As beauty fans have become increasingly clued-up about the ingredients in their products, a lot more time has been spent scrutinizing the labels of our serums, shampoos and other beauty essentials. But what do all of those cryptic little symbols on our products really mean? Vogue decodes some of the most common below.
The Green Dot
The “Green Dot” is rarely actually green – more often black or white. But regardless of its hue, the interlocking arrow trademark demonstrates the company is a member of a recycling and recovery scheme which deals with packaging waste. “All companies in Europe have a legal obligation to recycle and recover packaging waste, usually via a specialist company”, says the Green Dot’s licensing company. Often confused with the recycling symbol, it instead means simply that the company has complied with packaging waste legislation.
The Mobius Loop
The Mobius Loop – three arrows that create a triangle – means that the product’s packaging can be recycled, but not necessarily that it has been made from recycled materials itself. Sometimes the symbol will appear with a number inside it, representing the percentage of the packaging that comes from recycled materials.
The E Mark
It is a legal requirement to state the net contents of a cosmetic product on the packaging, in grams or milliliters. The “E” mark must be shown “if the product is filled according to the ‘average fill system’ which is defined in weights and measures legislation,” explains Cosmetics Europe.
The PAO Symbol
The PAO – period after opening – symbol identifies the length of time after a product has been opened in which it should be used. Usually depicted as a jar with an open lid, the “M” represents months. Some products – like those in aerosols, for example – may not display this symbol, as they are effectively sealed and so can be used for longer.
The Flame Symbol
The appearance of a flame symbol on your packaging means that what’s inside is flammable, and should be kept away from high heat and flames at all times. You’re most likely to see the symbol on the likes of hairspray, deodorant and nail polish remover.
Refer To Insert Symbol
The symbol depicting a hand pointing to a booklet means that there is an additional leaflet or insert within the packaging that shares further information which couldn’t fit onto the exterior pack. For example the ingredients list, usage instructions or specific warnings about the product.
The Leaping Bunny Logo
The Leaping Bunny logo on your beauty packaging means that no new animal tests have been used in the development of the product inside. The symbol is internationally recognized and was created when eight national animal protection groups banded together to form the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC).
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This article first appeared on Vogue.co.uk