How to decode secret batch codes of beauty products

Secret Batch Code

Okay, confession time.  Do you ever bother to check the expiry date on your beauty products?  Well, I don’t.  I’ve not given this much thoughts plus there isn’t an expiration date for most products anyway because there’s no legal requirement to use expiry or use-by dates on the majority of products.

In fact, only products that won’t last longer than 30 months need to show a use-by date in the form of a month and year, whereas all other products don’t need one.  But of course, all products do have a shelf live especially skincare products that contains preservatives or “all natural” products that contain plant-derived ingredients.

3 years shelf life
From what I read, most products without a use-by date should be used within three years of leaving the factory.  If you keep them longer than that, they no longer work well and you increase the risk of contamination, particularly because of the repeated microbial exposure during use.  In fact, eye care products have even shorter shelf life and items like mascaras are recommended to be replaced 3 months after purchase.  

So how do we know when the product was manufactured?  The answer is to look at the batch code on the product package.   Batch codes are always printed on the package with different font from the product specification.  If the package is a bottle, the code can be found at either the bottom or the side of the bottle.  But figuring out the batch codes can be tricky.  An example is this that I picked out from various beauty forums.

The batch code on brands under Estee Lauder Group such as Mac, Estee Lauder, Clinque, Origins or La Mer uses 1 letter + 1 digit (or letter) + 1 digit.  The letter refers to the location,  the fist digit (or letter) corresponds to the months from January to December respectively while the last digit denotes the year (1: 2001, 2: 2002, etc). 

The batch code on brands under the L’oreal Group such as L’oreal, Lancome, Biotherm, Helen Rubinstein, Kiehl’s or The Body Shop begins with a letter for location, and a letter for year, and 3 numbers for days. A stands for 2004, B stands for 2005. Z is skipped, because it looks like “2”, so “Y” would denote 2003. The digit stands for the number of the day in a year (eg. 200th day) when the item was manufactured.

L’Occitane uses 3 digits and the first two denotes the week while the last refers to the year.  Christian Dior uses a combination of numbers and letters but only the first two are important with the year as denoted in the 1st digit, followed by a letter denoting the month starting with A for January up to M for December (the letter I is skipped). On the other hand, Clarins uses a number to denote the year, followed by two numbers for the month and another three numbers to identify the specific batch. 

If you think this is too complicated, think about the fact that there are so many different manufacturers and they actually use different coding system.  It’s almost like a secret coding, probably used to track counterfeits.

The good news is that there are now online resources to help you figure out although they’re rather limited at this stage.  Like the Cosmetics Wizard which is a calculator to help you calculate your cosmetics’ production date from the batch code on product package.  It’s still a beta version and currently only tracks 27 brands.  But hopefully, with increased usage, the database will expand to include more brands.

At the end of the day, I believe there is a bit more self learning to be involved.  It depends if we want to be proactive in finding out if the products we use on our skin is indeed safe or fresh.  Or are we just leaving it to chances because we’re not aware, or worst, can’t be bothered.  (Okay, I’m talking about myself here.)

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  1. says

    The 411 on codes motivated me to check all my beauty products. A few did end up in the trash.

    I always enjoy your blog. Your posts, as well as your voice, comes across loud and clear. Would you mind if I put you on my blogroll? You can email me at

    Girl Woman: Hey, thanks! Sure of course you can add mine to your blogroll. I’ll check yours out too.

  2. Li says

    Thanks for your de-coding. Elizabeth Arden has a different coding system, one digit followed by two letters. Do you know how to read the code as well? Thanks!

    Li: I’m not exactly familiar with EA’s but I believe the first digit refers to the year while the two letters, the month. But I have no idea how the month is read though.

  3. Aya says

    I still cannot understand the japanese way of batch coding the products (not only cosmetics). They use f.e.: 2027,+352…..730921240CO351 or UXA2, or E56GJ.
    I would be very grateful if somebody could explain how I can read them.

  4. Dilshad says

    Thank you for your informations, especially for cosmetic products, how I can
    get the expiry dates from the figuers or barcodes

    Dilshad: Glad it helped you. :)

  5. Tracey says

    Thanks for the information on batch codes! I am horrified to find some of the products I have bought are old and others I am now wondering if they are counterfeit. Is there a way of finding a database with Lancome codes on it to check if they are genuine or not? The products I am questioning are gift with purchase size so I’m not sure if the batch numbers differ for those?
    Many thanks

    Tracey: I’m not sure if the codes are different for samples but a good way is to write in and check just to make sure they’re not counterfeits.

  6. Rachel says

    Thanks for the info! Do you know anything about Murad’s batch codes? Would “N4D1″ mean it was produced in 2001?!

