Monday, August 1, 2011

Did You Know? The "Period After Opening" Symbol

One of the first posts I ever wrote for Applied Glamour detailed the dangers of hanging on to old cosmetics, how they can harbor bacteria, and general guidelines for makeup expiration.  The FDA doesn't require expiration dates on beauty products, but many cosmetic companies have started expressing shelf life guidelines with the Period After Opening (PaO) symbol.  The PaO symbol tells you how many months the product will be useful after you open it the very first time. It's typically found on the back of product packaging, where the rest of the information is listed.  It's not yet a requirement in the United States so not every product will have a PaO symbol, but many do.  It looks like this:

Have you noticed it before?  I can't believe I never have!  I looked through the products in my makeup bag, and sure enough, there it was!  NARS pressed powder and eyeshadows are good for 36 months, my moisturizer should last 12, and I was shocked to discover that my Urban Decay Brightening Face Primer only lasts three months.  I bought it, oh, nine months ago!  Uhm, whoops...  I was also shocked to see that Rimmel thinks their mascara is good for 12 months.  Ladies, NO.  Mascara should always, always, always be tossed after four months.  Period.   

Clearly the PaO system isn't perfect, but it's cool that companies are trying, right?  At least most are off to a good start.  Still, it's important to familiarize yourself with traditionally accepted guidelines for makeup expiration.  Use your own judgement, and for goodness sake, if a product ever changes color, consistency, or smell, throw it out immediately!


  1. Wow great post! I always saw that on my beauty products and never knew what it meant. Thanks for the info...I will definitely be paying more attention to this now!

  2. I had no idea about this. I also wonder if certain types of products can... well, be cheated to last longer. for ex, if you use disposable eye shadow sponges or clean your brushes very regularly, maybe eye shadow can last longer?

  3. I'm glad you liked it, Emily! I thought it was pretty interesting myself.

    Melina, I'm sure they can. I hear lipsticks last longer if you store them in the fridge. I think the timeline is supposed to represent how long the preservatives are guaranteed to last. Honestly? I'm still hanging on to that primer I mentioned because it comes in a squeeze tube, which minimizes bacteria. If it were in a wide mouth jar I'd definitely think twice, but a squeeze tube with a tiny opening seems pretty safe to me. But that's just my own judgement :)

    The mascara PaO completely baffles me, though. ICK.

  4. I've seen but never knew why it was there! Fascinating!