Learn the Art Of Decoding Beauty Product Labels Now!


While you pick and shop for the choicest of products and cosmetics from across the world and online, staring at you are the labels of many brands. What do they mean? The jargons seem so confusing and the technical terms bounce over our heads. This is why it is important that you understand what decoding beauty product labels mean and how it becomes very important for your own needs.

decoding beauty product labels For beauty

There are many companies manufacturing beauty products these days. And they focus a lot on the front labels. They stamp it with quirky designs and attention catching logos too to seduce the customer’s eyes and mind as well. The packaging is pretty much cleverly done to seek our attention.

It is only on the back label, that all the important information that we need is printed. The texts are smaller than the front label, and the symbols may seem gibberish in the beginning, however, it is a determining factor to know the product’s quality too.

Understanding What Labels Mean:

Talking about decoding beauty product labels, here are a couple of very important elements, which you must take note of when you shop for the best and the choicest of beauty and cosmetic products.

The Ingredient List:

Be it cosmetic labels or skincare labels, as per the directives given by the USFDA or the US FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, all ingredients have to be listed on the product and that too in descending order of predominance. What this generally means for us is that the ingredient which is the most present in the product would be listed first, and the one with the least amount of presence in the product would be listed towards the end.

But please do note, just because some items in the beauty products are listed towards the end due to low percentages of them in the product, it means that their concentration needs to be low for them to work and not because they are inferior. This is why they are found at the end of the label list.

Ingredient List
Source: busantradeoffice.org

The Shelf Life:

Most products have a small symbol, such as a little jar icon which is found right at the end of the label. This is a PERIOD AFTER OPENING or the PAO symbol. There is a number and there is M in it which talk about the number of months the product can be safely used, once you open the seal of the product. If you do not see PAO on the end of the label, look for BSE which is BEST BEFORE END DATE SYMBOL. It would be represented by a symbol of an egg timer or an hourglass. Even the European Union is very strict and wants all cosmetic companies and brands to use these symbols, either of them on the label. But the USFDA is not forcing anyone to have expiration dates written on the label since they leave the safety of the product’s usage directly on the manufacturer.


It is a well-known fact that the US has a cosmetic industry which is not regulated. There are those from the US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE that allow products to have the USDA ORGANIC seal on them, but the FDA in return does not legally approve of cosmetics before they go into the market. Only if there are additives added to the product, will then the FDA talk about it as a legal case and have a say in its compositions, say experts.

Certifications of beauty product labels
Source: labelnet.co.uk

Now the question arises- who goes ahead to check the beauty products, and if they have any harmful chemicals in them or not? To be honest, there is no one who does that. This is why, there are many cosmetic and beauty products that have very harmful and toxic ingredients that have already flooded the market, not only in the US but worldwide too. And there are hardly any market restrictions for the same as well.

But there are governing bodies – private and NGO’s that ensure the customers get the right products for their needs. Some of them are ECOCERT, COALITION FOR CONSUMER INFORMATION ON COSMETICS (LEAPING BUNNY) and even PETA.

What does it mean to have a USDA ORGANIC seal?

When you see a product which says CERTIFIED ORGANIC or USDA ORGANIC, it means that around ninety-five percent of the ingredients are organic, certified to be so and that there are no synthetic additives such as dyes, pesticides, and preservatives in it.

Recycling And Disposal:

You would have noticed on the label there is a triangle which is made of arrows, which is called the MOBIUS LOOP. But do we know what it means? This does not mean ‘recyclable’. In fact, there is an amount of it which can be recycled and it will depend on the numerical code which is found inside of the loop. In addition to that, this is a code which will help you understand if the packaging is safe or not and it won’t leach onto anything.

There are plastic packaging labels which have codes named 1,3, 6 and 7, and they are indicators that the product has BPA and PARABENS in it. If the packaging is made from glass, it would not have numbers in the loop. What this means is that the packaging is completely safe to recycle any number of times. But those who decide not to recycle, they can check for the TRASH BIN ICON on the product’s label, which is an indicator that the package can be disposed off in an apt recycling bin safely.

Recycling And Disposal
Source: pinsdaddy.com


In some cases, a packaging may not be able to fit every piece of information on the label. For example, product warnings and instructions to use. In such cases, the REFER TO INSERT SYMBOL would be put, which denotes a hand that points to an open book. What this symbol means is that there would be a leaflet attached to the product or a card, which has all the important information you need.

Hence, this is how ingredients are listed on a product label, and we hope that now, when you pick and choose cosmetics and products, or beauty products, you will know how important those signs are when reading ingredient labels.

Have you ever wondered what those symbols mean or have you just ignored them and trusted the company by using the products? We hope this post is an eye opener for you and that you can now start reading the ingredient labels well. Comment and let us know.


  1. There are other cosmetics standard very respected in the natural and organic industry. For example NATRUE Standard sets high criteria and ensure consumers that their cosmetics products are free from cheminals, microbeads/microplastic, GMO, and not testes on animals.


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