Top 20 Cosmetic Symbols: The Ultimate Guide

Posted by Xian Ying Zhang on

Introduction to Cosmetic Symbols

Cosmetic symbols are vital in educating consumers about the different aspects of cosmetic products.

These symbols visually represent key information, like ingredient type, cruelty-free or vegan status, and packaging recyclability.

Understanding and incorporating symbols on your labels and packaging is essential for providing transparency to your consumers as a new cosmetic business.

Discover the meaning and significance of widely-used cosmetic symbols and the benefits they offer to your brand and conscious consumers.

Definition of Cosmetic Symbols

Cosmetic symbols are visual signs or icons used on products to provide information to consumers. They act as a universal language, helping buyers understand the product before purchasing.

These symbols provide varius types of information, such as animal-derived ingredients, expiry date, recycling instructions, and warnings for skin irritation or protection against skin cancer.

Purpose of Cosmetic Symbols

Symbols are crucial in the cosmetic industry. They visually communicate important information about a product's characteristics and usage.

But why are they so important?

Well, most cosmetic brands use these symbols out of necessity, but their purpose is to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions.

Not everyone has time to read long paragraphs of information. Language barriers can also make it challenging for consumers to understand complex warnings or ingredients list.

Symbols are incredibly useful, providing a convenient and simple means for consumers to understand essential information regarding the product, such as the presence of animal-derived ingredients or the expiration date.

Additionally, these symbols can warn about potential skin irritation or the product’s ability to protect against skin cancer. They can also help consumers properly recycle the packaging.

 

Top 9 Official Cosmetic Symbols

Cosmetic brands are increasingly using symbols to communicate important product details to consumers.

These symbols are a visual language that helps brands share important information easily and effectively.

Discover the top 9 cosmetic symbols, their meanings, and how they benefit brands in informing and connecting with consumers.

No. Name  Meaning Symbol
1 Vegan Symbol Signifies that cosmetic products are free from any animal-derived ingredients. what is vegan makeup
2 Recycled Arrows Triangle Symbol: Mobius Loop Indicates that the packaging is recyclable. recycling symbol for makeup
3 Cruelty Free Symbol Indicates a commitment to animal welfare and no animal testing. Cruelty free makeup
4 Jar Symbol: Period After Opening (Expiration Date) Displays that there is more information available what is the meaning of open jar 12m?
5 Hourglass Symbol: Best Before End Date (BBE) Shows recommended timeframe which a product should be used for optimal safety and effectiveness. what is the meaning of hourglass symbol?
6 Hand in Book Symbol: Refer to Insert Displays that there is more information available what is the meaning of book and hand symbol
7 Green Dot Symbol Represents commitment to environmental sustainability and recycling. Green Dot Symbol
8 Ecocert Symbol Verifies the authenticity and quality of organic ingredients in cosmetic products. what is eco certificate for cosmetics?
9 E-Symbol: Nominal Net Content Shows amount or volume of the product inside the packaging. E-Symbol in cosmetics: Nominal Net Content

 

Leaf with a V or the word vegan

This logo isn't a standard makeup symbol and can be seen as a leaf with the word vegan around the circular image, or as a bold black-and-white V in a circle. Usually added by a brand, it is not certified by a third party, so the claims may differ. “Typically, this logo indicates that the product is free from animal-derived ingredients such as dairy, eggs, honey or meat,” explains Khanna. “It also does not contain any byproducts such as gelatin or whey. It’s important to note that just because a product is free from animal-derived products, it doesn’t mean that it’s vegan. Always read the ingredients list to double-check.”

Recycled Arrows Triangle Symbol: Mobius Loop

Meaning of the Recycled Arrows Triangle Symbol (Mobius Loop):

The Recycled Arrows Triangle Symbol, also known as the Mobius Loop, is a widely recognized symbol used to indicate that the packaging is recyclable.

While the use of the Mobius Loop symbol is not legally required in any countries, it is highly recommended for cosmetic brands that are committed to sustainability and environmental responsibility.

By voluntarily using this symbol, brands show their dedication to reducing waste and promoting a circular economy.

Meaning of the Cruelty Free Symbol:

Is your cosmetic brand committed to cruelty-free products? This bunny logo demonstrates your dedication to animal welfare. When you see the Bunny on a product, you can trust that it has been thoroughly vetted and does not involve animal testing.

Benefits of using the PETA Bunny Symbol (with the "R"circle):

Optional, but impactful: Display the "R" PETA Bunny symbol on your packaging or website to differentiate yourself as a cruelty-free brand that values animals' well-being. Connect with like-minded consumers who prioritize ethical beauty products.

But again, you have to register before you can use it.

Meaning of the Jar Symbol:

The Jar Symbol, also called the Period After Opening symbol (PAO), is a small image of an open jar with a number and the letter M inside. It indicates the recommended time that a cosmetic product can be safely used after opening.

The Jar Symbol acts as a guide for consumers to determine when a cosmetic product expires. The number inside the jar indicates how many months the product remains usable after it has been opened. For instance, if the symbol displays “12M,” it means the product can be used for up to 12 months after opening.

Is the Jar Symbol required?

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require companies to display expiration dates on cosmetic labels.

