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You Won't Want to Know How Old Your NEW Makeup Really Is!

21 August, 2017 - 01:46pm by - First Lady | 28 Comments

Why ‘Batch Code’ is going to be the most important beauty term you learn this year.

by BR Natalie

I did something unusual a couple of weeks ago.

I shopped beauty outlet stores.  Usually my cheap products come from the clearance section of official stockists, Farmers Red Dot, that sort of thing; otherwise I shop smart during sales and specials.  

I don't know why but I get the heebies from super cheap pop up sales and online clearance stores.  They always felt like the place makeup goes to die.  But I threw caution to the wind and acquired quite the haul in just one week - $250 later I had over 20 new products to play with. 

And yet, in the words of a shopped-out Vivian in Pretty Woman.  It was a big mistake. BIG.  Huge. 

You see, later that same week after buying my bargains, I discovered Batch Codes.  

What you need to know about the cosmetic life span.

The shelf life of an unopened cosmetic is not an easy thing to pinpoint.  Consensus seems to be a product stored correctly, should remain stable for 3 years.  It’s important to remember, any product is only considered in premium condition (regardless of how old it is) if it has been stored and transported correctly.  Imported and clearance products have gone from warehouse to store and back again at least once, often they’ve travelled the globe.  Whether the storage conditions are stringently monitored cannot verified.  Changes in temperature, being shaken and stirred, exposure to light - these things impact the formula and quality of a product.  (One BB cream I received frozen solid, when I first opened it – and that was just a journey from Auckland to Canterbury!)

The FDA and European standards mandate that products with an expiry of less than 30 months must carry an expiration date, and sunscreen which is classed as a medicinal product, must always display a date of expiry.  Here in New Zealand however, sunscreen is classed as a cosmetic, and cosmetics are not required to carry an expiration date.   They must however carry a batch code.

Wait, those random numbers mean something?

A batch code gives you the exact date of manufacture.  You'll find it printed somewhere on the product, in a different font to the labelling.  It's usually 4-8 digits long.  Here are some examples:

So - if you know when a product was made, you know it'll be past best (and potentially expired) 3 years after the date of manufacture.  And don't forget - 3 years is only a good estimate if the product has been stored and transported correctly, something very hard to verify once a product falls out of the official distribution chain.

There are two main cosmetic batch code databases online – and  I used both.  For most products, the codes were found in both databases, but all codes were found in at least one.  

Can you see where this is going?  Yeap.  My $250 haul has some right old doozies in it.  Brace yourself.  Because when you see how old my new make-up is, I guarantee you’re going to become obsessed with checking all your own recent purchases – and your future ones.

Haul of Horrors.

Y'all, I spent $20 on a FIVE year old foundation.  One bronzer was TEN YEARS OLD.  It was described as 'brand new and fresh' on the website.  

Mascaras over 3 years old.  Liquid bronzer four years old.  

Out of the many lipsticks I bought, the youngest was manufactured 5 years ago.  A SEVEN year old lip liner.  

$25 for a three year old face cream, containing SPF no less.  The current equivilent was on special for $30 at Countdown.  I checked that batch code in store.  Manufactured just six months ago.  

A BB Cream with SPF 30 that’s over 3 and a half years old.  Is that SPF still good?  I dunno, that’s another bloomin’ research rabbit hole I need to dive into.  I mean how can a consumer buy with confidence?  

80% of the cosmetics I bought were manufactured at least three years ago, 14 of the twenty products were over FOUR years old.

I’ve bought food that was out of date before, and I’ve taken it back.  Not because it wasn’t ok to eat, because it probably was - but it wasn't advertised as aged stock that could be considered 'past best'.  Neither were these beauty products.  We use them on our skin, which absorbs ingredients.  We use them near our eyes, which are open to infection.  We use them on our lips, meaning we ingest them.  If these products were labelled with their date of manufacture listed would the average consumer pay $7-25 for each of them?  Would they see them as an incredible bargain, or would they choose to shop elsewhere?

Have you used a batch code checker before?  Did the results surprise you?  Or is this the first you’ve heard of batch codes?  Will you be checking your future beauty purchases?  Would knowing a product was ‘old’ impact how you valued it?  Would it make it less of a bargain?

Get chatting below!


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I would be pretty annoyed to be paying good money for old stock! I've bought many products recently and am now afraid of discovering how old they truly are....

Wow, never knew anything about batch codes! I'm probably the majority that just checks the expiry date. Thank you for this, nothing is more important than making sure you receive what you're really paying for.

Wow! That's scary. I'll be checking batch codes in future, and will be using those databases when I next go through my make-up stash.

Oh wow - this is interesting and scary! I've never thought about how long they've been sitting there for, only how long I've opened them for. Will definitely have to be more careful

Well guess who's going to check the codes on every single piece of makeup I own now!

Have fun hahahaha, it becomes a game...what's the oldest thing I own. Read the FAQs on the Batch Code databases, it explains a bit more about the format of codes, how often they're repeated etc. xxx

3rd October, 2017 at 9:18 pm

It's hideous isn't it? the only thing I've bought that wasn't from BR recently is a Za CC cream. I hope it's fresh!I

3rd October, 2017 at 10:05 pm

AHahah so I may or may not have a mascara that I've had for 6 years and just didn't want to throw it out. It's a relic from the good ol' 2000s.

4th October, 2017 at 12:43 am

I've never heard of it before and I'm horrified Nat!

It's eye-opening. From official stockists and retailers I'd be less concerned in that it's most likely been stored correctly in the official supply chain, but when it comes to pop-up stores and clearance outlets, the products could have been

3rd October, 2017 at 10:07 pm

stored any which way. Some of them will have travelled around the globe, several times and that exposure to temperature extremes, transportation, movement etc is bound to compromise the stability! x

3rd October, 2017 at 10:08 pm

I know right?! It's why I switched from acrylic storage to drawers - in the dark and kept cool!

3rd October, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Thanks Nat. I'll stick with buying at stores I think - I tend to hoard things for a while as it is, so that only adds more time on. Good grief.

3rd October, 2017 at 10:10 pm

Wow that's something to think about going to check my stuff tomorrow haha

I always treated batch codes as a recall code if there was an issue with the product. I also think paying attention to product releases can help to an extent. To be honest I think it depends on the item that I have in my stash. A sharpened pencil, not so worried. Eyeshadow powders, they're powder and might have a bit more kick off. Unopened mascara, it should still be sterile in there right? Sunscreen after a year gets binned or turned in normal lotion as I don't feel it would protect the same.

Ive never heard of it before and makes me want to keep away from outlet stores and pop up makeup sales!!!!

yes me too !

4th October, 2017 at 6:34 am

I have never checked batch codes but will be in future! The old adage eh if it is too good to be true there is probably something wrong.I would have been caught with this too.

Wow this was so interesting to read, thanks so much! These massive cheap makeup sales make much more sense now...

Omg that's not right to still be selling some of those things. I've had a little look at my products this morning and I've found that a lot of my stuff isn't on there because it's a New Zealand brand. But I'm pretty confident about stuff made here.

I've heard of batch codes but I didn't know how to read them so gave up. I do keep track of expiry dates on my unopened products though. This is interesting!

I haven't purchased makeup online before, but now i know why it's so cheap! Thanks for the heads up.

I'll definitely be checking my batch codes from now on!! I'm a clearance junkie so definitely a piece of information I need!


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