Beauty ‘Expiry’ and ‘PAO’ dates…do you know the difference?

Admit it, if you’re anything like me, you have that draw or box full of ‘spare’ skincare or makeup products…you know, the ones you buy when they’re on offer or get more of just because they’re on a 3 for 2 deal??  What probably isn’t considered by the majority of us is that many of those products have expiry dates even if they are unopened. Do you know about expiry dates and when to use products by once they’re opened?  If not, hopefully this post will be of some use to you!

It is often difficult to know how long a product can remain in that ‘spares’ draw unopened.  You would perhaps think that as long as it is sealed then it must be fine right?  Not necessarily!

Let’s start with products once they are open as this is easy to identify.  Quite simply, the ‘Period after opening’ (PAO) is usually indicated somewhere on the packaging using a symbol of a jar with an open lid and a time frame in months – usually 3, 6, 9, 12 or 24.  (Some products such as some aerosols may not have this as they are adequately sealed).


If you consider how often pots and jars, tubes and packets are opened and closed, bacteria will of course enter…for example a mascara wand is exposed to the air whilst in use, then put back into the tube and repeated.  The tiny bacteria that wand will pick up may eventually build up and grow inside the tube, possibly risking damage to your eyes if you were to be using it much past it’s PAO date.

Along with the PAO date on packaging, there will also be a batch code.  Mainstream brands will produce their products in batches which is why when there is an issue with a product, they are able to locate all of those that need to be recalled based on the batch number as this will be identifiable by a code printed on the product itself and on their record will match up to the date produced.

Products that are perhaps made by hand such as Lush or May Lindstrom (as I learnt after opening my Blue Cocoon a bit later than I should!) they will detail the date that they were made instead of or alongside a batch code.


These codes can be found generally on the sealed end of a tube (usually pretty hard to see!) or printed somewhere else on the packaging.  The last of the four photos there is handmade.  This sticker states when it was made, tells me to use within 12 months, but also contains a batch code.  This was particularly useful as I needed to contact the brand to find out if there was an unopened expiry date as I have had this since November 2017 but was trying to use up another night cream before opening it.  I was able to give the information and they could confirm it’s fine to open and continue to use for 12 months.

So…it’s easy to tell how long something will last once open…….unopened however, how do you keep track?  Well, one option is to contact the brand concerned and give them the batch code, they can then give you the information you need as they will know when it was manufactured and the expiry date regardless of when you bought it!

Another option, and I love the fact I found this on the insta story of diaryofange as she was talking about an app that helped to track the majority of my products.


If you have a lot of products, it may take some time to do, but I would certainly check out your older products to see if they have expired according to the manufacturer’s date (identified by the batch code).

You can either look up products according to their code and add them to your list or for brands that aren’t included on the app you can still add them to you list if you know the date you opened them and their PAO date.  The batch code option is better if the brand is on the list because you’ll also be told the expiry date.


Using the batch code on The Body Shop SPF, I now know that it expires in March 2020 but as I opened this in October 2017, I must use it by October 2018.

Deciem, who have brands such as The Ordinary, Niod, Hylamide and so on, claim that their products have an indefinite shelf life if unopened (as confirmed by them when I asked) but the app still allows me to input the product and using the PAO symbol from the tube, plus the date I opened it, I know in April 2019 it will need replacing.  The expiry isn’t needed if, as Deciem say, they last indefinitely…which is great news for me given I have a quite a few of their products in my ‘spares’ draw waiting to be opened!!  As a general term, Deciem also suggested that products once opened should be used within 12 months for The Ordinary and Hylamide products and 6 months for NIOD products…however to consult the PAO from the bottle, jar or tube.

When something is close to needing to be replaced or is overdue, it will turn red in the list indicating the dates are up.



The app knew the NUXE product by the batch code and knew it was good until June 2019 but as I had opened it back in April 2017, the 12M takes over.

If you’ve made it this far down the post, thank you for reading and I really hope this helps!  As I said, I am a beauty product addict so this really helps me to protect my skin from products that have gone off and potentially are harbouring bacteria that can prove dangerous perhaps risking infection … particularly to my eyes.  There are also other hints if a product is ‘off’ such as a strange smell, it separates easily (foundation does that if it is bad!) so you may be able to just tell if something needs throwing away!

I’m not saying you need to go throwing all of your products away by any means, most PAO are an indication and many do continue to be safe after this but I think it is good to be aware!  If a face cream for example was past it’s PAO I may not want to put it on my face, but I wouldn’t hesitate to put it on my feet!  Haha!  😛

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think in the comments box below or on my facebook page. Check out my social media….links below🙂Facebook……….Twitter……….Instagram……..Pinterest 




14 thoughts on “Beauty ‘Expiry’ and ‘PAO’ dates…do you know the difference?

  1. Rifat Yaseen says:

    In India, I think there’s some law or provision where brands have to specify the expiry date along with PAO. Be it any product, beauty or not. It intrigued me everytime I got a product from the states and I didn’t have an expiry date.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Daniela says:

    Brilliant idea! That’s what I miss here in the UK as most products from continental Europe (in my experience, anyway) have best before date somewhere on the packaging but here it’s very rare so I just have to watch what I bought when and when I opened it. Although have to admit, I do use some body products after export, I am scared to risk it with skincare but I also want to avoid wasting a good product. Thank you for letting us know about the app!😘

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jane O'Sullivan says:

    Great post, very informative. Going to look out for that app as even with my glasses I sometimes struggle to see the dates that are printed on the packaging.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. stashy says:

    This is such a great topic!
    I really like the practice of Japanese and Korean beauty products where they stamp the manufacture date onto the product, in addition to the period after opening date. This way, I can do my own math.
    I really love that there are apps and website to check the batch codes. Go technology!


  5. Maya says:

    What a lovely read.

    I was wondering What about as product that in the consumers opinion has very shirt expiry date at the time of receiving the skincare product I.e expires 2 and a half months to be exact after the date of purchase online. There is no date of manufacture thought but the label mentioned the PAO : 12M

    Is that not contradictory information and questions how long the product has been on th shelf between it’s manufacture and expiration date? Consumer has very little period to use the product in that case?

    Your thoughts would be appreciated

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beauty and The Ballroom says:

      Thanks for reading. The batch code can be used to check when it was manufactured so I think if you were concerned about shelf life post purchase being quite short I would contact the brand, give them the batch code and ask for the manufacture date as they’ll have all of that info. Equally there are now online tools that do the same thing this app does so you use the batch code and check. If I bought something with a shelf life of 3 years and it’s been in the store for 2.5 years and I had 6 months left to have it stored I would be complaining to the company. I think anything with a very short date on is likely to be something with no preservatives in and many of those do have an expiry date on instead of the POA symbol. I’ve had a few products like that so it’s clear how long I have left on it from purchase.


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