Meanwhile, the European Union has a somewhat different set of rules:

  • Manufacturers don't have to specify an exact expiration date for products that have a shelf life of more than 30 months. However, they must use the open jar symbol to indicate how long the product will last after it has been opened.
  • Items with a 30-month or shorter shelf life require a clear expiration date on the packaging, without the need for a jar symbol.

In the GCC countries, this symbol is required for cosmetics products.


Furthermore, the E.U. permits certain exceptions to these guidelines, such as sealed or spray items, single-use products, and items that usually do not degrade.

Hourglass Symbol: Best Before End Date (BBE)

Meaning of the Hourglass Symbol:

The Hourglass Symbol, or BBE Date symbol, is an image that looks like an hourglass. It shows when a cosmetic product's shelf life ends.

 

Is the Hourlgass Symbol required?

Now, here’s the thing. In the EU, if a cosmetic product has a minimum durability of less than 30 months, the date of minimum durability must be clearly expressed, either by using the Hourglass Symbol or by indicating in words like “best used before the end of”.

In the USA, while the Hourglass symbol carries the same meaning, indicating a “best before” date for products with a lifespan of less than 30 months, its use is not mandated by regulatory requirements for cosmetics. However, expiration dates are required for over-the-counter products like sunscreen or acne medication.

In other countries, this symbol is not required, but an expiry date is necessary.

Hand in Book Symbol: Refer to Insert

Meaning of the Hand in Book Symbol:

The Hand in Book Symbol helps brands give customers additional information.

When you see this symbol, it signifies there's more info for you to peruse. It could be an insert or a leaflet inside the packaging that holds vital details about the product.

Is the Hand in Book Symbol required?

In the European Union (EU)/GCC countries, the use of this symbol is required when there’s not enough space to display mandatory information on the packaging.

However, in the United States, there is no similar regulatory requirement mandating the use of the “Hand in Book” symbol on cosmetic products. Although not required, employing the “Hand in Book” symbol is considered a common and good practice in the USA to provide consumers with additional product information when packaging space is limited.

Meaning of the Green Dot Symbol:

The Green Dot Symbol indicates our dedication to the environment and sustainability. It shows that our product packaging is involved in a recycling program.

The Green Dot symbol is often found on cosmetic products in Europe. It shows customers that the cosmetic company supports recycling by working with a recycling organization. This means that the packaging material can be recycled after use, helping to reduce waste and protect the environment.

Is the Green Dot Symbol mandatory?

The Green Dot symbol was traditionally used in some European countries by companies to indicate compliance with packaging waste legislation. However, as of January 2023, displaying the Green Dot symbol on packaging is no longer mandatory anywhere in the world, including in the EU and USA.

By displaying this symbol, even tough it’s not mandatory, you can communicate to your customers that you are dedicated to eco-friendly practices and sustainable packaging solutions. 

Ecocert Certification

Meaning of the Ecocert Certification:

The Ecocert symbol on a cosmetic label verifies the authenticity and quality of organic ingredients. It ensures that organic farming practices were followed and that the product contains a high percentage of natural ingredients.

Benefits of using the Ecocert Certification:

This certification is voluntary, but it shows a commitment to sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices.

E‑Symbol: Nominal Net Content

Meaning of the ℮-Symbol:

The E symbol is positioned before quantity details if a product complies with the EU pre-packaging directive.

The EU now has specific regulations on how the stated quantity on the packaging must be contained. Depending on the packaging size, there are limits for these variations. Following the required filling methods and adhering to the permitted upper limits, a small ℮ symbol is shown on the pack.

Is the ℮-Mark mandatory?

The ℮-mark isn’t a mandatory feature, but having it on your products smoothes the path to selling them across all EU countries. It eliminates the need to check compliance with individual national requirements.

In other nations, it also necessitates the net weight on the packaging, but you can simply state the net content size, no need for the e-mark.

Top 11 Non-Official Cosmetic Symbols

Non-Official Cosmetic Symbols

Many brands have created their own symbols in addition to the official cosmetic symbols to provide information about their products.

These non-official symbols may vary from an icon of a vector with bubbling chemicals on the silicone free symbol to a crossed out milk bottle to show that a product is lactose free.

  1. Sugar Free
  2. Additive Free
  3. Alcohol Free
  4. Antibacterial
  5. SLS Free
  6. Silicone Free
  7. Lactose Free
  8. Gluten Free
  9. Lactose Free
  10. Paraben Free
  11. Not Tested on Animals

FAQ about Cosmetic Symbols

What do symbols on cosmetics mean?

Cosmetic symbols are simple visual cues that provide us with vital information about the product. They indicate whether the packaging can be recycled, the shelf life after opening, the presence of natural or organic ingredients, and suitability for vegans.

What is the jar symbol on cosmetics?

The jar symbol on cosmetics indicates the product's expiration date after opening. It appears as an open jar with a number and an “M” to represent the months it remains safe to use. For instance, a jar symbol with “12M” means the product is usable for up to 12 months after opening.

What does the 6M, 12M, 24M & 36M symbol mean?

Symbols on cosmetic lines indicate the safe and effective period for use after opening. For example, 6M means the product should be used within six months of opening.

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