Do you know how to read the symbols on cosmetics packaging?

It takes approx. 5 minutes to read this article

Being a conscious consumer is very important. Especially now that we know so much about the benefits of natural, non-animal tested cosmetics. How important is awareness in the world of cosmetics? Which labels are mandatory?

What is important to know about the labeling on the packaging?

Cosmetic packaging contains a lot of different information. Most of it – from the ingredients to the symbols – is very important for us, the consumers. Let’s focus on the pictograms that tell us, for example, how long you can store your cosmetics, whether they were tested on animals or even whether the cosmetic contains CFC, which has a direct impact on global warming.

The European Union imposes strict safety requirements on cosmetics manufacturers. Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council No. 1223/2009 issued on 30 November 2009 is valid in all EU countries. Thanks to it, the consumer can be sure that cosmetics sold in drugstores present the highest standard in terms of composition and packaging. In addition, this document is an agreement regulating the efficient exchange of goods between member countries.

Data of the producer – name and address of the entity responsible for the product

This is mandatory information and must appear on every package. It is permissible to use abbreviated information, but it must enable the identification of the person and his address

Trade name of the cosmetic

Current law allows the product trade name not to be placed on the packaging. In spite of this, the trade name of the product can be found on most cosmetics. Why? Because it is usually part of the marketing description of the product.

Nominal quantity

This is simply the amount of product in the package, indicated on the package. It is expressed in milliliters or grams.

Special warnings

On some packages there is important information from the manufacturer, these are additional warnings.

Lot number

This is information that can be found on every package, usually in the form of an embossed number or date. It can also be hidden in the barcode. This number allows you to identify a specific batch in case of a complaint or if an undesirable ingredient is found in it.

Dermatologically tested product

A product with this label has been dermatologically tested. No allergies or irritations occurred during such testing

Ingredients (INCI)

The ingredients of products are listed according to the international nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients. It must be preceded by the word “ingredients”. The individual ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.


This graphic replaces the words “Best before use” and is accompanied by the date

PAO symbol

This is the graphic with the open jar, or Period After Opening. The period of fitness for use after opening, which it defines, is given in number of months (6M, 9M, 24M)

Wrapped arrow

This graphic indicates that the composition of the product can be found under the label.

Keep clean

The trash can symbol is nothing but “Keep clean”.


Fortunately, more and more manufacturers have abandoned this form of checking cosmetics. It means that cosmetics were not tested on animals during the research phase. The picture can be replaced by the inscriptions: Not tested on Animals or BWC (Beauty Without Cruelty). Since 2004 there has been a complete ban on animal testing of cosmetics in the EU

Green point

Two arrows in a circle is a symbol that indicates that the manufacturer has paid for the recovery of materials that were used in the manufacture of packaging. This does not mean that the packaging is for recycling.


Three arrows arranged in a triangle form a symbol that allows the packaging to be reused. It is most often found on plastics or those made of aluminum.


This is a symbol that is placed on the packaging of cosmetics that protect from the sun. It means that its composition and effectiveness in sun protection is in accordance with EU requirements.


Ozone Friendly. CFC free symbolizes that the cosmetic does not contain CFCs, which are known to deplete the ozone layer


The flame symbol simply means that the contents are flammable

Symbol “E”

This is an abbreviation for the word “estimated” and indicates the estimated weight and volume of the product in the package

CE mark

This symbol indicates that the product complies with EU requirements

Symbol for the material type

The triangle formed by arrows with two numbers inside is nothing but an indication of what the packaging is made of and how it can be returned for recycling. The symbols 02 and 04 stand for different types of polyethylene and 41 for aluminium.

The number in the rectangle

This is an indication of the total capacity in milliliters. Only necessary for aerosol products.

Nature Cosmetic Certificates

These are additional markings awarded for a fee.

Many symbols, which we usually do not pay attention to, can provide us with a lot of valuable information. Being a conscious consumer means choosing cosmetics that are friendly to nature and animals, and their composition does not harm users.

Read also: BB, CC, or maybe DD? What are the differences between these creams and which one will be best for you?

Main photo: Elena Abrazhevich/

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