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Most Important Symbols in Cosmetic Labels

Most Important Symbols in Cosmetic Labels

Sunday, 06 September 2020


I already talked about what a label must include complying with the legal requirements; you can read it HERE. As I mentioned in that post, some of the information comes in a symbol form, therefore the importance of knowing the meaning of each symbol. I am going to show you in this post the required ones plus some of the optional most common symbols.

Symbols that MUST be displayed by law

Period after opening (PAO)

That information is required in a product with a shelf life of 30 months or plus. The PAO is the time in months the product will stay in good condition after opening for the first time which means, after breaking the packaging seal. The symbol is an open jar with a number and an M inside which indicates how many months the product will be good for using (6M, 12M, etc)

Period After Opening Symbol

Best Before End Date (BBE). 

If the shelf life of the product is less than 30 months, the PAO doesn’t apply, and instead the “Best Before……” is required. The meaning is the same as any expiration date and its symbol is an hourglass or egg timer.

Best Before Symbol

European product MUST include PAO or BBE, whatever applies, but according to the US regulations, that information is not required. In that case, we should replace mascaras every 3 to 4 months, liquid makeup products after a year, and powder last two years or more.

Refer to Insert.

It is a hand pointing a book page. This symbol means that there is important additional information available with the product. It is common if the product is small or a lot of information needs to be displayed, as with the hair dyes.

Refer to Insert Symbol

Nominal Net Content. 

This symbol is an “e” and it is a legal requirement to indicate the exact content of the product on the pack at the moment it was filled. In solid product, it is indicated in grams whereas for a liquid product can be milliliters or liquid ounces. If the product comes in individual portions as capsules or sachets the number of individually packed units should be displayed.

Net Content Symbol


It is used in sun protection products and indicates the type of radiation the product protects against. It comes with the letters SPF and a number, which indicates the Protection Factor, which means how much it will protect you against UVB radiation, and PA to indicate the protection against UVA radiation protection.

Symbols in sunscreens

Optional symbols you can find in cosmetic labels

Moebius Loop. 

It is the well-known triangle made of arrows and indicates a recyclable container. There are few variations of this symbol:

Moebius Loop Symbol

  • Triangle inside a circle: Packaging made from recycled materials.
  • Triangle inside a circle with a percentage in it: The packaging contains that percentage of recycled materials.
  • Letters below the triangle: These letters indicate the material used to make the packaging

Green Dot Symbol. 

That is used only in Europe and the meaning is that the company pays a recycling and recovery organisation to certify that they are treating the wastes in an environmentally responsible way.

Green Dot Symbol


It is a nongovernmental certification program that indicates how much of the ingredients contained are organic. There are two certifications under the Ecocert umbrella: Ecocert organic, at least 95% of the plant-based ingredients are organic and Ecocert Natural, at least 50% of the plant*-based ingredients are organic.

Ecocert Symbol


Some companies don’t test the cosmetics they make in animals. These companies are called Cruelty Free and products display a symbol showing that are not tested in animals. This symbol can be different for US or Australia based companies, being the Leaping Bunny the international Cruelty-free symbol.


Cruelty-free Symbols

Vegan Products. 

Not all cruelty-free products are vegan. A vegan product doesn’t contain any ingredient or material coming from an animal. Cruelty-free products are not tested in animals but can contain ingredients from animals. A vegan product will display a Vegan symbol for identification.

Vegan Cosmetic Symbol

Substance free. 

Nowadays some people try to buy products that don’t contain a particular ingredient as parabens, sulfates, phthalates, etc. Products that don’t contain a specific ingredient show it in the label with the corresponding symbol.



Parabens Free Symbols

If you want to know more about some of these symbols download the free Symbols in Cosmetic Labels document by clicking in the image.

 See you soon with another post!!

Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

I love beauty and skincare, try new products, and share my opinion with you. All my knowledge comes from years of experience and reading articles. I have dry skin, Fitzpatrick type IV, warm undertone, and my main concern is hyperpigmentation. Keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you. We are all different and products can have different results on your skin. Want to talk? Email me at contact@irenebeautyandmore.com

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