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.)


  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. Ann 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?

  4. Ann says:

    Help me out please with Tigi Bed head cosmetics/I`ve bought hairspray
    SDA IL-1793

  5. 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.

  6. 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…..

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

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  12. Randolph Hoover says:

    Does this apply to other products as well?

  13. Kam Hung says:

    Can anyone help? I am trying to understand the batch code from Moroccanoil treatment. The code looks like this: 4526OEP, 4504LEP, 3788LDO, and 4395OBP.

  14. Juanita says:

    Can anyone help me to know about the batch code of Bareminerals 1470HA1?

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    falling off my chair from laughter.
    …and, what are all you people thinking by asking serious questions in the comment?

  16. Jolene says:

    This conflicts with using and entering lot #’s to find shelf life. Since we own and operate a large ebay store for hba items we need to know this to list accurate descriptions with expiration dates. For instance, L’oreal products with the letter L in the lot # would expire in 2016, M would be 2017 and N would be 2018. We would just hate for someone to get the wrong information and not buy a perfectly good product because they think it is expired

  17. Vân says:

    Can anyone help me to know about the batch code of Shiseido 6242FB?

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  25. Amy says:

    Heya, I bought 3 products from Sephora Aus recently under tarte cosmetics. They arrived on 19/05/2018 however manufacturing dates or expiry dates are missing/not found. Batch codes are:
    – MF42 (UPC 846733013814)
    – CED1 (UPC 846733014217)
    – CF41 (UPC 846733014385)

    Would someone be able to decode the batch codes please?

  26. Maxine Johnson says:

    As a 30+ year formulation expert in personal care, I would like to let everyone know that trying to figure out the batch code is a waste of time. It very much depends on the innate stability of the product due to the nature of the formulation due to ingredients and formulation expertise and even more so it depends on how the customer uses the product. You must protect your cosmetic investment by taking care of them. Don’t keep them in heat and sunlight, don’t contaminate product (e.g. wash hands before getting cream out of a jar) if you want to extend how long you can use the product. If you don’t want to bother with that trouble, throw it out within a year or two after opening. After opening vs. before opening are two different things. Once opened and in use, oxidation, contamination, leaving it in a hot car, not keeping the lid shut (if its in a pump, you cannot really shut the lid), etc. can cause degradation. Ever buy milk where expiration date says its good, but it’s not? Enough said!

  27. PATRICIA says:

    I wonder could anyone tell me about the manufacture date on a bottle of, Erno Laszlo, phelityl day lotion fluid hydranant,ON THE BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE IS A NO B7D7A.

  28. Alina Lon says:

    Thanks for the article, i didn’t know before.

  29. Inessa says:

    How to decipher the year and month code of Kaaral hair cosmetics?

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