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When Does a Beauty Product Expire?

We keep hearing worries about how well do organic skincare products preserve and do they expire sooner than synthetic skincare products. On the other hand, one of the main reasons people are turning to organic skincare is to avoid toxic preservatives used in synthetic cosmetics. Some of the preservatives used in synthetic cosmetics are indeed banned in organic ones. So when does your skincare product expire? Is there always an expiry date on the jar label?

It goes without saying that preservatives are a much-needed ingredient in cosmetics. Without them, their shelf life would be very short, and some of the cosmetics would have to be stored in the fridge to avoid contamination.


In synthetic cosmetics, many of the ingredients used for preservation can be very aggressive. Preservatives are suspected to be the leading cause of allergies and adverse reactions.


Preservatives used in organic cosmetics

How are organic skincare products preserved? The preservatives often used in natural and organic skincare products include alcohol, essential oils, propolis or antioxidants such as Vitamin E, Rosemary oil extract and grapefruit seed extract.


Natural cosmetics standards also allow the use of preservatives that are natural but are artificially produced. These substances are reproduced in a laboratory but have the same molecular structure that occurs in nature. For example, potassium sorbate (INCI = potassium sorbate), is a sorbic acid salt which occurs naturally in unripe Rowan berries. It depends on the standard which artificially produced preservatives are allowed.


Period after opening-label

How to know how long after opening the jar, the product stays usable? All you need to do is check the jar icon on the packaging. It is a so-called PAO (Period After Opening) label, i.e. the minimum time that the manufacturer guarantees that the product will remain in good condition after opening the product for the first time. This labelling is mandatory in the EU. The label tells you how many months the product will last at least after being opened. The same label guarantees that the product will preserve unopened for 30 months.


How to store and use the products safely?

  • Store your products in a cool, dry and dark place. Direct sunlight and UV rays, oxygen, heat, moisture can damage the product.

  • Close them immediately after use.

  • Always use clean hands when using products from a pot or jar. Better yet, use a spatula!

  • Use all jarred products within three months of opening.


Use your skincare products always before their expiry date. If the product starts smelling funky, changing looks or colour, it's most likely gone bad, and it's time to toss the product.


For more reading on preservatives used in synthetic cosmetics check out Campaign for Safe Cosmetics guide!

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