Understanding the symbols used in cosmetic packaging design are necessary for any designer working in the packaging industry. These symbols educate the consumer about the product, helping them use the product safely and effectively once it’s been opened. As packaging designers, it is important to understand these icons when working on cosmetic packaging. Keeping customers informed about the product is my first priority when tackling a design solution, and while this can be communicated through the design itself, it is important to include widely accepted symbols to communicate warnings and information.
PERIOD AFTER OPENING (PAO)
There are currently no regulations requiring cosmetic companies in the U.S. to label shelf life, however European standards require that any product with a shelf life of less than 30 months be labeled with a “best used by” date. For products lasting longer than 30 months, the product must have a “period after opening” symbol. This is shown by a jar with the lid off, and a number. This indicates how long the product is good for, in terms of months, after it's been opened. If you’re like me, you’ve pulled an old dusty face product out from the depths of your makeup bag having no idea if you can still use it. Old products can cause breakouts and skin irritation, the opposite of what you want!
Tip: label the date you open something for the first time so you can know when to keep it, and when to toss it out!
This symbol is used when there is not enough space to include all the necessary information – an indication to look for it in the packaging. This is especially important when using a new product, you don’t want to mix up directions that could cause pain or injury! This may also contain the ingredient list, which is important to check if you have allergies or are sensitive to anything in the product.
The Estimated Symbol (or E symbol for short) is used to show that the product is filled using “average fill system”. Shown in grams or milliliters, this basically means you get "X" amount of product advertised. You want to get what you pay for! The E symbol would be placed directly after the amount indicated on the container.
Green dot is used to show that the manufacturer pays to recover and recycle the product. This is the product you DEFINITELY want to recycle. Although the symbol is trademarked worldwide, the recovery program is currently only in Europe. This should be placed alongside other symbols, and is not to replace the recyclable symbol, which indicates what products are to be recycled.
This one is obvious, but if the product has the possibility to go up in flames, definitely make sure it's indicated on the packaging. Don’t use near an open flame, or expose to high heat! This is not the product to use while you are lighting your favorite candle, you don’t want those precious locks to catch flame when you break out that can of hairspray.
Usually seen on plastics, the SPI (Society of the Plastics Industry) resin identification coding system is used to identify polymer types when recycling. This is very important when labeling packaging because just one wrong item could potentially ruin a batch during the recycling process. Plastics are recycled according to the resin type, and the recyclables are either hand sorted, or done through a process of shredding and separating through air or liquid density separation. Plastics must be sorted according to this system in order for the final product to be usable.
This symbol marks that a product has not been tested on animals, bunnies don’t wear lipstick! It pledges that the product is cruelty-free to a standard set by The Leaping Bunny Program. A company is authorized to use the symbol when they take a pledge that none of it’s products or their suppliers use animal testing at any phase in development and production, as well as commit to not doing so in the future.
Another symbol to depict a product not tested on animals at any point, and is cruelty free, is the PETA Bunny. No bunnies (or other animals) were harmed in the making of this product! PETA is an organization that fights for animal rights and safety, and will certify a company as being cruelty-free. Once this is done, the company has the opportunity to license the PETA Bunny logo.