Here's What the Symbols on Your Makeup Labels Mean

Truth be told, generally the most important information to us on our makeup labels and beauty products is the shade, what it claims to do, and of course the eye-catching packaging (come on, you’ve got to admit it). However, we’re willing to bet that if you knew the products’ shelf lives and the ethics behind their manufacturing processes, your interest would be piqued a bit too. But what if we told you that that information is right on the packaging, in the form of symbols and tiny pictures that you probably skip over? Consider yourself in-the-know, as we’ve cracked the code on these pictures for you! To learn how to translate these (important!) symbols, check out the handy guide below!

makeup label symbols


When there’s a small lowercase “e” on your product, that means that the average volume or weight of the products is the same as what’s listed on the label, as per European Union law.

ecocert image for makeup products


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

expiration date after opening on beauty products

PAO (Period After Opening)

You know that tube of lipstick you keep in your weekend bag that you’ve probably held on to for way longer than you should? Makeup expiration is a very important guideline to follow, especially since expired, unsanitary makeup could greatly affect your health. To help let you know when to toss your product, this handy little jar symbol outlines the time period in which the makeup is safe to use (in the case of the symbol above, the “6M” denotes 6 months).

best before date for makeup products

Best Before End Date

Similar to the symbol above, this little hourglass symbol lets you know that the product has a life span of less than 30 months—which is quite some time—but better safe than sorry! 

refer to insert symbol on makeup items

Refer to Insert

Ever notice that teeny little booklet that comes attached to your products? Consider that your go-to guide for learning more about what you’re putting on your face. If ever you see this symbol, it means that the attached leaflet has warnings, directions, and ingredients that may be of value to you.

uva symbol on beauty products

UVA Symbol

This symbol is important for sun worshipers (and non–sun worshipers alike) since it means that the product contains at least the minimum recommended level of UVA protection for a sunscreen.

Looking for a foundation that gives great sun protection and coverage? It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream ($38) has a whopping SPF 50 and truly transforms your skin in the best way.

recycling organization symbol on beauty products

Green Dot

Another positive symbol to find on your packaging, this image means that the company that produces the product utilizes a recycling organization to manage its packaging waste in an eco-friendly manner.

leaping bunny or cruelty free symbol on beauty products

Leaping Bunny

No, this doesn’t mean your product comes with a free bunny (don’t we wish?), but instead that the product you’re using has not undergone any new animal testing in any phase of product development by the company, its lab, or its suppliers.

Speaking of cruelty-free, we love the animal-friendly Beautyblender Makeup Sponge ($20). It’s 100% vegan, too!

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