A Guide To Beauty Labels

From scientific to organic labels, we explain what beauty labels mean and how that impacts the price.

Vegan Beauty magazine and beauty products
(Image credit: Unsplash.com - Harper Sunday)

The Mobius Loop.  It sounds like a sci-fi term at best…a codename for a military operation at worst. However, this is a beauty label. For most of us, the world of beauty labels can be incredibly confusing. Now – more than ever – customers are paying attention to what these labels really mean.

In a recent survey, more than 61% of women said they felt brands labelled products as ‘clean beauty’ without enough evidence. Most of us look for positive terms such as ‘Cruelty-Free’, and ‘Clinically-proven’. Yet, we never question what justifies these labels. So, what do these beauty labels and standards really mean? Read on for a simple breakdown of what these beauty labels mean.

It’s one thing to know what these beauty labels mean but it’s another to understand their cost. So, we’ve used a few top budget-friendly beauty brands as examples. Keep scrolling to discover why vegan beauty products are so expensive and how you can keep costs down whilst supporting cruelty-free beauty. 

Vegan & Eco-Friendly Beauty Labels

UpCircle Beauty Face Serum

(Image credit: UpCircle Beauty)

Did you know that only 4.2% of customers said that clear vegan labelling wasn’t important to them? That’s according to a recent survey listed at Statista. Vegan beauty is becoming increasingly important to consumers. So, it’s important to know which labels to look out for. 

We’ve taken a look at UpCircle Beauty as an example. Their packaging contains key vegan and eco-friendly labels, which tells us a lot about their products. You’ll find UpCircle Beauty products stocked at high-street stores like Holland & Barrett. Choose one of our Holland & Barrett discount codes to save on your next UpCircle Beauty order.


The Vegan Society logo

(Image credit: The Vegan Society)

A product can normally be declared ‘vegan’ on its packaging. Brands will usually print a green ‘V’ onto the packaging to symbolize it is vegan. You can also find specific labels such as The Vegan Society certification. Other brands might simply state ‘vegan’ on the packaging.

Soil Association

The Soil Association Logo

(Image credit: The Soil Association)

The Soil Association symbol certifies a product has reached standards set by COSMOs. These are considered the worldwide standard for organic beauty products. UpCircle Beauty’s Face Serum contains repurposed coffee extracts which is a certified organic product. You can see this as the product contains the organic soil association symbol.

Leaping Bunny

Leaping Bunny logo

(Image credit: Leaping Bunny)

If you see a little bunny on your product, it’s not just a cute drawing. It proves the product is leaping-bunny certified. This means it goes above and beyond standard cruelty-free measures. Products with this symbol are animal-free and cruelty-free too. UpCircle Beauty is Leaping Bunny certified and you’ll find the symbol on their Animal Testing Policy page

It’s worth knowing a few countries are known for animal testing when producing cosmetics. China, Japan, and Russia are on that list. China is the only country to demand testing with cosmetics. Japan legally requires testing on cosmetics that are ‘quasi-drugs’. This includes sun lotion and skin-lightening creams. Russia has not yet banned animal testing but has previously proposed bills to do so. Over 41 countries across the world have banned animal testing completely to date. 

Some brands will claim they are cruelty-free or have never tested on animals. However, if they sell to these countries (or their parent companies do) then a third party will usually test their products on animals. Be sure to do your research on brands before investing your hard-earned money. 

Scientific & Skincare Labels

Face Moisturiser and cotton pads

(Image credit: Unsplash.com - Poko Skincare)

You turn to the back of the product and promptly get lost in hard-to-pronounce ingredients. You have no idea what words like niacinamides even mean. We get it – we’ve been there. 

We’ve broken down some of the scientific labels to look out for by looking at the brand Elemis. Elemis is known for its scientific-based beauty and skincare. Make sure to snap up one of our discount codes to save money on any future Elemis orders.


UVA icon

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A UVA or UVB symbol can be found on certain beauty and skincare products. If you see a UVA label, this means the product meets European standards of ultraviolet ray protection. If a product has a UVB symbol, this means it protects against Ultraviolet Type B rays. The Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF 30 contains protection against UVA. It has a symbol of a small circle with the words UVA to show this.


It might not be clear what scientific-sounding terms like ‘Pro-Collagen’ mean. Sure, it’s got Collagen in the name. Assumedly, this gives some skincare benefits. So, how much collagen does it have?

Well – technically – none. Pro-collagen is a marketing term by Elemis. However, their Pro Collagen Renewal Serum does include key ingredients such as retinal alternative extracts. Retinol reduces the appearance of fine lines by increasing collagen production, according to Harvard Health. Independent Clinical trials in 2021 also agreed the Pro-Collagen Marine Cream resulted in skin looking younger and feeling hydrated. 

