Shelf Life of Mary Kay Products: Date Codes Explained

Below is a guide that I originally wrote for eBay. (Mary Kay Product Shelf Life Secrets Revealed.) I’m reprinting it here because so many have written to me via eBay to tell me that they found it helpful.

Shelf Life of Mary Kay Products

I frequently receive questions regarding the shelf life of Mary Kay products, mostly from consumers who have purchased the items somewhere else and now are having questions.

What IS Shelf Life?

Shelf Life is the period of time during which a product can be stored, unopened, under specified environmental conditions and remain suitable for use.

How Shelf Life is Determined

Here’s the information provided by the company itself in material provided to its sales force: (emphasis mine)

“Most Mary Kay® products are manufactured to have a minimum shelf life of three years from the date of manufacture. This is the standard for the cosmetic industry, not a regulation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the shelf life of over-the-counter (OTC) drug products such as sunscreens, antiperspirants, etc., as follows:

If the shelf life is less than three years, then the expiration date of the product must be clearly indicated on the package. This is not required if the shelf life is greater than three years. Some Mary Kay® products (e.g., Acne Treatment Gel) may have an expiration date because they have a shelf life of less than three years. For these products, it is particularly important to check the expiration date before using them. …”

“We recommend storing products at a temperature between is 59-86°F. When products have been exposed to very high or low temperatures, examine them carefully. Note the appearance, odor, and color of each product. If these appear normal, the product has probably recovered completely. Occasionally, separation or an “off odor” will develop several weeks after exposure to high temperatures, but this is not usually the case. If your products have been overheated or frozen, it is NOT a good idea to refrigerate or heat them. Let them return slowly to room temperature, and then examine each product.”

So, most of the products have a shelf life of more than three years. Unopened and properly stored cosmetic items typically last from 5 to 8 years. After that, some products start to deteriorate and lose their effectiveness. Common signs of age are separating, color change, & odor. Here are some common warning signs that your items have gone bad:

  • Off odor” from ANY lotion, mask, or other cosmetic
  • Cream eye color that is cakey or dry
  • Foundation that has separated significantly in the bottle
  • Grainy or hard-to-apply lipstick

If you notice any of these characteristics in any item you have, toss it.

Finding the Manufacture Date

All Mary Kay products carry what is known as a “Date Code.” This is a four-digit code consisting of two letters followed by two numbers. This code is usually located on the bottom of a container or on the crimp. With this code, you know exactly when the item was manufactured. NOTE: This is not an expiration date, as some mistakenly believe.
For example, an eye color refill tray might be marked Crystalline #882800 FX05.

•“Crystalline” is the product shade name

• The six numbers (882800) indicate the part number

• The second four characters (FX05) indicate the date of manufacture, which in this example would be December 5, 2004.

The following products have a TWO YEAR shelf life:

Acne Treatment Gel*

TimeWise® Day Solution With Sunscreen SPF 15*

Sunless Tanning Lotion.

*Over-the-counter drug product

You can interpret the day code using the following legend:

Character 1:

Letter representing the year in the decade in which the product was produced.

A=2000 H=2005
B=2001 K=2006
C=2002 M=2007
D=2003 R=2008



Starting in 2011, they changed this system and the first character is now a number, as follows:

1 = 2011

2= 2012

3 = 2013

4= 2014

and so on

Character 2:

Letter representing the month of year in alpha order, as follows (please note that the code skips some letters to avoid confusion and mistaken identification):

A=January K=July
B=February M=August
C=March R=September
D=April T=October
F=May V=November
H=June X=December

Characters 3 and 4:

Numbers representing day of month. So, put it all together and here’s what you’ve got: If the date code is CT14, then the item was manufactured on October 14, 2002.

Date Codes for products manufactured before 2000

If your item was produced before the year 2000, the date code will not follow the form explained in the above section.
Prior to 2000, date codes began with a number, not a letter. Here are a few of the corresponding codes.

If the first digit of the code is the item was manufactured in the year
5 1995
6 1996
7 1997
8 1998
9 1999