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-Vinay Kumar Singh.
Officer Chief Research
Parammount Cosmetics India Limited, Bangalore.

Shelf Life of a Cosmetics is defined as the time over which the product retains specified properties when stored under expected or directed storage conditions or the period during which the manufacturer has determined a product to be best suited for use.

The change of quality over time is a function of storage temperature, humidity, package protection, product composition, water activity, processing conditions and ingredient quality.

Manufacturers have the responsibility to determine shelf life for products, as part of their task to substantiate product safety. FDA believes that failure to do so may cause a product to be adulterated or misbranded.
Voluntary shelf-life guidelines developed by the cosmetic industry vary, depending on the product and its intended use.

Cosmetic products are generally formulated and tested for a shelf life of 1 - 3 years under normal storage conditions, depending on a product's composition, packaging, preservation, and other factors.
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 shelf life (expiration dates) are simply "rules of thumb," and that a product's safety may expire long 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 the 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.

The typical output of a shelf life test is a plot of an amount of Decomposition Vs. storage time.  For some degradation reaction (lipid oxidation, microbial spoilage), a point will be reached at which the product quality will degrade markedly.

The shelf life for eye-area cosmetics is more limited than for other products. Because of repeated microbial exposure during use by the consumer and the risk of eye infections, some industry experts recommend replacing mascara 3 months after purchase. If mascara becomes dry, discard it. Do not add water or, even worse, saliva to moisten it, because that will 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.

Among other cosmetics that are likely to have an unusually short shelf life are certain "all natural" products that may contain plant-derived substances conducive to microbial growth. It also is important for consumers and manufacturers to consider the increased risk of contamination in products that contain non-traditional preservatives, or no preservatives at all.

Sharing makeup increases the risk of contamination. "Testers" commonly found at department store cosmetic counters are even more likely to become contaminated than the same products in an individual's home. If you feel you must test a cosmetic before purchasing it, apply it with a new, unused applicator, such as a fresh cotton swab.

Cosmetic products will remain safe and fit for their purpose for a long time provided they are stored under suitable conditions and not subjected to extreme temperatures. To ensure the maximum durability of cosmetic products, they should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and with the lids firmly closed.

It is important to avoid contaminating the products during normal use and so hands should be clean before putting fingers into products and the sharing of cosmetics is not encouraged.

Once opened, cosmetic products become exposed to dirt and microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts and moulds) that are found in the air, on the skin and on applicators and brushes. Microorganisms can get into products where they may be able live and grow.
It is difficult to avoid getting some microorganisms in an open product and so ingredients called preservatives are added to help kill the microorganisms before they become dangerous.

However, if a product becomes heavily contaminated, this may mean that you can get irritation of the skin or even an infection if the product is then used around the eyes or on your skin. So it is a good idea to check your products regularly.

If a product has not been stored properly, for example it has been left with the lid off for long periods of time, the product may ‘go off’ before either the best before date or the period after opening has passed. It is easy to spot this as these products may be discoloured, smell different or look unusual (lumpy rather than smooth for example). If this is the case, the product should not be used as they will certainly be unpleasant, might not do their job properly or could be a risk to someone whose skin is not healthy (cut or sunburnt skin for example).

All reputable companies put their products through a standard battery of ‘shelf-life’ challenges before putting them on the market.

Shelf Life doesn’t take into account some other important factors related to ‘consumer use’; Or ‘consumer abuse’, which is more likely.  For instance, they don’t reflect how often you use a product, whether you leave the lid off, if it’s kept in a steamy bathroom or your car, and whether or not you wash your hands before using it. According to Professor Michael Cork, a respected independent dermatologist, in a study he’d carried out into eczema creams used on children by their mothers, some were infected with staphylococcus, and some with MRSA, the resistant strain of staph.  And all because of poor hygiene…

Some important and valuable tips…for correct use.
•  Keep cosmetics away from light and heat.  
•  Travel with cosmetics in your hand luggage, to avoid exposing them to extremes of temperature in the hold.
•  Use those dinky little spatulas and nozzle caps which come with products; they’re designed to stop you contaminating the ingredients with less-than-spotless fingers.
•  Clean the spatulas often with hot water, then dry them on cotton wool.  
•  Look for pump-action products – which stop air/germs getting in.
•  Never water cosmetics down as you change the precise balance of preservatives added to keep a product safe.
•  Keep wide-mouthed jars firmly screwed.
•  Always wash and dry your hands before applying skincare or make-up.
•  Keep your make-up brushes standing up in a jar with the bristles up.

No doubt, Shelf life is the responsibility of manufacturer but Consumer must also use the product properly, store it as directed and do not contaminate it to help protect themselves and of course the Product.



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