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Ahhh, Cosmetic Labels….it’s like deciphering an abbreviated foreign language in hopes of making a safe choice of not slathering poison on your skin, am I right?

It shouldn’t be this daunting, folks.

You will find that when you switch your skincare routines to a more natural and green set of brands, the ingredients become simpler to understand. However, still just as equally important to read because those harmful chemicals can sneak in like little bandits. Never trust fancy packaging!




If you really want to dive in and learn all the FDA Cosmetic Labeling Requirements it is laid out for you on their website. However, I will list some of the basic cosmetic labeling requirements here:


  • Brand Name
  • Product Name
  • Type of Product (ie. Shampoo, Conditioner, etc.)
  • Short Description of Product
  • Ingredients
  • How to Use
  • Product Weight
  • Manufacturer Details
  • Symbols




Not to sound like a broken record, but it is crucial to check (and understand) ingredients in cosmetics. Ingredients are always listed in descending order. The first ingredient is what the product contains most of and the list goes down from there.

What are “Active Ingredients in Cosmetics,” you ask? It’s a list a company will sometimes list on their website as a way to appear attractive by only listing their natural ingredients. However, when looking at the complete list of ingredients you can find those natural ingredients at the very end of their list which means they contain the least amount of those while the rest isn’t so clean.

As if that isn’t enough, a cosmetic label will also list the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients) list which are ingredients based on scientific nomenclature. If this is a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. You can use some of these tools to help you understand what the safe ingredients in cosmetics are and you can get to know what the potentially dangerous cosmetic ingredients list looks like.

List of Favorite Websites Tools:

Safe Cosmetics (Cosmetic Ingredient Search)

Cosmetics Info (Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary)

EWG’s Skin Deep (A database of ingredients and products that is user-based. You can search for Ingredients or Brands to see how they rate)

List of Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics:


  1. BHA & BHT
  2. DEA
  3. Formaldehyde
  4. Parabens
  5. Parfum
  6. Siloxanes
  7. Triclosan
  8. Phthalates
  9. PEGs
  10. Petrolatum




What are all of those packaging logos and what do they mean? These are some of the most common product label symbols questions:


  • What does 24m, 12m, 6m PAO mean on makeup? This describes the period of time the product is safe to use after opening. The logo typically looks like this

 cosmetic labeling requirements



  • What does the hourglass symbol on my products mean? This is the BBE symbol and it symbolizes that the product has a lifespan of fewer than 30 months and that it is “Best Before End Of” (this is typically only required in the European Union) 

 how to check ingredients in cosmetics


  • What is the difference between The Leaping Bunny and PETA Cruelty-Free Bunny symbols? The Leaping Bunny is internationally recognized and has a smaller list of participating brands because their certification process is more stringent and requires that products AND ingredients are not tested on animals. This means they confirm with ingredient suppliers that they in fact do not test on animals. It’s not just a manufacturer deal. The Leaping Bunny also conducts audits and requires re-accreditations every year. PETA, on the other hand, has a more lenient certification process and while they have more participating brands they also do not confirm suppliers and there is no re-accreditation required. One thing that really stands out as a difference between the two is that PETA accredits brands that say “We don’t test on animals, EXCEPT WHEN REQUIRED BY LAW” while the Leaping Bunny does not.

 leaping bunny logo

cruelty free





The green beauty industry has become more popular in the last few years and while organic and natural ingredients are fairly easy to understand it is just as important to regulate and set standards as a way to keep brands responsible and accountable. Environmental responsibility is just as important as the ingredients label. Environmentally friendly products, green beauty packaging, and sustainability all play a role in the environmental impact the cosmetic industry makes today. We have the power to make a huge difference on this planet, based just on the products we consume.

Here are some symbols you will find on green beauty and skincare:


  • Mobius Loop: Indicates the packaging is recyclable.

 fda cosmetic labeling requirements


  • Ecocert: This is a nongovernmental certification program that looks at the content of organic ingredients in a product. If you see this symbol on your product it means that at minimum 50% of the ingredients are plant-based and at least 5% are organic.

 packaging logos and what they mean



  • Natural Standard Seal: The NPA (Natural Standard and Certification) is a third-party certification that developed a set of standards and guidelines a product must adhere to qualify as “Natural”. This is a wonderful way to certify what the FDA does not regulate.


product label symbols


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