Following my post on Aust L numbers, I realised just how many terminologies there exist in the beauty industry that I take as a given, but can still be a mystery to a lot of people. So now to Product Expiry dates, everyone knows what it means, but which products should have them? Where are they? And most importantly, should they be complied with?
There are no rules as to where expiry dates are shown, as long as they can be found at point of purchase and whilst using the product. To save time and labour, it almost always is printed with the batch code, and NOT on front of pack to maintain aesthetics. So expiry dates can usually be found printed on back of packs, within the crimp on top of tubes, or on the bottom of product. In Australia, expiry is in the form of Month-Year.
First and foremost, all products under the regulations of TGA (medicines & therapeutics) must have expiry dates. This thus includes sunscreens:
Other than TGA products, no beauty products are required to have expiry dates. BUT you are likely to find expiry on some products still, like fake tans:
… and a lot of cosmeceuticals:
Most of the beauty products, will have a Period After Opening Symbol – this indicates how long you should use the product for, after you’ve opened the primary packaging (ie. where the ‘goo’ is contained in):
It is more costly to have expiry printed on the products, as the supplier is liable for the cost of disposing the product should it not sell by the time it expires. So why would they do it? Because those products have active ingredients in them that are crucial in the performance of the product, but the said ingredients can deteriorate over time.
For example, people buy fake tans want to get tanned, and DHA, the ingredient that makes the skin tan, deteriorates and turns green after 2 years – so the product needs to be disposed of after that time, or else you end up with a lot of pale/unhappy/disgusted customers. Similarly, people buy Vitamin C and Retinol serums purely for the effects that Vitamin C & Retinol would have on the skin, but after those ingredients deteriorate, whilst it wouldn’t cause you any harm, you may as well be putting sorbolene on your face.
Other beauty products have combinations of pigments/fragrances/extracts in some sort of emulsion that is pretty stable, hence no need for expiry. The period-after-opening safeguards product integrity after exposure to air and contamination after opening.
So what does it mean?
Personally, for all products WITH expiry, I throw out as soon as it hits it. Expiry is determined by accelerated testing; after the product hits the expiry, there is no proof that it would deliver on its primary promise. So if you get burnt because you’ve used an expired sunscreen, or find that your fake tan has turned to green water, it’s “too bad so sad” for you, and there would be no reimbursement from the supplier or the retailer.
For products with no expiry but just a Period After Opening symbol, I exercise the Look-Smell-Feel approach: if it looks okay (no change in colour/texture), smells okay (no muskiness) and feels okay (no excess oiliness/dryness), then I would say it’s safe to use.
I do make an exception for essential oils though – they have expiry (as they’re therapeutics), but I continue to use them as long as they smell nice. That’s because I only use them for their fragrance anyway – but if I were to use them for aromatherapy or skincare purposes, then the same rule as before – throw out as soon as they hit expiry.
Please let me know if there’s any other ingredient/packaging queries on beauty products you would like to know more of – I’ll do my best to answer them in future posts
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