There should be no more doubts about whether or not to use that opened tube of sun-cream you found at the back of a cupboard or the mascara in the bottom of your handbag, asserts the European Commission.
This is because the commission has adopted a symbol which, as from 11 March 2005, must be displayed on all cosmetic products with a durability of more than 30 months.
The symbol depicts an open cream jar and is accompanied by an indication in months or years of how long the product will remain suitable for use once it has been opened.
As European Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said: "Thanks to this new symbol, European consumers will have a greater assurance that they have bought a safe product, plus a guarantee of its quality. This measure comes in addition to the labelling obligations already in place and provides consumers with a greater depth of information about the cosmetic products they are using."
The commission stressed that the symbol will be particularly useful on products which, once opened, come into contact with the outside environment and therefore liable to degrade and become harmful.
The politicians plumped for a symbol because it makes for rapid identification - a written explanation can involve complications, the need for translation and lack of space on packaging.
According to a statement last Friday, the Commission has been working with the cosmetics industry to ensure that the message - the logo's design - gets across to the consumer as quickly as possible.
The adoption of the symbol is the first consequence of the Directive adopted last February by the Council and the European Parliament amending legislation on cosmetic products (see IP/03/55).
Before this new rule for products over 30 months, the cosmetic industry was under no legal obligation whatsoever to indicate durability on products.
For other cosmetic products - those with a durability of less than 30 months - a legal obligation to indicate the date of minimum durability was already in place.