A lot of information can be derived from a skincare product’s packaging, from its ingredients to its benefits to instructions for its use. But have you ever wondered what the little printed symbols mean? You’ve probably seen them hundreds of times. You might even be familiar with a few of them. In case you’re not up to date, though, here’s what you need to know about your cosmetics, based on their labels. Period After Opening (PAO) This is one of the most important symbols to check when you open a new skincare product. The PAO is the drawing of a jar that contains a number followed by “M”, which indicates how long the formula will be good for after you open it. For example, if your product says 3M, that means that (once you break the product’s seal) you have three months to use it before the formula goes bad. Leaping Bunny This symbol is not only very well known in skincare but also one that many brands hope to be able to use. The leaping bunny certifies that no animal testing has been conducted in the development of the formula. The label is awarded as part of the Leaping Bunny Programme, operated by the US Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. Refer to Insert If you see an image of a hand pointing at a book, that means more information can be found about your product in the form of a brochure, a leaflet, or an insert inside the packaging. This is commonly found on products where there’s not enough space on packaging itself to explain everything, and lets the consumer know more information is available elsewhere. The Green Dot You might think this means the packaging is recyclable, but you would be wrong. The two, green, interlocking arrows tells you the product’s manufacturer pays a recycling organisation to supervise the management of their packaging waste. Mobius Loop A Mobius Loop is possibly the most recognisable of all the symbols, and means a product’s packaging is recyclable. Slightly different ones can mean different things, though. For example, if the logo is inside a circle, the container has been made from recycled materials, while a percentage number inside the triangle indicates the amount of recycled materials the manufacturer has used to produce the packaging. Ecocert While few regulations exist for the use of words like organic, clean, or natural in skincare, an Ecocert stamp does tell you a product is made from ingredients derived mostly from renewable sources and manufactured via environmentally friendly methods. You’ll usually find the word “organic” or “natural” on the side of this symbol. If it says organic, that means more than 95 per cent of the formula’s plant-based ingredients are organic. On the other hand, if you read “natural”, it means more than 50 per cent of those ingredients are from organic sources. The Ecocert stamp also guarantees a product is free from GMOs (genetically modified organisms), parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEGs (polyethylene glycol), synthetic perfumes and dyes, and animal-derived ingredients (unless inherently produced such as milk, honey, etc). Open Flame This logo tells you a product should be kept away from fire sources and high heat, as either its ingredients or packaging composition is flammable. You’ll usually find it on alcohol-based formulas, perfumes, hairspray, deodorant, nail polish, acetone, some formulations with specific essential oils, and more. Peta Cruelty-Free Bunny If a product displays the Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) logo, it means its formula and development is cruelty-free and made by businesses with an international ban on animal testing. To be certified by Peta, brands must not conduct, commission, pay for or allow their products to be tested on animals in any way, at any stage, either for ingredients or packaging. This symbol has been a cause of debate. Unlike the Leaping Bunny, Peta does not require companies to submit documentation, nor do they conduct investigations to guarantee adherence to cruelty-free standards. The legitimacy of Peta’s criteria therefore relies on the truthfulness and precision of reports created by the brands. UVA An important one to look for, especially when talking about sunscreen , this symbol guarantees that a formula meets the minimum European standards of ultraviolet protection against skin cancer – but only if there’s a circle around it. If you see the symbol without a circle, the product in question offers UVA protection but does not comply with the recommended standard of ultraviolet defence. Vegan Trademark The Vegan Trademark was one of the first plant-based certification methods, and can be seen on more than 60,000 products globally, from cosmetics to garments, edibles, drinks and more. For a product to be certified vegan, its manufacturer has to demonstrate it hasn’t been tested on animals or had any animal ingredients used in its production.