A Beginner’s Guide to Cosmetic Packaging Symbols

The YesStyle Beauty Lab

When buying cosmetic products, it’s important to know what’s in the product and how to store it. That’s where those little symbols displayed on the back come in handy.

Alas, the symbols aren’t just for show and aren’t always straightforward. There are a lot of symbols on cosmetics out there but we won’t go into detail about each one. Here are six of the most common ones to start you off on your journey to understanding your cosmetic products.

Period after Opening

This symbol indicates how long you can use this product after opening. “M” stands for the number of months the product stays fresh. Some Korean products include a section where you can input the date it was opened so you know exactly when to say goodbye. Sadly, nothing lasts forever.

Once you reach the end of the product’s expiry date, you might hesitate to throw it away while insisting, “It was expensive!” Unfortunately, however, the product is dead. It won’t be as effective and in a worst-case scenario, it can even damage your skin. I find that sheet masks are the ones that I usually forget about and tend to go bad. Check your products and throw away any that have expired!

Estimated Symbol

Also known as the e-mark, this mostly appears on products that are packaged in Europe. It’s a symbol used to verify that the average quantity of a product isn’t less than the size or volume that’s printed on the packaging.

Further Information

No, this symbol isn’t telling you to read more but you should anyway (books are friends). This indicates that the product includes a leaflet to explain its usage, storage and ingredients. Packages that are small tend to have this symbol.

Remember: Don’t throw away leaflets since it’s always good to read about your products. If you have sensitive skin or are allergy-prone, checking ingredients should be habitual at this point. Be informed on how to use products properly to reap the best results.


This is one of the most important symbols on this list because it means that a product is highly flammable! Hopefully, it’s also self-explanatory and none of you guys think this means your product is perfect to throw in a bonfire!

Keep your flammable product away from sunlight and candles. There are a lot of folks who keep scented candles on their vanity – separate these items!

Green Dot

Usually in green-and-white or black-and-white, this symbol is called the Green Dot. It’s also seen in other colors to match the packaging’s aesthetic – as is the case on this blog as well. Often confused with the recycling symbol, this logo actually indicates that the company makes a financial contribution towards sorting, recovering and recycling of packaging materials.

Fun fact: The logo was conceived in Germany and it’s called Der Grüne Punkt in Deutsch. Upon hearing it, I immediately imagined an eco-friendly German rock punk band, which would be really cool if it existed.

Three Chasing Arrows

One of the most well-known symbols, and thankfully often seen on many products, is the Three Chasing Arrows, also known as the “Mobius Loop”. This means that a product’s packaging is recyclable and reusable. Whether or not the product is made from recycled material depends on the number figure that’s stated in the middle, which indicates the percentage of the product that comes from recycled materials. Here are the number variations and what they mean:

Recyclable: 1 PETE & 2 HDPE
Sometimes Recyclable: 4 LDPE & 5 PP
Reusable: 2 HDPE, 3 PVC, 4 LDPE & 5 PP
Avoid if Possible: 6 PS & 7 OTHER

Another fun fact: there’s a German connection with this symbol and the Green Dot logo. Designed in the 70s by a Californian, the symbol was heavily inspired by the Bauhaus (1920-30’s) subculture that originated in Germany.

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