What Those Symbols Actually Mean on Your Natural Beauty Products

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Opting for natural beauty products can benefit our complexions while also seriously saving our environment, but their labels can sometimes be a little tricky to decipher. Below, the most common symbols and icons you’ll see on these types of products, decoded. Surprisingly, these logos are far from confusing—in fact, each is very informative and will help you better navigate your favorite beauty aisle with an entirely new appreciation. 

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NSF Organic Certification Stamp

According to Abbot Stark, cofounder of Ogee, a certified-organic skin care line that counts jojoba oil as its key ingredient, the NSF certification signifies that the product contains the highest level of certified organic ingredients. “The organic certification is a stringent process,” Stark explains. “It requires that maximum organic content is utilized and allows only certain natural ingredients be used in formulations, with a very strict set of standards in place.” Plus, organic crops must be grown without using conventional pesticides and other synthetic chemicals, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and a variety of other banned ingredients.

Find it on: Promise Organic Nourishing Coconut Milk Facial Cream with Mango ($15)

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PETA Beauty Without Bunnies Logo

This symbol indicates that the company has met strict requirements to be PETA-certified as cruelty-free, which, according to the organization, means it “does not conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products anywhere in the world,” also pledging to never do so in the future. “Along with being PETA-certified, we also do not use animal-derived ingredients in our formulations or source our raw ingredients from companies who test on animals,” Elaine Becker, founder of Alighten Natural Skin Care, explains. “Customers who purchase products from companies who are committed to cruelty-free practices are sending a message with their dollars that this issue is important to them.”

Find it on: Alighten Natural Skin Care Vitality and Restoration Serum ($89)

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GMO-Free Symbol or Logo

Stark says that many countries have banned genetically modified crops and that some progressive U.S. states now require that they at least be identified on product labeling. “Ogee agrees that much more research needs to be done on the consequences to human and environmental health before the world begins to rely on genetically engineered monocoltures. This is why all Ogee products are free of ingredients that have been produced with genetically modified organisms.”

Find it on: Ogee Daily Facial Cleansing Cloths ($20)

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Vegan Symbol or Logo

A product that is labeled as vegan does not contain any animal-derived ingredients. “This includes but is not limited to: honey, beeswax, lanolin (sheep wool oil), collagen and gelatin (often derived from fish), albumen (egg white), squalane (shark-fin derived), carmine (beetle-derived) and cholesterol.”

Find it on: Milk Makeup Matcha Cleanser ($26)

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Period After Opening Symbol

The Period After Opening (PAO) symbol represents the expiration date based on the shelf life of a product after it is opened for the first time. “The number represents how many months should pass before the product is fully consumed after being opened for the first time.” So, if the number reads six, you have six months before you should throw it away. “Many people start using organic and natural skin care because they have discovered that up to 60 percent of ingredients are absorbed into our skin. That’s why it is that much more important that products are well protected and preserved in case they do spend time on the shelves before making it into our skin care regimens.”

Find it on: The majority of your go-to products. Find ours here

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Gluten-Free Symbol or Logo

Much like in our diets, Stark says that many consumers are reading the ingredient list on the back of their products due to gluten sensitivities, too, which extend to products that are applied topically. For a product to be certified as gluten-free, it cannot contain gluten or any ingredient derived from wheat sources.

Find it on: rms beauty Un-Cover Up Concealer/Foundation ($36)

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Leaping Bunny Logo

More commonplace among both skin care and cosmetic packaging, this logo is a nonanimal testing international standard. “The Leaping Bunny Logo certifies that a personal care company adheres to the Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals, and is a voluntary pledge to not test on animals during any stage of product development,” Stark says, explaining that when you see this on your product, it means none of the ingredients inside have been tested on animals and none of the products have tested on animals, either.

Find it on: Tata Harper Beautifying Face Oil ($68)

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