In Europe, any cosmetic product that has a lifespan of less than 30 months must show a “Best before the end of” date. This can be shown using the “egg timer” symbol followed by the date, or the words, which can be abbreviated to BBE or Exp, followed by the date. The fact is there are very few cosmetics that are labeled with ‘best before’ dates because the majority of products are known to last more than 30 months.
Some products do not require any of these times to be shown because the product will not deteriorate in normal use. Examples are aerosols, which are effectively sealed; perfumes, which have high alcohol content; or single use packs.
Consumers should be aware that expiration dates are simply “rules of thumb,” and that, similar to foods, a product’s quality may decline before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored. Cosmetics that have been improperly stored – for example, exposed to high temperatures or sunlight, or opened and examined by consumers prior to final sale – may deteriorate substantially before the expiration date. On the other hand, products stored under ideal conditions may be acceptable long after the expiration date has been reached.
Why does eye makeup have a shorter shelf life?
The shelf life for eye-area cosmetics is more limited than for other products because it is more susceptible to microbial infection during use by the consumer and the risk of eye infections. Manufacturers usually recommend discarding mascara two to four months after purchase. If mascara becomes dry, it should be discarded. Do not add water or, even worse, saliva to moisten it, because that may introduce bacteria into the product. If you have an eye infection, consult a physician immediately, stop using all eye-area cosmetics, and discard those you were using when the infection occurred.
Best practices for using cosmetics and personal care products
Read the instructions carefully and take note of any warnings for use
Tightly close lids on products when they are not in use
Use products within the lifespan indicated by the Period After Opening symbol or best before date
Avoid storing products in direct sunlight or near sources of heat; choose cool (not freezing) areas where possible
Never dilute products (e.g., mixing water in mascara)
Apply products with clean hands or an applicator
Wash applicators thoroughly with soap, detergent or a mild shampoo then allow to dry completely before use
Avoid sharing cosmetics and personal cosmetic products with another person
Apply with new, unused applicator when testing at department store or cosmetic counter
When in doubt, throw it out!