Stephanie says…In some products they have a picture of what looks like a cream jar with a number followed by a capital “M”. For example, in Revlon’s Colorstay Liquid Eye Pen (the one with the felt tip) the jar appears with “6M” inside the picture. What does this mean?
The Right Brain responds:
Steph, what you’re referring to is the symbol for “Period After Opening,” or PAO, which is a type of expiration date that is required on cosmetics sold in the European Union. We mentioned this on our post on 4 Ways To Tell If Your Cosmetic Has Expired but we’ll go into more detail here for those in the Beauty Brains community who may not be familiar with this symbol and what it means.
Expiration dates and PAO
The period after opening symbol is supposed to let you know the “safe” period of time that a product may be used after the first time you open it. This labeling requirement was passed into law in the European Union (that’s “E.U.” for you acronym fans) in 2003 as part of the European Cosmetic Directive. If you’re in the US, you’ll see it on any products that were imported to the US for sale. You’ll also find it on any US products manufactured by international companies that have harmonized with the EU requirements.
The symbol includes a tiny open jar, followed by a number that indicates the time months and/or years. If the number is in months the number will be followed by the word “month(s)” or by the abbreviation “M”, which is short the letter “M” corresponding to mensis, the Latin word for month. (Gee, I wonder what other words related to “monthly activity” are derived from mensis?) So the “6M” on the Revlon package means that the eye liner is safe to use for 6 months after you first open it. In case you’re interested, the symbol is required on all products with a shelf life of 30 months or more.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
Period after opening, feh! It’s not very significant in our opinion because there’s no specific, consistent way that companies decide what that period of time really is. Part of the problem is that most cosmetics don’t automatically become less “safe” after a set period of time. (Maybe you could argue the case for a relaxer or some other caustic product.) But for regular products PAO has very little value.