KNOWLEDGE IS POWER: Decoding Cosmetic Labels

Cosmetics label symbols contain variety important information about the product inside, such as the date of manufacture, expiration date, volume/weight, ingredients, precautions, direction of use, container recyclability, and more.  However, generally the most important information to us on our beauty products is what it claims to do or the eye-catching packaging.   We use cosmetic products daily and many ignore the essential information on the product label due to mysterious symbols.  These symbols educate consumers about the product and manufacturing process, helping them use the product safely and effectively.  Here are some widely accepted symbols to communicate warnings and information.  

This symbol indicates “best used by” date, how long the product is good for after opening.  If the symbol has 12M, this will expire 12 months after opening the product.  This doesn't necessarily mean that you will be rushed to the emergency room if you use the product after 13 months.  It means that the concentrations and potency of the product change over time which makes less active or stable than it was when you first opened it.  Therefore, it is important to follow recommended use by date. 


The lowercase ‘e’, an estimated symbol is used to show when the product is filled using “average fill system”.  In cosmetics, shown in grams (g) or millilitres (ml), showing the average volume or weight of the products is same as the number on the label. 


If any cosmetic product has a lifespan of less than 30 months, must have a BBE (BB,BE) date on the label.  This can be shown using the hourglass symbol followed by the date.  Cosmetics sold in the European Union must include either PAO or BBE symbol.  If there's no symbol, possibly marked with EXP followed by numbers indicating expiry date.  Once product has been open, check the PAO for how long the product is good for.

Manufactured date of the product is marked with either M, MFG, MFD front of the date.

The hand with booklet symbol, also known as "refer to insert" means you can find an enclosed leaflet outlining product warnings, conditions of use and ingredients list.  This leaflet often located inside the box or attached to the container of the product.  This symbol is used when there is not enough space to include all the necessary information.


This open flame symbol indicates that the product is flammable and should NOT be introduced and exposed to flames or high heat.  This symbol can be found in cosmetic products like hairspray, deodorant, nail polish and nail polish remover.  

This symbol of triangle made of arrows indicates that the container is recyclable.  When this symbol is shown with a percentage, it indicates how much of the packaging is made from recycled content.

This symbol is used in Europe which indicates that the manufacturer pays a recovery and recycling organization to manage their packaging waste in an eco-friendly manner.

This symbol means that 95% of your product is plant-based ingredients and 10% of all its ingredients are organic (by weight). 


This symbol means that the manufacturer has not performed any animal testing at any phase in product development by the company, its labs, or its suppliers.  It conforms to the standards set by the Leaping Bunny Program, Coalition for Consumer information of Cosmetics (CCIC).


The PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Cruelty Free Bunny indicates that the manufacturer and its supplier does NO animal testing at any point in the lifecycle of the product.  No bunnies or other animals were harmed in the making of its product!  In 2015, PETA introduced new logo (image right) for their certification program, however, the original logo can still be used.  PETA is an organisation that fights for animal rights and safety.

We hope to have cleared up some confusion and maybe even created a little interest in what goes on behind cosmetic production.  As with most things these days the general shopper can\t be expected to keep up with all the different certification types and their significance.  At JO:AH we want to cut through the confusion by only providing products that stand up to our highest standards and always trying to support sustainable alternatives and cruelty free options.  

You can always leave comments down below or write us, for any questions you may have.