Transparency and labelling
Do you understand everything on your cosmetic products' labels? We can help!
All cosmetic products include information on their labels that helps us ensure the product is suitable for us, as they allow us to understand, compare and choose our purchases as well-informed and responsible consumers.
The information that must appear on the labelling of all cosmetic products sold in the European Union is governed by European regulations, specifically Article 19 of the Cosmetics Regulation, and one of its main goals is to ensure transparency in the information provided to consumers.
Name and address of the responsible person
This must show the business name of the company and a way to contact it (phone number, email address, postal address, etc.). The purpose of this is to ensure that if any consumer has a question, comment or complaint about the product, they can easily contact the responsible body.
Nominal content of the product at the time of packaging the product. This may be given by weight or volume, in International System (SI) units.
What is the meaning of the symbol _______ accompanying the content?
This symbol appears when the product was packaged according to one of the existing statistical control systems, the “average fill system”, which is defined in the legislation. It ensures greater accuracy and transparency about the amount of the product at the time of packaging.
Over time, some products may lose volume or weight (such as water weight) and this may lead to slight differences to the content stated on the label.
This is not a specific symbol for cosmetics. Although most products include it, it is not compulsory. The “e” icon appears when the product was packaged according to one of the existing statistical control systems, the “average fill system”, which is defined in the legislation.
Regardless of this symbol, the net content corresponds to the amount of the product at the time of manufacturing, indicated in grammes (g) or millilitres (ml) depending on whether it is solid or liquid. Although this is usually compulsory, it can be omitted if the content is less than 5 g or 5 ml, in single-use packaging, or in free samples.
If the products are sold as part of a collection, the number of elements must also appear on the packaging. For example, 10 ampoules.
Date of minimum durability or PAO
This is the date until which a cosmetic product stored in suitable conditions will remain stable and usable for its initial function.
The date of minimum durability will be preceded by the symbol _______ or the expression “best before…”.
When a cosmetic product is expected to last more than 30 months, the date of minimum durability is not compulsory. The PAO (Period After Opening) ________ will appear, indicating how long the product remains safe to use after opening.
Some products do not need to show any of these times, because they do not deteriorate with normal use. Some examples are aerosols, where the product is completely sealed; perfumes, which have a high alcohol content; and single-use products.
Sometimes cosmetic products contain ingredients that must be accompanied by certain indications and usage warnings on the label for safety reasons.
The labelling may also indicate how the product should be used safely and for the best results.
Manufacturing batch number
A number assigned after the production of a product to enable traceability (its ingredients, where it was made, who made it, etc.). This reference number means any detail relating to products on the market can be identified, and is essential for inspection, claims and/or incidents.
What the product is
It is compulsory to include a description of what the cosmetic product is, or its function, unless this is obvious and understandable for the average consumer, whether due to its appearance or for some other reason.
List of ingredients
The list of ingredients must be preceded by the term “INGREDIENTS”.
Ingredients are included in the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients), a unified Latin terminology for use at the European level and in most of the rest of the world, which responds to the need for a global system unifying ingredient names and enabling consumers to identify them in any cosmetic product, no matter where it came from.
The ingredients will appear listed in decreasing order of concentration in the cosmetic product, until reaching concentrations of less than 1%. At lower concentrations, they may be listed in any order.
Other requirements for the list of ingredients are:
- Use the term “Parfum” for perfumes or fragrance materials
- Use the term “Aroma” for flavourings, such as those present in toothpaste
- Use the Colour Index (CI) for colourants
- In decorative cosmetics, the symbol “+/-” means “may contain”
In general, labelling information for cosmetic products will go on the main packaging, or if they are contained in a box, the information will go on the outer labelling to let consumers see the information.
However, when the product packaging is very small and it is difficult to include all the information on the label, it may be presented as a booklet attached to the product, or shown close to the products at the point of sale. The availability of additional information is indicated by the symbol ______.
In Europe, all companies are legally required to recycle and recover the packaging of their products. In Spain, Ecoembes and Ecovidrio are the non-profit entities created to ensure packaging can have a second life. The “Green Dot” symbol is normally used to indicate that the manufacturer complies with the law on packaging and packaging waste.
This voluntary symbol indicates that the product packaging is recyclable. A percentage shown inside it indicates the amount of the product that can be recycled.
This voluntary symbol encourages us to dispose of waste appropriately and to look after the environment.
These symbols indicate the source materials of plastic packaging: PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate), HDPE (high-density polyethylene), V or PVC (vinyl or polyvinyl chloride), LDPE (low-density polyethylene), PP (polypropylene), PS (polystyrene) and others, including several types of hard-to-recycle plastic.
Sun protection factor (SPF)
Sun protection factor is an indication of the protection a product provides against sunburn-causing solar radiation (mainly UVB rays).
SPF values range from 6 to 50+, depending on the protection offered by the cosmetic product. These values will be accompanied by an indication of the type of protection: low, medium, high or very high.
The presence of the UVA symbol on a sun protection product indicates that the protection it offers against UVA rays is at least 1/3 of the sun protection factor.