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Top 20 Cosmetic Symbols: The Ultimate Guide (+Free Downloads)

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Ultimate Cosmetic Symbols Pack (Free Download)

We have compiled our top 20 cosmetic icons that we use most often into one ultimate file. The icons come in both SVG and PNG file formats and in different sizes & colours.

We don’t want you to pay a lot of money for these icons on stock sites, so we’re providing them to you for free.

Intro­duction to Cosmetic Symbols

Cosmetic symbols play a big role in informing consumers about the various aspects of cosmetics products.

These symbols are a visual repre­sen­tation of important infor­mation, such as the type of ingre­dients present, whether the product is cruelty-free or vegan, and even details about the packa­ging’s recycla­bility.

As a new cosmetic business, under­standing and including these symbols into your labels and packaging is essential to provide trans­pa­rency to your consumers.

In this article, we will explore the meaning and signi­fi­cance of commonly used cosmetic symbols, as well as the benefits they bring both to your brand and to the conscious consumer.

Definition of Cosmetic Symbols

Cosmetic symbols are a set of visual signs or icons that are used on cosmetic products to provide important infor­mation to consumers. They serve as a universal language, helping consumers under­stand various aspects of the product before they make a purchase.

These symbols can give a wide range of infor­mation, such as the presence of animal-derived ingre­dients, expiry date, recycling instruc­tions, or even possible warnings related to skin irritation or protection against skin cancer.

Purpose of Cosmetic Symbols

Cosmetic symbols are important in the world of cosmetic brands. These symbols serve as visual cues that provide important infor­mation about a product’s charac­te­ristics and usage.

But why are they so important?

Well, most cosmetic brands only use them because some might be mandatory, but the purpose of these symbols is to ensure that consumers have all the necessary infor­mation to make informed decisions.

Let’s face it, not everyone has time to read through paragraphs of infor­mation. Plus, there may be language barriers that make it difficult for consumers to under­stand complex warnings or ingre­dients list..

That’s where symbols come in handy. They offer a quick and easy way for consumers to grasp important details about the product, like whether it contains animal-derived ingre­dients or its expiration date.

Moreover, these symbols can also provide warnings about potential skin irritation or the product’s ability to protect against skin cancer. They can even guide consumers on how to properly recycle the packaging. 

Top 9 Official Cosmetic Symbols

As cosmetic brands strive to commu­nicate important details about their products to consumers, the use of cosmetic symbols has become incre­asingly popular.

These symbols are a visual language that allows brands to provide key infor­mation quickly and effici­ently.

In this article, we will explore the top 9 most common cosmetic symbols, explaining their meanings and how they can benefit cosmetic brands in informing and connecting with consumers.


Jar Symbol: Period After Opening (Expiration Date)

Meaning of the Jar Symbol:

The Jar Symbol, also known as the Period After Opening symbol (PAO), is a small image that resembles an open jar with a number and the letter M inside it. This symbol is used to indicate the recom­mended period of time that a cosmetic product can be safely used after it has been opened.

The Jar Symbol serves as a guide for consumers to determine the expiration date of a cosmetic product. The number inside the jar represents the number of months that the product remains suitable for use after it has been opened. For example, if the symbol shows “12M,” it means the product can be used for up to 12 months after opening.

Is the Jar Symbol required?

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Adminis­tration (FDA) doesn’t require companies to display expiration dates on cosmetic labels.

Meanwhile, the European Union has a somewhat different set of rules:

  • For products that are good for more than 30 months, manufac­turers don’t need to put an exact expiration date, but they do need to use this open jar symbol, which tells consumers how long the product will last after it’s been opened.
  • For items with a shelf life of 30 months or less, the expiration date must be printed clearly on the packaging, with no jar symbol necessary.

Additio­nally, the E.U. allows some excep­tions to these guide­lines, including sealed or spray items, single-use products, and things that don’t typically degrade.


Hand in Book Symbol: Refer to Insert

Meaning of the Hand in Book Symbol:

The Hand in Book Symbol is a way for brands to provide extra details to their customers.

When you see this symbol, it means there’s more infor­mation available for you to read. It might be an insert or a leaflet inside the packaging that contains important details about the product.

