Guilty of hoarding skincare products? We know how it is. But how long can these products last after being opened? That’s what we’re here to shed some light on! PAO or ‘period after opening‘ is essential for knowing if your skincare is safe to use, so you don’t want to miss this!
What is PAO: Period After Opening?
Did you know most beauty products have a PAO (period after opening) label right on the packaging itself? This “opened jar” symbol lets you know how long the product is safe to use after the day of its opening.
For example, if a product is labeled 12M, this means the brand can only guarantee that the product is safe to use for up to 12 months after you’ve opened the product! After that, the brand can no longer guarantee the safety or effectiveness of the product.
How do they determine the time frame? The number depends on their preservation system and stability testing of the product. Depending on their preservative system, a product’s PAO can differ!
Products with newer, and less-stable preservatives, tend to have a shorter PAO compared to those with a conventionally strong preservative system. So, if you see “natural” on your product label, make sure to check that ‘period after opening’ label carefully!
Period After Opening vs Expiration Date
PAO is different from the expiration date, aka shelf-life. Expiration date indicates the length of time a product will remain fresh and stable, despite it being left unopen and kept at room temperature. Typically, you can find the expiration date printed as “EXP MONTH/YEAR” on the product’s packaging.
Example: EXP 12/21 means the product will expire after December (12) 2021 (21).
Usually, the expiration date can last up to 3 years starting from the day of production. Meanwhile, PAO normally only lasts for a year. Always refer to whichever date comes first!
Example: Expiration date is 12/21, PAO is 6M and you open it on 1/21 (January 2021). This means your product will remain safe to use until July 2021! So it’s best to toss it after July even though the expiration date states December.
Time for some Korean vocab! For K-beauty products you might see the label “제조 (jeh-jo)” which means manufacture date. Or, you might see “까지 (ka-ji) “, which means expiration date.
Guide For PAO and Expiration Date
A product that isn’t safe for use might show a change of color, scent, or texture. The change can sometimes be subtle, so you might not even recognize it with the naked eye. Instead of risking your skin by using products that are past their prime, we highly suggest paying attention to the PAO!
How To Best Organize Your Products
Organization is key! And taking care of the products you have is crucial. Here are some tips for organizing your skincare so they don’t spoil and damage your skin:
- Use a marker and label your product the day you open them! This will help better organize your skincare stash and give you a clear timeline on when to toss them.
- Digitize the above method by keeping track of your opening date through your digital devices!
- Keep your products out of hot or damp rooms.
- Use a small spoon or spatula and avoid scooping products with dirty hands.
- Don’t open products until you’ve run out of a specific category.
Keep these tips in mind and hopefully you can save your skin from products gone ‘bad’ in the future!
How’s your skincare stash? Full or running on empty? Head to the Picky app and see which products you should be lining your shelves with! Don’t forget to check out other skincare science content here, and follow us on Instagram.