    Rachel: Sorry, I have no idea about Murad’s. You may want to write to the company to ask. They should answer.

    • pmak says

      This link has murad reply tell you how to read the batch code on the products…ment_reply

      The batch code on the product will provide you with the production date. The batch code consists of a letter-number-letter-number combination. The number represents the year of production and the 3rd letter represents the month it was produced. Sometimes there are two letters at the beginning, just focus on the number-letter combination.

      For Example:
      T9G1 would have been created July of 2009
      CC0H2 would have been created August of 2010

      We do not use the letter “I” in our codes. Below is the chart for the months of the year.

      A = January G = July

      B = February H = August

      C = March J = September

      D = April K = October

      E = May L = November

      F = June M = December

  7. Simon says


    Do you know how to decipher Lancome batch codes that don’t follow the pattern mentioned above (ie. 2 letters followed by 3 numbers).

    Some Lancome “Gift with Purchase” products have a batch code of 6 numbers/letters, eg.


    Do you know how to determine the production date from these batch codes?

    Also, is it possible to confirm the actual Lancome product simply from the batch code?


    • F says

      I have to do a correction from the L’Oreal code, 2 first digits is the location, letter is year (I think H is 2012), wnd here is the correction, after is the month starting from 1 to 9 and after O, N D and the following two digits is the production number for that product on the specific month.

  8. Katherine says

    This is very helpful. Does anybody knows how to identify the manufacturing or expiry date for Yonka.

    Katherine: Never heard of that brand…maybe someone else would have the answer…

  9. sakura says

    Help me with CB187 in Lancome Pure Focus cleansing gel?
    I dont know how to fingure out its
    Many thanks,

    • agnieszka says

      It seems that your product is very old: 2005/07/06 – see comments 29,32,35.
      (Now I’m playing with my new application and checking it ;-))

  10. Iraz says

    Thanks a LOT for this information — I was hopelessly searching for how to read L’oreal batches — now I know!

    Iraz: You’re welcome! :)

  11. says

    Is there any way to calculate batch number that is mostly printed on products?

    MEHK: I haven’t come across an easy way. It’s complicated as different manufacturers use different codes.

  12. RGM says

    I think L’oreal products changed the way they publish batch numbers. The first half of 2008, it’s exactly how you describe it; however, after this date, it’s entirely different. For example, My Lancome Pure Focus cleanser has “40E902″ as the batch number (it’s authentic, bought it in a Lancome boutique). Does anyone know how to read it?

    • agnieszka says

      I’ve just helped irina (see comments 32 and 35) and I’m glad to help you: 2008/09!
      (I have the special application on my iphone “Cosmetics Tester” I found it in the App Store)

  13. Mary Boner says

    This website is great. Now I know how to read expiry date codes. Boots the Chemist have over the past few years given me Clarins samples to try which are out of date. Surely this is illegal?

    • sesame says

      Maybe they think it’s because it’s samples but they shouldn’t be given them out if they’ve expired.

    • Suzie says

      Yesterday I learned how to tell the expiration dates of some brands. I ordered clarins body shaping supplement from on Nov. 28, 2011 and Apr. 5, 2012 respectively. Unfortunately, the batch code of this product which I purchased on Apr. 5, 2012 is 811120 (manufacture date: Nov. 2008); this product expired on Nov. 2011. Worst of all, still sold it to its customer. As for the one I purchased on Nov. 28, 2011, I already discarded the box, so I do not know its expiration date.

      • says

        I’m extremely tardy to the party but just want to say that I hope you reported this to Clarins! If so, any outcome from doing so?
        Anna last post is: The Bathroom

  14. smm43 says

    Great article, thanks for publishing it. But I think poster #29 is correct that L’Oreal and its brands have changed their batch codes.

  15. irina says

    i have a product from the body shop and the batch code is D141LB. your software says that is was manufactured 2010 years ago, and i guess that`s certainly wrong. can you help me out ?

    • agnieszka says

      I found another application which calculates the production date (“Cosmetics Tester” for iphone in App Store) and production date is 2007/05/21! I hope I could help 😉

  16. kathy says

    I have some estee lauder advanced night repair, but it does not have three #’s on it. On the bottom of the bottle imprinted in the bottle (not ink) is a one or 2 digit #. I have a few of these bottles. Does anyone know?

  17. agnieszka says

    this is so useful!! But for some brands Cosmetics Wizard doesn’t work(I think it is out-to-date e.g. Chanel). Thanks to you I found very useful application for my iphone “Cosmetics Tester” which reads manufacture date! I bought it on AppStore. Having phone in my bag I can even check the date in the shop!

