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A Guide to Symbols on Your Makeup Products

Choosing beauty products can be a nightmare. 

With so many different brands and product types out there, it’s hard enough trying to find the right product for your skin.

But when you start looking for things that are also vegan or made sustainably, it starts to feel more like finding a needle in a haystack than simply picking out your favourite beauty product.   

Ingredient lists on the back of products can be a maze in themselves… but then there’s the symbols on the packaging to consider too. Some symbols are fairly obvious but others aren’t easy to guess without resorting to Google (and honestly, who’s got time for that?).  

So, instead of doing that, here are 11 of the most common symbols on beauty products and what they mean to save you needing to look up each one!  

Vegan

As veganism becomes more well known, the vegan symbol is appearing on a huge array of products, not only beauty products, but food and clothing too. So this symbol might look the most familiar. The vegan symbol indicates that the product doesn’t contain any ingredients which are derived from animals. 

Leaping Bunny

The leaping bunny symbol indicates that the product is cruelty free and the product also hasn’t been tested on animals. So if you’re vegan and only use vegan products, check the product also has the leaping bunny symbol too to make sure the product not only doesn’t contain animal products, but it’s not been tested on animals either. 

Period After Opening

This little symbol of a pot with its lid open is shown on all products if they have a shelf life of over 30 months. The number inside the pot indicates how many months the product is ok for once it has been opened. It’s usually 6, 12 or 24 months but it can vary from product to product.  

Once you open a beauty product, that time window starts ticking and using the product after the recommended number of months might cause a reaction on your skin. So if you’ve had a product open longer than the number of months on the back of the product it’s time to throw it out! 

Interlocking arrows

This is sometimes shown as a green dot made up of two arrows interlocking in a circle. Sometimes this might be grey/black and white but it still means the same thing – it means that the company who made the product have contributed to recycling services. This symbol is only used in Europe so if you buy products from elsewhere such as the USA you might not see this symbol on the products. This doesn’t mean that the product is recyclable. However, the next symbol does… 

The Mobius Loop

This symbol means that the product packaging is recyclable. The Mobius Loop is a triangle shape made up of three arrows, creating a ‘loop’. If there is a percentage inside the loop (or next to it) this shows how much of the packaging comes from recycled materials. Always try to look out for this symbol and try to recycle the packaging where you can. 

Best Before Date

Not all products will show a ‘best before date’. Some products show a date (just like on food packaging) and some will show an hourglass symbol. The hourglass symbol simply indicates when the product should be used by… just like food has a shelf life.   

Once the product is opened however, make sure you refer to the Period After Opening to make sure you use it before it expires.  

In terms of makeup, if there’s no best before date it’s worth looking up how long each type of product lasts for so as to prevent any skin reactions. 

Flammable

One of the more obvious symbols – the flame indicates that a product is flammable. This is more likely to be found on nail varnishes and hairspray so be sure to keep them away from heat and naked flames!  

Estimated volume

This oversized letter ‘e’ on a product is a sign to show that under EU regulations, the volume of product inside the packaging cannot be lower than the amount stated. So this symbol basically gives you peace of mind that you’re getting the right amount of product inside that you expected. 

Eco-Cert

The Eco-cert symbol means that the product is made from 95% natural ingredients and at least 10% are organic. So if you like to stick to organic products, look out for this symbol.  

Leaflet

A good symbol to look for if you want to know more about a product! This symbol indicates that the product comes with a leaflet with additional information about the product inside. This is always handy if it’s not a product you’ve used before or if it’s an ingredient which is likely to not work well with other ingredients. 

UVA

If a product contains SPF it could protect against UVA rays, UVB rays… or both (also known as broad spectrum protection). The UVA symbol in a circle shows that a product has met European standards of UVA protection. If the circle isn’t there the product offers some UVA protection but hasn’t met the standard.  

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