Understanding cosmetic labels

Hello my lovely people out there!!!!

It is very important to know what the products we apply on our skin contain and not only to buy or not depending on what you like more or you need in that particular moment but also because a much more serious reason. You can be allergic to some of the components and you must know the component is present in that compound to avoid it. Other point is that some products are very expensive and it is important to know what is the best way of using the product to get the most of it, how to store it to avoid it becoming bad, when will it be expired, etc.

All what you need to know is present in the label. It is very important to know how to read and understand the cosmetics’ labels. I know it ca be tedious when you start reading names of ingredients you can’t even pronounce (although I am chemist I find hard to read some names….) but I am going to show you in this post which are the most important information you need to know from the labels in an easy way.

Following European guidelines, cosmetics products must be labelled in the product itself (tube, pot, etc.) as well as in the external package excepting for very small product which can be labelled only on the external pack but that must be indicated on the product itself. The EU Cosmetics Regulation requires the following information on the label and/or the package:

  • Name and address of the company
  • Ingredient list
  • Nominal Net
  • How to use the product and/or warnings (if needed)
  • Period after opening and/or best use before
  • Functionality (what the product is for)
  • Unique reference
  • Country of origin

Some information can be displayed as a symbol. If you want to know about this symbols check this post.

Let us see what each one of the points mentioned above is.

Name and Address of the Company

That is called the Responsible Person and is the “person” (can be a person or an organisation) you should contact if you have a question or you have a problem with the product.

List of Ingredients

If you are allergic to a compound, you should know if the cosmetic you pretend to use contains that ingredient. The cosmetic industry agreed the ingredients’ name in a common language so people from all countries can understand. That system is the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients or INCI. You can check there other names for the same product stated in the list.

The ingredients’ list must be headed by the word INGREDIENTS and they should be listed in order of weight in the product. That means that the cosmetic has more of the first ingredient stated and less amount of the last one.

Nominal Net

That is the quantity of the product in the container at the time it is filled in to the packaging. It is normally shown in grams for solid products and mL or oz. for liquid products. Single use packs (as sachets or capsules) and free samples do not need to show that information. If the product is sold as a collection of items, the number of items in the pack should be stated (for example, 3 sachets).

Warnings and/or How to use the product

That text allows the user to make a good use of the product, applying it in the correct amount, in the better possible way and avoiding certain things, as for example “avoid contact with the eyes” or “avoid exposure to sun”. That helps to prevent damages the product can cause.


There are two ways of showing the durability of the product. If the lifespan of the product is less than 30 months the product must display “Best Before the end of …..”. But if the lifespan of the product is longer than 30 months, the label must show a “Period After Opening” time. That can be 3, 6, 9, 12 or 18 months and indicates the time the product will remain in good conditions after it is opened for the first time.

What the product is

It can seems obvious but imagine a tube. This tube can contain face cream, hand cream, sunscreen or even toothpaste! You need to know what you are applying to your skin…..

A unique Reference

That can be the bar code or lot number. Its purpose is to identify the product. If for example there is a wrong batch, the company needs to recall that reference will be quoted and used to recall the products.

There are two type of product which must display additional information:

Sunscreen.- They must indicate the Sun Protection Factor or SPF. That is a number which is an indication of the amount of protection the product provides against UV-B radiation. That can be accompanied by the level of protection, from Low to Very High, which corresponds to a SPF range.


Protection Category




Very High







If the product protects also against UV-A radiation, in the pack must appear the letters UVA in a circle.


Hair Dye.- They must provide warning against allergies and safety instructions on the packaging and in a leaflet inside the product box. The leaflet must explain how to carry out an allergy test before using the product, how to correctly apply the product and for how long you should leave it in your hair. If a leaflet is included, the symbol below must be present.


That is all the regulatory information you must see in the label if you want to use a product safely. There are many other optional information as ingredients they avoid, ingredient they want to remark or how to recycle the pack but that is not something that MUST be there and it is not possible to talk about all of them. I hope that information is useful for you and from now you can know what you are buying.

See you soon!

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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