Understanding product symbols

Understanding the meaning of the product symbols used on skincare and cosmetics.

These symbols help to instantly inform you about a product. Telling you at a glance the commitment of the brand to ethical concerns, product safety and sustainability. How long to keep your product and the best way to recycle the vessel or packaging. Valuable information that’s in plain view but not always explained. 

Open jar -The little open jar icon indicates the life time period of the product after opening. The time period is shown in months and appears as a number followed by the letter ‘m’, either inside the jar symbol or next to it. 6M = the product is most effective if used within 6 months of opening, 9M etc
These are key numbers to take note of especially now as products contain more and more active ingredients.

My recommendation is to – Only open a new product when you’re ready to use it so you achieve the maximum effect from the ingredients.

Then use it as consistently as recommended. Products are meant to be used.  Some serums can begin to oxidise once opened and others get stronger if they’re evaporating rather than being dispensed. If the little jar symbol has 6 months on it, it really should be completely finished and replaced in that time frame.

Cruelty Free – the product is not tested on animals and does not contain any ingredients derived from animals. Companies that use this logo have been accredited and comply with a legally binding contract satisfying the organisation that their product and none of their product ingredients have ever been tested on animals by them or their suppliers. A license fee is paid to use this logo.  Internationally Peta Bunny and Leaping Bunny symbols are also well recognised cruelty free symbols – no bunnies were harmed in the making of this product.

FSC symbol – indicates certification that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a global not for profit organisation. In the skincare and cosmetic industry this symbol will appear on protective packaging and includes the paper used to provide extra product information within the packaging.

Open book / hand and book

This indicates that the manufacturer has included additional information somewhere else in the packaging. Information like the ingredients list, instructions for safe use and any warnings.

BB 00/00/00

Best before dates and batch numbers can be found printed on the underside or back of bottles and jars, or embossed onto the crimp / seal edge of a tube.
Batch numbers enable the product to be tracked and identified if there is an ingredient issue.
Best before dates are exactly that.
It’s worth checking best before dates particularly if you’re buying a sunscreen product where you need it to be fully effective. For any product you‘ll also want to know you have the necessary amount of time to use it before the best before date rolls around.

AUST L 000000

Sunscreen license numbers. This is extra validation that you are buying a product that has been fully tested and exceeds New Zealand and Australian rigorous sun safety standards.

It will show in fine print as an L ( with a sequence of numbers) or AUST L ( with a sequence of numbers)


The familiar mobius loop or triangle indicates a recyclable container.

The main variations on this are –
If the symbol is inside a solid circle, it means the packaging itself is already made from recycled material.
If the symbol is inside a circle and has a percentage inside the symbol it is made from that amount of recycled material.
A number inside the triangle and or letters below the triangle will indicate the particular resin used in making the plastic and assist with the sorting of the container for recycling.

Two other product symbols that can appear on products with European origins.

The Green dot. This is used in Europe to show that the manufacturer pays to recover and recycle the product in an ecologically responsible way. The symbol is trademarked worldwide however the recovery program only operates in Europe.

A lowercase “e” or the estimated sign. This indicates that the average volume or weight of the product across all of the cosmetics produced by the manufacturer is the same as the number on the label. A very useful symbol to recognise if a product looks slightly underfilled.

EAC – Eurasian Conformity mark is a certification mark to indicate products that conform to all technical regulations of the Eurasian Customs Union. It means that the EAC marked products meet all requirements of the corresponding technical regulations and have passed all conformity assessment procedures. E.g the safety of the skincare.

Thank you for reading

Robyn Prinsep
Salon Owner/ Expert Beauty Therapist
House of Beaute