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Cosmetic shelf life: This is what the symbols on cosmetic products mean

Cosmetic products are mainly applied to sensitive areas of the skin. It is therefore important to pay special attention to the shelf life and not to use cosmetics for longer than stated on the packaging.

How is the shelf life shown on cosmetic products?

The shelf life of all cosmetic products is indicated by the image of a crucible on the product. A number and the letter "M" can be seen on the crucible. The number in combination with the letter indicates how long the products can still be used after opening. A care product with "12M" printed in the jar symbol has a shelf life of twelve months after opening.

Crucible: The symbolic crucible shows how many months the product can still be used after opening. (Source: dguv)

Since the expiry date does not count from the date of purchase but from the time the product was opened, you should use a waterproof pen to write down when the product was opened. It is therefore advisable not to open the product until you actually want to use it.

The shelf life information relates to proper storage. This often means storing the product in a dark, dry and cool place. Strong sunlight and high temperatures reduce the shelf life. Because this allows bacteria to multiply quickly and the condition of the product changes, creams become rancid.

Cosmetics that do not have a jar with the corresponding month on the packaging must have a best-before date. In some cases just an hourglass or the words "Best before" is printed with a date. This is often the case with products that have a shelf life of less than 30 months even when unopened, or with single-use packs. The specified date is not an expiration date, but a point in time up to which the content has at least its intended effect and is not harmful to health.

Hourglass: If products have a best-before date, this is written in the fold or next to an hourglass. (Source: dguv)

How long can the products really be kept for?

How long a care product can be used depends primarily on the ingredients it contains. It usually contains oils and fats that react with the oxygen in the air and quickly become rancid. The shelf life can be extended by adding antioxidants, but only for a certain period of time.

Cosmetics that contain high levels of water, such as day creams or body lotions, are prone to germ formation. Preservatives can curb and counteract the growth of bacteria in the product. However, these additives are rather undesirable in a cosmetic product. Many preservatives are incompatible with sensitive skin.

The trend is towards natural cosmetic products. Many manufacturers do not use preservatives. For this reason, natural cosmetic products have a significantly lower expiry date printed on them. It's three to four months.

Can you extend the shelf life?

Correct storage means that creams, shampoos and decorative cosmetics can be used for longer than specified. Put them in a cool and sheltered place. A good bathroom cabinet that is not on a heater can sometimes be sufficient. Some cosmetic products - especially powder, blush and eye shadow - should also be stored in an airtight box so that no water vapor can penetrate.

Many care products can also be stored in the refrigerator's egg compartment. This is especially true for creams and lotions. The following cosmetics should not be kept here:

  • Lipstick: Oil dissolves from the waxes it contains and the lipstick is harder to apply.
  • Nail polish: It can clump together and is more difficult to distribute. The paint should be at room temperature for application.
  • Perfume: If it gets too cold, it can lose its fragrance.
  • Powder, blush, highlighter: They start to crumble.

Nevertheless, keep these products in a dark, well-tempered room. For example, the bedroom closet is recommended.

Another trick you can use to reduce the multiplication of germs and thus extend the shelf life is pump dispensers. You dose the product in a particularly hygienic way. You do not have to put your fingers into the crucible to remove it, which may cause new bacteria to get into the product. If you cannot transfer the cosmetics, remove creams and co. With a spatula. You can buy this in pharmacies, among others.

In addition, you should always remove the care products with clean fingers. In this way you can also reduce the number of new germs in cosmetics.

Recognize expired cosmetics

If you're not sure whether the cosmetics are still okay, trust your instincts:

  • Smell the product. A rancid, sour or bitter smell can indicate an expired shelf life.
  • Take a look at the product. Is the consistency and color still the same? Have the components separated? If the product looks very different, it is better not to use it anymore and to dispose of it.
  • Pay attention to your body's reaction. If your skin reacts with redness, itching or a rash after applying care products, you should stop using the product, even if it still smells pleasant. In some cases, creams can be so strongly perfumed that an unpleasant smell is masked.

Yellow Cream: Trust Your Instincts. If the product smells bad or looks different, you should no longer use it. (Source: Mary Smith / Getty Images)

How long can decorative cosmetics keep?

Concealer, concealer

With regular cleaning up to twelve months.

Concealers and concealers often come into direct contact with the skin. This can quickly increase the number of germs - but the usability is reduced. To avoid this, you should avoid direct skin contact and only apply the products with the appropriate utensils - for example a sponge or brush. This will extend the length of time you can use the product.


Depending on the consistency, up to a year.

With liquid eyeliner, germs can multiply quickly due to the high water content. You should therefore replace the product after about eight months to prevent possible inflammation of the eye.

Kajal can be used for up to a year. It is best to clean the tip regularly to remove germs and bacteria and to prevent eye infections.


If stored well for up to a year.

If foundations often come into contact with sponges or brushes, germs can quickly form in the product. Therefore, make sure that you clean your sponges and brushes regularly and that you only remove the product with clean utensils.


Usually up to two years.

Because the product is often brought to the mouth, it can quickly come into contact with food residues. Lipstick is therefore particularly susceptible to germs. It is best to clean the surface several times a week with a cosmetic tissue.

Powder, blush, highlighter, eye shadow

Depending on the consistency between one and two years.

Powder can be kept for up to two years if it is removed with a clean brush and no foreign matter falls into it. This way you can keep loose and compact powder germ-free for longer.

Powder, blush and highlighter in cream form are more susceptible to germs because they have a higher proportion of water. They can get dirty quickly and should only be removed with clean utensils or clean fingers. Cream products of this type can be used for about a year.


Sometimes up to six months.

Since the product is used in the sensitive eye area, it contains only a few preservatives. You can extend the shelf life of mascara by pulling out the brush all at once and avoiding the sometimes typical pumping movement. The up and down can cause air to get into the pack. It promotes nucleation. Too many germs can lead to conjunctivitis.

How long can care products last?

  • Creams and lotions for the face and body: about a year after first opening, depending on the water content. This also applies to tinted day creams. Do not use the product again if the oil and water separate. In this case, a liquid will settle on the surface.
  • Deodorants: sometimes up to several years. If the antiperspirants contain alcohol, they can be used longer. Even if they do not come into direct skin contact. With deodorant sticks, you can also regularly clean the surface with a cosmetic tissue to remove germs and extend the shelf life.
  • Face masks: up to a year after opening. Discard the product if liquid settles on the surface.
  • Perfume: if properly stored up to two years. The wardrobe or chest of drawers in the bedroom, for example, is ideal. If the smell changes, you should stop using the scent.
  • Self-tanner:usually up to six months. The product loses its effectiveness after a certain period of time.
  • Sun cream, lotion: up to 36 months unopened. However, if the sun protection is in the sun longer, as is often the case on summer holidays, it is much shorter. The product does not lose its protective effect, but the ingredients can change and lead to skin irritations.
  • Toner, toner: sometimes up to two years. If the products contain alcohol, they can be used for longer.
  • Toothpaste: usually a year. The dental care products contain antibacterial agents, as the content comes into contact with the bacteria on the toothbrush, at least at the opening. However, you shouldn't use them any longer.

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  • Subjects:
  • Beauty,
  • Care products,
  • Cream,
  • Durability,
  • Germs,
  • Cosmetics,
  • Skin irritation,
  • Powder,
  • Inflammation,
  • Make up,
  • Everyday knowledge