Are Your Cosmetic Labels Compliant?

What you need on your beauty & cosmetic labels

Are your cosmetic labels compliant with the requirements of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)? Strict guidelines are in place to protect consumers from products that are potentially unsafe or deceptively labeled.

The FDA regulates beauty and cosmetic products, however, it places much of the responsibility on the makers and manufacturers. To guide you through the regulations, we’ve taken a closer look at what you need to ensure your health and beauty product labels are compliant. Make sure to check all federal and state regulations before ordering your cosmetic labels.

What are considered cosmetics?

Cosmetics are defined by the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) as products intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body’s structure or functions. Cosmetics include products such as creams, lotions, perfumes, lipsticks, nail polishes, makeup, shampoos, hair colors, toothpaste, and any material intended for use as a component of a cosmetic.

Under the law, soap products that are made up mainly of an alkali salt of fatty acid and don’t make any label claim other than the cleansing of the human body are not considered cosmetics under the law.

Principal Display Panel (PDP)

This is the label that is examined under normal conditions for retail sale. The information shown here should include:

  • Product identity – What is your product, i.e. soap, lotion, scrub
  • Net contents – Weight or volume of product
  • Ingredients – What your product is made of
  • Warning labels – Such as “for external use only”

Additional information not on the PDP label should also be included somewhere on the packaging.

  • Directions for safe use
  • Name and place of business
  • Any other required information

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), all the information above must appear on the label of the outer container. This is usually a box, carton, or wrapper that holds an inner or immediate container. The immediate container that holds the product is considered the outer container if there isn’t a box or carton.

For specific detail on labeling requirements under US laws and related regulations, read the Cosmetics Labeling Guide from the FDA.

Product Labeling Symbols

So how do you fit all this information on your cosmetic labels? Use the symbols below to communicate more information to your consumers on a smaller label or container.

Shelf life

Shelf life symbol for product labels

The Period After Opening (PAO) symbol is the open jar icon. This icon indicates how many months the product will be good after it’s opened. This is typically on products with a shelf life of 30 months or more.

Best before date

Symbol for best buy date on labels

For products with a lifespan of fewer than 30 months, an hourglass icon and a “best before end of,” or BBE date is displayed.

Net contents

The estimated sign or e-mark required by EU.

The lowercase “e” is known as the estimated sign or e-mark. It is required by the EU and basically indicates that the quantity of the product in a batch of packages is the same as what’s stated on the label.

Refer to insert

Refer to insert symbol for product labels

When there’s required information such as ingredients and instructions to provide (and sometimes in multiple languages) there may not be enough room to do so. So this symbol lets consumers know there’s a leaflet, card, or other inserts to refer to inside the packaging.

Responsibility for packaging

Green dot symbol shows the manufacturer contributes to a recycling organization to manage packaging waste

The Green Dot trademark indicates the manufacturer financially contributes to a recycling organization to manage its packaging waste in an ecologically responsible manner. It is not a recycling symbol.

Responsible forest management

FSC trademark shows the paper used by company comes from responsible sources.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) trademark indicates the paper the company uses come from responsible sources. The use of the logo requires authorization and a license code from the FSC.

Organic seal

Organic symbol indicates the product meets strict production and labeling requirements of USDA

The Organic seal indicates the product has met strict production and labeling requirements of the USDA, and the final product is certified. Selling a product as organic when it is not can cost a company up to $11K for each violation.

US Public Health Service seal

US Public Health Service Seal

Products bearing the U.S. Public Health Service seal must contain 70% organic ingredients. Also, they must follow strict guidelines for manufacturing and processing.


Cruelty free symbol for product labels

PETA runs the well-known Beauty Without Bunnies certification program, however, the Leaping Bunny is another internationally recognized certification that upholds a stricter program and mandatory audits.

Body care standards

Whole Foods developed strict baseline body care standards in quality sourcing and environmental impact in order for products to earn the Premium Body Care logo. They’ve also identified more than 400 ingredients deemed unacceptable.

Full label disclosure

The Environmental Working Group, or EWG, established the EWG VERIFIED mark to indicate the product meets the strictest standards when it comes to harmful chemicals.

