Whether you use product expiration dates as a rule or a recommendation in your personal life, these regulatory guidelines matter for brands developing products in the personal care space.
In this blog, David Rose, Associate Director of Sales, explains the difference between shelf life and PAO claims, and explains what they mean for bar soap, skin care, and other personal care product categories that we manufacture at Twincraft Skincare.
Shelf Life & PAO
More often than not, the question of Shelf Life & PAO (Period After Opening) claims comes up during the development process with our customers. Below is a quick guide that explains the differences between Shelf Life & PAO, how they are determined, and how your brand should approach making these claims.
What is Shelf Life?
Shelf Life is a guideline that indicates how long an unopened product is deemed safe to use before micro or degradation issues arise. This specific time period is based on the results of stability and challenge/micro tests that are conducted on every new formula.
Skincare Shelf Life
Shelf life for natural skincare products can be a concern because of the less reliable preservation systems that are often used in these formulas. While brands are looking for preservatives that are appropriate for use in products with clean claims, sometimes more testing or additional formula development work are required to achieve a product’s desired shelf life.
Bar Soap Shelf Life
Unlike most skincare products, bar soaps rarely encounter micro issues because they are primarily anhydrous products. Without water, microbes don’t thrive.
Therefore, the shelf life for bar soap is based on fragrance loss, color shift, or rancidity. Our standard shelf life for all bar soaps is 30 months. While bars will lose some weight, fragrance, and slightly discolor over time, in theory our bars will be a safe to use and functional for their entire existence.
As Wayne LaBonte, our VP of Sales & Marketing, likes to say, “When the nuclear apocalypse hits there will be two things left on this planet: cockroaches & bar soap!”
What is PAO?
PAO = “Period After Opening”
PAO indicates how the useful lifespan of a product after it has been opened. For the types of products we make here at Twincraft, this claim is largely dependent on the packaging type such as a jar, tube, or bottle.
In general, a jar would have a shorter PAO because of the constant potential for microbial contamination from a user repeatedly sticking their fingers in the product. This type of contamination is not a concern with a tube or bottle.
Other factors include if the product dries out faster due to a larger opening/orifice. There is a formal PAO test to determine the appropriate time to claim, however this is not currently required for products sold in the United States. The only market that requires a PAO claim on packaging is the EU and that only applies if the product’s shelf life is at least 30 months.
FAQs about Shelf Life & PAO
Should my brand indicate Shelf Life and/or PAO on the product?
It is entirely up to the brand. The EU is the only market currently requiring PAO on pack if the shelf life is at least 30 months.
If my product claims a 3 year shelf life AND a 12M PAO, does this mean the product has potentially 4 years of safe use?
No. The shelf life is the time period that determines how long the product is safe to use, regardless of when it was opened. If the product is opened immediately, the PAO would then indicate the new “safe period” of the product.
Is shelf life or PAO a warranty that a product will last as long as I need it to?
It's important to note that neither shelf life nor PAO should be confused with warranty. Warranty is how long we stand behind a product once it leaves our control as a manufacturer. Because we can't control post-shipment storage or use conditions, we can't warranty the product to be bulletproof (or rather, mold-proof) for beyond 12 months.
At a Glance: Twincraft's Guidelines for Shelf Life & PAO for Bar Soap vs. Skin Care
|Bar Soap||Skin Care|
If you have questions about shelf life or PAO when developing a product with Twincraft Skincare, please reach out to us. Our Regulatory Team will help your brand navigate this tricky space.