PAO: what it is, how to recognize it and its importance in cosmetics

Respecting the PAO in cosmetics is essential, as every product in contact with the air deteriorates and its formula could be altered.

The PAO literally stands for Period After Opening”, is mandatory on product labels since 2005 and is indicated with a stylized open jar and a number that corresponds to the number of months in which it will be possible to use the product once opened, leaving its characteristics unchanged. Once the indicated period has passed, it will not be possible to guarantee the effectiveness and the integrity of the product itself.

PAO and expiration date are not the same thing

The PAO precisely as already explained concerns the duration of the product from the moment of its opening, while the expiration date (as also in the case of food) is exclusively indicated on easily perishable cosmetic products, and it relates to the still sealed product.

Regardless of the indications on the package, you should still pay attention to changes in texture, smell, and color that may indicate deterioration (for example in the summer when the heat can affect the formulations)

In this case, it is better to immediately suspend its use, unless the label shows a clear indication of the variation that does not affect its qualities.

However, there are products that do not need PAO

For example:

  • Cosmetics with a duration of less than 30 months

  • Single-dose packs and samples

  • Products that do not come into contact with the external environment

In the event that the cosmetics have a shelf life of less than 30 months, the deadline must be strictly indicated on the label of the product itself.

The indication of the expiry date is necessary in order to identify the period until which the product, optimally preserved, can continue to fulfil its initial function.

You must remember that even makeup products have an expiration date after their opening, and it should be respected.

The only exception that can be made concerns powders that, according to some studies, deteriorate much more slowly than cream products. Their durability and quality, however, is determined by how they are kept over time: makeup brushes must always be washed, in order not to transport bacteria either on the product or on the skin.

Powdered cosmetics have a much longer lifespan than cream cosmetics. Powders, eyeshadows, and pigments can be used for a long time, sometimes even exceeding the word PAO indicated by law (within the limits of common sense of course).

Cream products, on the other hand, deteriorate more quickly, varying texture and smell. Applying them to the skin could cause the onset of imperfections or irritations, so, in case of doubt, use caution especially if it is mascara or creams, products that before others undergo deterioration.

It must also be remembered that the storage conditions of the products are also very important to maintain the characteristics of the products themselves. Always keep them in a cool place and away from humidity. In this sense, the bathroom is never the right place to store them, since humidity can make them susceptible to contamination by fungi and bacteria, especially if they have a high percentage of water in their composition.

There is no equal rule for each product, and it is always necessary to check the symbols on the packaging. Organic and natural products, for example, expire more easily as they contain fewer preservatives. As for fragrances, if always stored away from light and heat sources, they can have a duration of more than two years: they are expired when you no longer perceive the scent but the smell of alcohol.


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