GMO avoidance

Non GMO project verified seal

To earn the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, products must complete third-party verification for their product labeling and certifications to ensure products have been thoroughly evaluated by an independent party for compliance.


Gluten free symbol for product labels

The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) leads a strict gluten-free certification program. They inspect products and manufacturing facilities fr the presence of gluten. Products bearing the gluten-free symbol must be certified by a third party to earn certification.

Download the chart below for quick reference

Chart featuring codes for beauty product labels

Please note: We are not lawyers or a law firm and we do not provide legal, business, or regulatory advice. The accuracy, completeness, adequacy, or currency of the content is not warranted or guaranteed. Our sites and services are not substitutes for the advice or services of an attorney. We recommend you consult a lawyer or other appropriate professional if you want the legal, business, or regulatory advice.


Author: Melanie Neff

Melanie has an extensive writing background built on an impressive journalism foundation. As a journalist for USA Today and The Los Angeles Times for almost 20 years, she covered everything from the Los Angeles riots, fires and floods to LA Lakers and Clippers games and movie premieres. She followed her newspaper career with a long tenure covering commercial real estate financing and development. Melanie has currently been writing about small business marketing and labeling needs for the past 10 years. She thrives on reading, researching and expanding her knowledge of everything going on in today's business world and looks to provide the most valuable information she can to her readers.

6 thoughts on “Are Your Cosmetic Labels Compliant?”

  1. Does Avery conduct animal testing for its products or ingredients? Does Avery purchase from suppliers who do test on aninals? Are Avery products free from animal-derived ingredients? Does Avery make cruelty-free products?

    1. Natalie,
      No, Avery does not conduct any type of animal testing on our products, as our products are not intended for animal use. And all Avery products are free from any animal by-products.

      Hope that answers your questions. Thank you for your readership.

      1. Melanie,
        Thank you for the reply. Clearly the products are not meant for animal use, but are the chemicals used to make Avery products tested on animals? Specifically, are the adhesives and glue on labels synthetic or plant based and free of animal derivatives? Where can I find an ingredients list for your products?
        Printing cruelty-free or vegan labels on animal derived packaging would defeat the purpose.

        1. Natalie,
          Avery doesn’t use any materials derived from animals in our products or our packaging, and we don’t test on animals. Our labels mostly have paper face stock, but some are polyester film or synthetic for more durable uses. Our primary adhesive is an acrylic emulsion-based permanent adhesive. If you have questions about a specific product, please contact our Care Center at 1-800-GO-AVERY or by chat on our website.

  2. Being in the skin care business, I wish that Avery made more label sizes that would fit 4 0z cosmetic PET jars better (some are too large, others too small). Also, to be able to list all ingredients on a jar, smaller font sizes then what are available are often needed. I also wish it was easier to incorporate images and move them to better areas on the labels. Also, I would appreciate clear tutorials for those of us who are not graphic designers but want professional and beautiful label designs. I feel so inept and clumsy trying to get the look I want sometimes. I find your instructions very confusing. Especially when a little artistry is desired.

    1. Hi Charlette,
      Thank you so much for your feedback. I’m really sorry to hear you’re having a hard time finding the correct size labels for your PET jars. There are a variety of different 4 oz. containers, so finding the right size for your skincare products can be tough. Have you checked out our label measuring guide? It can help you measure to find the exact label size you need for your specific containers. If you still don’t find the exact size you need in our label catalog, Avery WePrint can professionally print custom sizes for no extra charge on our roll labels. As far as fonts, unfortunately, we can’t print fonts any smaller because they become illegible and blurry. As far as images, have you watched our “How to Insert and Edit Images” video? It might help answer some questions you have. But please feel free to reach out to our awesome Care Center for any help you need with label sizing and designs. They even have the ability to view your screen and can help you edit your images and designs. They’re based in California and are available Monday-Friday, 6 a.m to 5 p.m. PT. Also, let them know the size labels you are looking for, as we are always looking to increase our label catalog. You can reach them at 800-942-8379 or chat online. Please let us know if we can help with anything else.

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