What do all those symbols on your beauty products actually mean?

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    Words by Lexxi Davis

    While we’re always on the hunt for the very best in new beauty tech, we might not be paying attention to the symbols that are labelled on every product we own.

    Yes, you might be able to tell easily if it’s anti-ageing, combats spots or gives you a wonder glow. But do you know the PAO (period after opening) or where to find the use by date?

    And what does that little leaping bunny mean??

    We’ve done the researching for you, so read on to get clued up on your beauty bag faves.

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    The lower case ‘e’ mark, means that the product has complied with E.U regulations regarding volume and weight, but is an estimate. So the net weight will always be the lowest on average of what you’re getting, so you’ll often get a little bit more.

    Folded Arrows

    Beauty symbols recycle

    This is an easy one and you’ve probably seen it before. It is of course the universal sign for recycling. If the symbol is stand alone, it means the packaging is recyclable. But if it has a percentage next to it, this indicates how much of the packaging is made from recycled content.


    ecocert beauty symbols

    While we now know what organic beauty actually means. This eco-friendly stamp means that the formula will be at least 95% made from natural ingredients, if accompanied by the phrase ‘Organic Cosmetic’ – which means that 95% of the plant-based ingredients come from organic farming.  If it says ‘Natural Cosmetic’ – this means that only 50% of its plant-based ingredients come from organic farming.

    Leaping Rabbit

    Leaping Bunny Beauty Symbols

    This jumping bunny signifies a product that is cruelty free. Both the product and the ingredients will not have been tested on animals. So always look out for this if you only shop vegan products.

    UVA Symbol

    UVA Beauty Symbol

    We all know our SPF in our daily face products, but if you see the UVA symbol, it means that the product contains the minimum recommended level of ultraviolet protection. Vital for retaining your youthful glow!

    Hands With Booklet

    Booket beauty symbol

    This handy icon means there is a leaflet attached to the product, that will tell you more in depth about the product warnings and conditions of use. It will usually be stuck to the bottom of a product, or will come inside the box.

    PAO (Period After Opening)

    PAO beauty symbol

    This little pot with all-important number is the recommended use-by time after opening the product. Most of them will be 6 or 12 ‘m’ – which obviously means months. Make-up can be unsanitary if used beyond this.

    So it’s vital to look at your dates for health reasons. And do we really need an excuse to go buy a new lippie?


    Very similar to the PAO, but the little hourglass icon indicates that the products life span is less than 30 months. This is a must for EU regulations. But that is two and a half years, so if you haven’t used in in that space of time, it’s probably best binning anyway…

    So get riffling through your make-up drawer at home, because it’s probably time for a clear out…


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