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What the symbols on your make-up products really mean

Published on 27 July 2018|
1 min read

We see them but we don’t always understand what they mean.
By Louise M, Carrybeans

Have you noticed the tiny symbols on your cosmetic products? Well, it’s about time you should. Knowing what they mean will help you understand your products better.

Let’s learn what the common symbols mean

Period After Open (PAO)

Credit: Wikimedia

This open jar symbol shows you how long the product will stay good after you first open it. It is represented by a number followed by the letter M to mean month(s). Make sure to store it under normal circumstances to make full use of the time limit.

TIP: Write down the date when you first open the product to keep track of your length of use.


Credit: Wikipedia

The lower case ‘e’ means that the product has complied with European Union regulations regarding volume and weight, but is an estimate. This means it will always be the lowest on average of what you’re getting.

Products with a net quantity of less than 5g or 5ml, single-use packets, and free samples can leave out the e-mark.



Credit: Compliance signs

The symbol is a warning to keep flames or high heat away from the product at all times. Be careful with cosmetic products that have certain ingredients like alcohol and propellant gas such as hairspray and nail polishes.


Best Before End Date (BBD)

Credit: Wikimedia

The hourglass symbol specifies that the lifespan of the product is less than 30 months (2.5 years). The symbol can be followed by the date, or the words “Best before end of”, or abbreviated to BBE or EXP.  BBE is only required in the European Union.


Hand on Book

Credit: Glow Skincare

This symbol is telling you to look for a leaflet inside the packaging for more information. It is particularly useful for smaller cosmetic products since they don’t have enough space on their container to list all the product’s information.

Leaping Bunny

Credit: Fauxlist

This cute symbol means that the product has not undergone any new animal testing. No animals were harmed in any phase of product development by the company, its lab, or its suppliers. Basically, the product is cruelty-free.


Green Dot

Credit: Wikipedia

One of the positive symbols, this means that the company that produces the product pays a recovery and recycling organisation to manage its packaging waste in an eco-friendly manner. All companies in Europe and the UK have a legal obligation to recycle and recover packaging waste usually outsourced to a specialist company.


Mobius Loop

Credit: Recycling

A symbol that we all know and recognise; it means that the container is recyclable. A percentage next to it indicates how much of the packaging uses recycled material. A number inside the triangle and letter below means that the particular resin used in the container’s plastic is helpful to the recycling process.

Most of us are guilty of buying our cosmetics and keeping them way past their BBD. We don’t even care about the PAO. Could it be that we were just plain ignorant? Well now, go dig into your cosmetic bag and search for all these symbols!

If you love online shopping, you might have been lured in. Is it worth it?

Featured Image Credit: Pink Peonies

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