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How do I work out the shelf life of my products

When you package and label your products, you will need to provide information on the shelf-life. There are several ways to do this, depending on the type of products you are making. Whether you use a Period After Opening symbol or a Best Before End date will also be dictated by the product formulation.


For simple, single phase products (not oil in water emulsions, like creams and lotions) such as balms, oils and butters we can provide guidance based on our knowledge of similar formulations and how they behave over time and during use once opened.  For soaps and bath bombs the same applies, we can advise on appropriate shelf-lives based on our observations of similar formulations.  We have been doing this for many years now and we have retained samples of products and formulations we have made ourselves to justify our data and apply it to your own products.


Information on BBE/PAO is contained in our free cosmetic label compliance document provided as part of our service to all clients.


For more complex formulations, such as emulsions, there are two ways to determine stability / shelf-life. The first is by making samples of your products for reference and observing any changes that occur over time and under certain conditions. The longer your product remains unchanged, the greater the shelf-life you can assign.  


The second method is to submit your samples for accelerated stability testing to a laboratory. In theory, after 18 weeks of this type of testing, a shelf-life of >36months can be used. The only issue with this method for small scale producers is the cost.

When we review your formulations as part of a quote/feedback, we will advise if lab based testing is needed, whilst working with you to help ensure that you don't spend money on unnecessary/repeated testing.  Products such as oil in water emulsions and other formulations containing water/at risk of exposure to water during use will need lab based Preservative Challenge Tests in addition to observations of stability.  Formulations such as these should be reviewed for compliance before you commit to the cost of lab tests.

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