 years
  • Liquid/Cream Foundation - 1 to 2 years
  • Mascara & Liquid Eyeliner - 3 to 6 months
  • Solid Eyeliner & Eyebrow Pencil - 1 to 2 years (regular sharpening before each use helps preserve it)
  • Lipstick/Lipgloss - 1 to 2 years
  • Moisturiser & Serums - about 6 months to 1 year (don't forget that products in jars stand a higher chance of contamination compared to those in a sealed container with a pump)
  • Natural/Organic Products - Usually about 6 months
When in doubt, always check with the salesperson or brand representative. This is information you absolutely have a right to have verified.
Some simple ways to help reduce the contamination of your products are:
  • Don't 'pump' your mascara
  • Don't share products (this is one of those instances when sharing isn't caring)
  • Don't leave your products open for extended periods
  • Always wash your hands before touching your products and if possible, wash inbetween products too if you're handsy with your products
  • Always clean your brushes and sponges at least weekly ESPECIALLY if you have combination or oily skin
  • Always keep your products in a cool, dry area.
 With all these in mind, will you be doing some spring cleaning this weekend? (¬‿¬)