  18. Fiona says

    I recently purchased a Kerastase Shampoo bottle from a retailed shop with half the price I see on the Internet. From what I understand, this would be a L’oreal Paris product. However, it doesn’t have an expiry date, only a PAO of 12 months. I am afraid that this could be a counterfeit cuz the batch code does not match what you described (2 letters, 3 digits). It says 3 474635 003762. Can you help me figure it out?

    • Archi Kabiraj says

      Hello Fiona,
      I have the same problem as you. My Kerastase (bain exfoliant hydrant) has the code 3474630430273. It’s made in spain. It has PAO of 12 months.

      I live in India. There is a stick on label which states the importer and the date of import and best before. I was just wondering whether this could be a counterfeit, since the expiry date is not etched on the bottle.

      Archi Kabiraj

  19. Maria says

    Hi, Do you know how to read the batch code on La Prairie cosmetics? I have one product which batch is the following: 8490444 .Thanks for your help.

    • Akiko says

      Hi Maria

      This is the info:

      Date of manufacture:
      9 of December, 2008
      Shelf life: 36 months
      Exp.: 12.2011
      Expire in 5 months

      Check out this website.

  20. Samin says

    Hi,I bought a tea tree oil of Body Shop whose batch no is 821176. What do i understand by this ? Thanks

    • agnieszka says

      As far as I know now The Body Shop belongs to L’Oreal. So this code seems to be strange and doesn’t look like code Body Shop and L’Oreal. So are you sure that you read right value?

    • Akiko says

      Hello Samin.

      Your code is incorrect.

      Go to this site:

      Try other numbers you can find.

      Look for THE BODY SHOP on the list.

  21. LadyJin says

    I found a website which can calculate production date from a code.
    Checked some of my cosmetics against it, and it’s quite funny: 6 items are OK and looks correct, but my completely brand new lipstick appears totally outdated, produced in 2003 :)
    Anyway, this site has much more brands available than famous Cosmetic Wizard, and I like it more.

    • Akiko says

      Hi,sorry, I haven’t read your post.

      That website is really great. Glad you’ve found it too.

      Hope all those guys here would check that site. very useful.

  22. Akiko says

    This article is not helpful with L’occitane cosmetics. The batch code reads 520 and the calculator can’t figure it out, despite it has just newly manufactured. I would recommend It is very accurate!

  23. Renata says

    I have LANCOME – RENERGIE Creme with code 40E604 and 40G202. Could you tell me the date of production. Thank you

  24. says

    There is an iphone application called ‘makeup life’ which tells the expiry dates of your cosmetic products:)

  25. says

    Thank you all for your comments on my page I made the page for my own interest and usage. However, I didn’t have enough time to update it. Now I have updated the website according to your comments. I am going to use more time to make it more user friendly and keep updating it more often. Please try it again when you have time :)

  26. Diana says

    This is wonderful information , thank you, was about to make a purchase of a eyeshadow blush kit from profound cosmetics …but before doing so searched for the company found out over 5 years ago they lost the trademark rights and switched the name to profusion cosmetics …..everything expires , even if you don’t open it …hate when powdered blush and eye shadow crumble apart smelling funky because of old age yet you just bought it. the kicker for me was the seller was selling it for sixtuplet the price she got it for less then a dollar the quality does not equate to $12 especially if its expired and of poor quality plus opened to display the product lol was searching for a way to find out how old a product is and found your site, extremely useful and will def save me from any further regretsy purchases <3

  27. shirley says

    It is a useful website here. Can anyone can advise me what is my Lancome eye serum expiration date with the bar code: 18H300? Many thanks.

  28. Diana says

    can anyone help me about Thierry Mugler batch code?
    I have a perfume and I can’t find how and where I can check his self life.
    Thanks for helping

  29. says

    Hi,could anybody help me out with batch code of BEd HEAD tigi cosmetics.I`ve bought hairspray /Batch code is 042712KK14 and SDA IL-1793 What does it mean?

  30. Adriana says

    today i got my hoola bronzer. I ordered it from the internet. at first i was so excited but on the internet it said 1 month till it expires. but i hear girls saying that they’ve had their hoola for over a year and no problems. and i can’t justify to buy a new one next month. so should i still keep mine? the product looks perfect to me.

  31. shan says

    Do you think serums in capsule/ampoule form would last longer than the traditional 2-3 yr shelf-life? Especially when you only open one capsule at a time to use it…..

  32. karishma says

    Hi i have got loreal absolute repair shampoo which i dunno if its original or nt…can u plz help the batch codes are B555485 AND B552176

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  35. Northern says

    Hi everybody! Can anyone help me with the codes of Valmont? I can’t find any information!! Thanks in advance!

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