PAO and expiration date: when do skincare products expire? - The Moisturizer
Menu Close

PAO and expiration date: when do skincare products expire?

Header The Moisturizer - PAO and expiration date: when do cosmetics expire?
Did you know that your cosmetics have an expiration date? Sometimes we avoid using our favorite cosmetics so that they don’t finish up, although that may be counterproductive if we let them expire. This guide will help you know how long you can use your cosmetics so that you don’t accidentally damage your skin.


Hello! Today I am going to talk about a very interesting topic that affects us all: the expiration date of skincare products. Although we are used to associating the concept with food, we must bear in mind that in cosmetics, the expiration date is also important. You want to know why? Keep reading!

The topics that we are going to see in this article are the following:




The answer is clear: yes. All cosmetics expire, without exception. As with food, skincare products have an expiration date. It has happened to all of us at some point in our lives, we discovered a moisturizer or serum that we love and we have been saving it for years. And suddenly, one day we take a good look at the packaging and we notice that it has been expired for two years. But is that a problem?

The best thing that can happen to you when using an expired cosmetic is that it does not fulfill its function and does not give you the result you are looking for. The worst case? Irritation, allergies and other more serious dermatological problems. When a skincare product is made, it is stable (it maintains its characteristics) during a specific period. The manufacturer makes sure to maintain that stability in many different ways: formulating the product correctly, using a suitable container to preserve it, etc. When the expiration date comes, the manufacturer cannot guarantee the stability and, therefore, does not guarantee that the product works properly or that it won’t cause problems for you. Also, if you modify the composition of the product (for instance, by adding an oil), its expiration date will be reduced.

Besides the expiration date, we also have to pay attention to the correct conservation of the product. Failure to do so will expire the product faster than it should. In this case, each manufacturer will indicate the appropriate way to preserve each of their products. There are certain cosmetics (for example, those that incorporate vitamin C) that should not receive direct light, so it is convenient to keep them protected from the sun. Recently, I have read many recommendations that talk about keeping cosmetics at cold temperatures (even small refrigerators are sold for this purpose), but we should not do it unless the manufacturer expressly indicates it, since most cosmetics are designed to keep them at room temperature and it can be harmful to store them incorrectly.

There is currently an excessive trend towards chemophobia as a skincare marketing tool. In this way, some brands try to sell that chemicals (well, in the abstract, that sounds terrifying) are bad, without any scientific or logical basis. Those evil chemicals include preservatives, silicones, or parabens (among many others). And why am I talking about chemophobia now? Because I’m seeing more and more products whose claim is not to incorporate preservatives among their ingredients. As I indicated, this is just another marketing tool, since by not using preservatives among the ingredients, the only thing that is achieved is to create products with a shorter life (so we will have to replace them more frequently). The use of preservatives is completely safe, and for this the European Union has various systems that guarantee the safety of the cosmetics we use. Preservatives allow us to use the products for a longer time. In this case, the important thing is not to formulate products without preservatives, but to use those that provide an effective result and that allow us to take care of our skin in the best possible way..



And now that you know that all the cosmetics you have at home have an expiration date, you are probably wondering, how can I know that date?

As a general rule, skincare products show their expiration date both on the packaging and on the box. Normally, the expiration date appears in MONTH/YEAR format, although if you buy Korean cosmetic products you can find other formats. In Korean cosmetics, it is common to find these two symbols: 제조 (production date) and 카지 (expiration date), followed by numbers that correspond, in order, to the year, month and day.

Generally, there are certain cosmetic products that expire before others. For example, eye contours and sunscreens often have a shorter lifespan than other products such as cleansers.

In any case, sometimes we can find that a product has expired even though its expiration date hasn’t passed yet. If the product has not been properly preserved or has been contaminated, we can observe changes in its texture, an abnormal smell or color or, directly, we can notice that the product is not applied properly and even causes irritation. In any of these cases we must stop using the product immediately and contact the brand directly so that they indicate the steps to follow with said product.

What if the expiration date of the product has been erased? It’s alright, there is a possible solution. If, for some circumstance, you cannot find the expiration date of a cosmetic, there are websites that allow you to find out based on the brand and the batch. Of course, it is not a foolproof system, but it is a resource that can get you out of trouble..



In addition to the expiration date, cosmetics always include (usually on the packaging and in the box, next to the expiration date) what we know as the PAO symbol. I’m sure you have seen this symbol hundreds of times without knowing its name or what it really means. The PAO symbol (which refers to the Period After Opening) is made up of the image of an open jar, next to which are indicated a series of numbers followed by the letter M (for example, 12M for a year), thus indicating the number of months that the product can be used normally after opening.