Is the Hand in Book Symbol required?

In the European Union (EU), the use of this symbol is required when there’s not enough space to display mandatory infor­mation on the packaging.

However, in the United States, there is no similar regulatory requi­rement mandating the use of the “Hand in Book” symbol on cosmetic products​​. Although not required, employing the “Hand in Book” symbol is considered a common and good practice in the USA to provide consumers with additional product infor­mation when packaging space is limited.


Hourglass Symbol: Best Before End Date (BBE)

Meaning of the Hourglass Symbol:

The Hourglass Symbol, also known as the Best Before End (BBE) Date symbol, is a handy little image that looks like an hourglass. It’s all about showing when a cosmetic product’s shelf life comes to an end.

This symbol is used to indicate the recom­mended timeframe within which a product should be used for optimal safety and effec­ti­veness. It’s kind of like a expiration date for your cosmetics. 

Is the Hourlgass Symbol required?

Now, here’s the thing. In the EU, if a cosmetic product has a minimum durability of less than 30 months, the date of minimum durability must be clearly expressed, either by using the Hourglass Symbol or by indicating in words like “best used before the end of”.

In the USA, while the Hourglass symbol carries the same meaning, indicating a “best before” date for products with a lifespan of less than 30 months, its use is not mandated by regulatory requi­re­ments for cosmetics. However, expiration dates are required for over-the-counter products like sunscreen or acne medication.


E‑Symbol: Nominal Net Content

Meaning of the ℮-Symbol:

The E symbol is placed in front of quantity infor­mation if a product has been filled in accordance with the EU pre-packaging directive.

The EU now has clear rules on how exactly the quantity stated on the packaging has to be contained. Depending on the size of the packaging, there are certain limits for these diffe­rences. If the cosmetics manufac­turer adheres to the permitted upper limits by following the required filling methods, a small ℮ appears on the pack.

Is the ℮-Mark mandatory?

The ℮-mark isn’t a mandatory feature, but having it on your products smoothes the path to selling them across all EU countries. It elimi­nates the need to check compliance with individual national requi­re­ments.

But it’s not a free-for-all; you can only use the ℮-mark if your cosmetic manufac­turer adheres to the required measu­rement methods. It’s a good practice to check in with the manufac­turer to ensure they’re following the right measuring protocols before using the ℮-mark.

This symbol only applies to goods shipped within the EU and has no meaning for those shipped into the EU from non-member states.


Recycled Arrows Triangle Symbol: Mobius Loop

Meaning of the Recycled Arrows Triangle Symbol (Mobius Loop):

The Recycled Arrows Triangle Symbol, also known as the Mobius Loop, is a widely recognized symbol used to indicate that the packaging is recyclable.

This symbol consists of three arrows forming a triangle shape, with each arrow repre­senting one of the three core steps in the recycling process: reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Is the Mobius Loop required?

While the use of the Mobius Loop symbol is not legally required in any countries, it is highly recom­mended for cosmetic brands that are committed to sustaina­bility and environ­mental respon­si­bility.

By volun­t­arily using this symbol, brands show their dedication to reducing waste and promoting a circular economy.

However, if you choose to display the symbol on your packaging, you may find yourself in a position where you need to prove that the packaging is either recyclable, or crafted from recycled materials.


Green Dot Symbol

Meaning of the Green Dot Symbol:

The Green Dot Symbol represents a commitment to the environment and sustaina­bility. It signifies that the packaging of the product is part of a recycling program.

The Green Dot symbol is commonly seen on cosmetic products in European countries. It lets customers know that the cosmetic company supports the recycling process by contri­buting to and working with a recycling organization. This means that the packaging material can be recycled after use, helping to reduce waste and protect the environment.

Is the Green Dot Symbol mandatory?

The Green Dot symbol was tradi­tio­nally used in some European countries by companies to indicate compliance with packaging waste legis­lation. However, as of January 2023, displaying the Green Dot symbol on packaging is no longer mandatory anywhere in the world, including in the EU and USA.

By displaying this symbol, even tough it’s not mandatory, you can commu­nicate to your customers that you are dedicated to eco-friendly practices and sustainable packaging solutions. 

