The meaning of the little symbols and stamps on the backs of cosmetics bottles have been revealed in a TikTok video.
An American woman called Tracy posted the clip, which begins with a voiceover explaining that tiny jars marked with a number and the letter ‘M’ indicate the product’s shelf-life after opening.
Cosmetics labelled ‘6M’ are safe to use for just six months, while those marked ’12M’ can be used for up to a year.
‘Did y’all know this? I’ll still use expired stuff but now I know when it’s TOO expired,’ the caption reads, followed by the popular hashtag ‘TikTok taught me’.
The hashtag is linked to tens of millions of instructional videos on everything from tying shoelaces to renovating a bathroom without professional help.
A hand pointing to an open book indicates that there is more information about the product and how to use it included in the packaging.
These instructions are usually listed on a pamphlet insert or the opposite side of a peel-over sticker.
Manufacturers use the ‘hand book’ symbol when there isn’t enough space to include the relevant information on the bottle.
Most cosmetics have a tiny jar marked with a number followed by the letter ‘M’ on the back.
This indicates how long the product will last once opened, known in the manufacturing industry as a Period After Opening (PAO) symbol.
Products labelled ‘6M’ should be used for six months, while bottles labelled ’12M’ can be used safely for up to one year.
A half-filled hourglass on the base of cosmetics packaging means the product has a shelf-life of less than 30 months – two and a half years.
The symbol can be used in place of the figured and lettered jar, but is less specific regarding the exact expiry date.
In Europe, manufacturers are legally required to stamp the expiration date or the words ‘best before end of’ beside the hourglass.
A lowercase ‘e’ symbol on the back of a bottle indicates the product meets the European standard for ‘estimated volume’.
This guarantees the volume or amount listed on the label – 100ml, for example – is as accurate as possible.
The ‘e’ mark is also used on the outside of pre-packaging in Australia and South Africa.
Three arrows that form a triangle is the internationally accepted logo for recycling, which shows that the container is recyclable.
A percentage stamped in the middle of the triangle indicates how much of the packaging was made with recycled materials.
The symbol is often accompanied by letters underneath, intended to help the consumer determine if the container can be recycled.
These are called ‘resin identification symbols’ and indicate the type of plastic used in manufacturing.
A flame burning over a thick horizontal line indicates that the liquid inside the container is flammable.
It is most often seen on hairsprays and nail polish which contain flammable ingredients like ethanol.
Products with this symbol should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.