Products with an expiration date of more than 30 months are not required to indicate the expiration date in the European Union, but in any case the PAO symbol must be used to show us the period during which we can use the cosmetic.

A good tip is that, if you have several products open at the same time (or if you have a terrible memory like mine), you can write down the opening date underneath it so that you always know when the PAO is running out.


The Moisturizer - PAO and Expiration date: when do skincare products expire?


I hope this article has helped you to know better when the cosmetics you have at home expire. As you can see, it is easy to know the expiration date of cosmetic products, once you get used to checking it, you will surely start doing it more frequently. Before you used to look at its expiration?


If you liked this article and want to continue learning about cosmetics and skincare, you will surely like these others:

Do you want to learn to take better care of your skin? You can see an index of all my informative posts here


The Moisturizer - Comparte en Instagram     The Moisturizer - Comparte en Facebook (@imthemoisturizer)     The Moisturizer - Comparte en Pinterest (@imthemoisturizer)     The Moisturizer - Comparte en Twitter     The Moisturizer - Comparte en Whatsapp 

Did you like this post?

● Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Pinterest.

● Share, comment and like my posts on social media.

Shop through my links to help me keep up with this blog.

The Moisturizer

I’m Nacho and I’m passionate about skincare. I really enjoy learning and sharing my knowledge about skincare and I read scientific papers so you don’t have to. I want to break stereotypes because I believe skincare has no gender: skin is skin.  


  1. Didya

    My sunscreen was opened last july, and its PAO is 12M but its expiration date is on october. Is it safe if I used it after it’s Pao (after july ) ??

    • Nacho · The Moisturizer

      Hi there Didya! 😊

      As I explain in this post, if a product has both PAO and expiration date, you should take both into account. That way, the stability of the product isn’t guaranteed once the first of any of those dates arrives (in your case, July).

      You can check this index of all my informative posts, I’m sure you will find it helpful 🖤

      Remember to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok and to like, comment and share my posts so that I can help more people take care of their skin 😉

      Have a lovely day,

  2. Çisel

    Hi! With some products it is impossible to understand if you are opening it first or someone else has opened it before. İs it possible to say in this case that PAO dates are less important or the PAO starts after direct contact with the skin so that we can see actual marks of usage on the product? I hope I made myself clear 🙂 thank you already

    • Nacho · The Moisturizer

      Hi Çisel! 😊

      I understand what you mean, and I believe that brands should make an effort to guarantee the protection of their cosmetics (for example, with seals, especially if they can be mishandled by customers at a shop). PAO implies the very first opening of the product aside from the manufacturing process, so its date should begin the first time someone opens the product (regardless of if that will be the final customer).

      Have a great day,

  3. Mythili

    Hi, if a product is opened on mar 2021 and the expiry date is Nov 2021. Pao period is 24 months. Which period u considered as expired.

    • Nacho · The Moisturizer

      Hi Mythili! Great question! 😊

      When a product has both a PAO symbol and a specific expiration date, you must always consider it as expired at the earliest date. In your case, the product should be considered as expired in the expiration date that has been consigned (November 2021), since it’s earlier than the PAO and thus stability isn’t guaranteed afterwards.

      I’d also recommend you to check this index of all my informative posts, I’m sure you will find it helpful 😉

      Remember to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok and to like, comment and share my posts so that I can help more people take care of their skin 🖤

      Have a great day,

  4. Aisya

    Hi Nacho, is the any guidelines how to conduct the PAO test? is the any specific symbol to use such as 6M, 12M and what is the maximum duration of the PAO?

    • Nacho · The Moisturizer

      Hi Aisya! 😊

      You should check the guidelines and regulations for your country/region regarding this topic, since they may differ. In the EU, the main regulation on cosmetics is the Regulation 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and the Council, which is complemented by other laws.

      Have a great day,

    • Nacho · The Moisturizer

      Hi Elizma! 😊

      I’m not really sure about what you mean, but I’d advise you to check this very post (in which I speak about the expiration of cosmetics) and my guide on labelling, in which I have included several tips to properly know the meaning of all the symbols you can find on your skincare products.

      Remember to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok and to like, comment and share my posts so that I can help more people take care of their skin 😉

      Have a great day,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Copyright © The Moisturizer
¿Quieres recibir todos mis posts? ⦙ Do you want to receive my posts?
Boton subir
Boton bajada