If companies choose to display the symbol, they must license it appro­priately


Vegan Society Symbol

Meaning of the Vegan Society Symbol:

Are you a cosmetic brand that values vegan ingre­dients? Well, the Vegan Society symbol is here to help you connect with conscious consumers who share the same values. This symbol signifies that your cosmetic products are free from any animal-derived ingre­dients.

Benefits of using the Vegan Society Symbol:

Using the Vegan Society symbol is optional, but it can have a signi­ficant impact on your brand. By displaying this symbol on your packaging, you can show your commitment to producing ethical and cruelty-free beauty products. It helps consumers easily identify that your products are vegan and align with their values.

Be careful! You can not just use this symbol without asking for approval and paying for licensing. You need to register your product here first.


Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free

Meaning of the Leaping Bunny Symbol:

Are you a cosmetic brand looking to ensure your products are cruelty-free? The Leaping Bunny symbol is here to help! This little bunny logo is a valuable tool for brands wanting to show their commitment to animal welfare. When you see the Leaping Bunny on a product, you can be confident that it has been thoroughly vetted and does not involve any animal testing.

Benefits of using thr Leaping Bunny Symbol:

Using the Leaping Bunny symbol is optional, but its impact is undeniable. By displaying this symbol on your packaging or website, you can diffe­ren­tiate yourself as a cruelty-free brand that values the well-being of animals. It helps you connect with like-minded consumers who prioritize ethical beauty products.

But again, you have to register before you can use it.


Ecocert Certi­fi­cation

Meaning of the Ecocert Certi­fi­cation:

Ecocert is a certi­fi­cation program that verifies the authen­ticity and quality of organic ingre­dients used in cosmetic products. When you see the Ecocert symbol on a cosmetic label, it means that specific criteria have been met to ensure organic farming practices were followed and that the product contains a high percentage of natural ingre­dients.

Benefits of using the Ecocert Certi­fi­cation:

This certi­fi­cation is voluntary, but it shows a commitment to sustaina­bility and environ­men­tally-friendly practices.

If you want to benefit from using the symbol, you have to apply here.

More useful symbols

Top 11 Non-Official Cosmetic Symbols

In addition to the official cosmetic symbols, many brands have adopted their own unique symbols to commu­nicate infor­mation about their products.

These non-official symbols may vary from an icon of a vector with bubbling chemicals on the silicone free symbol to a crossed out milk bottle to show that a product is lactose free.

  1. Sugar Free
  2. Additive Free
  3. Alcohol Free
  4. Antibac­terial
  5. SLS Free
  6. Silicone Free
  7. Lactose Free
  8. Gluten Free
  9. Lactose Free
  10. Paraben Free
  11. Not Tested on Animals

FAQ about Cosmetic Symbols

What do symbols on cosmetics mean?

Cosmetic symbols are like little visual keys that give us important infor­mation about the product. They can tell us if the packaging is recyclable, how long the product is good for after opening, if it contains natural or organic ingre­dients, and even if it’s suitable for vegans. 

What is the jar symbol on cosmetics?

The jar symbol on cosmetics is used to indicate the expiration date of the product once it has been opened. This symbol usually takes the form of an open jar with a number and an “M” to represent the number of months the product is safe to use after opening. For example, if you see a jar symbol with “12M”, it means that the product is safe to use for up to 12 months after you have opened it. 

What does the 6M, 12M, 24M & 36M symbol mean?

One common set of symbols found on most cosmetic lines represents the product’s shelf life. These symbols, which include 6M, 12M, 24M, and 36M, indicate the recom­mended period during which the cosmetic product is considered safe and effective to use after opening. The “M” stands for months, so a 6M symbol means the product should be used within six months after the seal is broken. Similarly, a product with a 12M Symbol should be used within twelve months, and so on.

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Benaja Miehling

"I'm Benaja, an economics student at FH München with a soft spot for the beauty industry. Managing social media for SBLC Cosmetics and writing blog posts on the side, I enjoy blending my studies with my interests, keeping things simple and engaging in both the economic and beauty worlds."

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