Scientific skincare labels are nothing new. In the 1990s, clinical-sounding names were increasingly popular according to The New York TimesNow, they are having a comeback. It gives a product authority and trustworthiness. Still, we’d advise you to always read the ingredients list. A quick Google search can help you understand what you are really buying into. Plus, brands like Elemis usually disclose clinical trials and sourcing of ingredients.


Cast your mind back to Biology class for this beauty label. Peptides are strings of amino acids which are widely considered the building blocks of protein. Our body naturally produces them. Recent studies have proven peptides in skincare can helps boost the production of collagen and elastin. That’s according to WebMD. Both collagen and elastin are considered important for helping skin look younger. 

The Elemis Peptide4 Eye Recovery Cream includes ‘Peptide4’. This cream peptide uses advanced molecular biology, in Elemis’s own words. It contains a yeast peptide that can be used around the eyes to hydrate the skin and leave it looking younger. 

Practical & Quantity Labels

Beauty products on a counter

(Image credit: Unsplash - Charisse Kenion)

There are more practical symbols that need to be included in beauty packaging. These are perhaps the most informative when making a smart purchasing decision yet most of us don’t know what they mean. 

We’ve looked at how Superfacialist from Boots uses some of these practical and quantity labels and how it can help you understand how much product you are getting for your money.

Estimated Sign

Estimated Sign

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A product with an Estimated sign proves this product has the quantity specified by the label. If it sounds a little confusing, consider it this way. With machine packaging, you cannot see how much product the jar is filled with. The e-mark indicates that you are paying the amount on the label in conjunction with the average fill system. It’s also a European symbol as it meets European standards. 

The highly reviewed Superfacialist Vitamin C+ Skin Renew Cleansing Oil shows an e-mark of 6.7 fluid oz or 200ml. This reassures you as the customer that you are paying for exactly 200ml of the product.

Period After Opening (PAO)

Period After Opening

(Image credit: Commons Wikimedia)

The Period After Opening symbol tells you how long you can use a product after opening it. It’s a small open tub with a number written on it to show the number of months you have to use the product. Items of at least 30 months do not need a best-before date in Europe but they are required to have a PAO symbol. 

You can usually find this symbol on the back of beauty products, including skincare, haircare, makeup, and body lotions. 

Recycled & Recyclable Symbols

The Body Shop products

(Image credit: Unsplash.com - Toa Heftiba)

Here’s a small fact for you: only 14% of beauty packaging makes it to a recycling plant and only 9% is actually recyclable. That’s according to the Beauty British Council. With single plastic packaging taking 450 years to break down, that’s a lot of environmental damage. For many, recycled and recyclable packaging is becoming more critical. The question is…which symbols do you need to look out for? And what do they mean? 

We’ve taken a look at both The Body Shop and YourGoodSkin (available at Boots) for a more detailed insight into recyclable packaging in the beauty industry. 

Green Arrows

Three arrows in a circle

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Two green arrows interlocking represent the Green Arrows symbol. You might assume this means the product is recyclable but it doesn’t. This symbol only means that the brand has contributed financially to European recycling services. The more you know, right? 

This symbol doesn’t need to legally be green either. YourGoodSkin Balancing Skin Serum from Boots has a small symbol of a grey and white arrow interlocking on the back of its packaging. This means Boots has paid for European recycling services. 

The Mobius Loop sounds intimidating. It’s actually just a symbol with three green arrows in a triangle shape. This symbol means that the product can be recycled. It doesn’t mean that it’s made from recycled materials. 

However, if there is a number in the middle of the triangle then this tells you how much of the material has been made from recycled materials. 

Sustainable Packaging

Arrows around a globe

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Okay, this one can be difficult. A lot of brands might claim they use sustainable packaging. Be sure to look into their packaging processes and sustainability pledges to be sure. 

The Body Shop is a brand that fulfils its sustainability claims and focuses on reducing its environmental impact. Take their Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Conditioner as an example. The bottles are made from 100% recycled packaging, with some of this plastic being considered Community Fair Trade as it’s collected off streets in India. However, the lid is not made of recycled plastic. 

The Body Shop has pledged to 100% recyclable packaging by 2025 as part of the UK Plastics Pact, described by the Beauty British Council. With refill stations, Community Fairtrade plastic, and recycled materials in 29% of packaging, they are on target to reach their sustainability goals. If you’re interested in beauty products with sustainable packaging, be sure to use a Body Shop discount code from our website.

Why are vegan & sustainable products so expensive?

Reusable Cotton Pads

(Image credit: Unsplash.com - Eco Panda)

Sustainable and vegan beauty products are generally more expensive than their non-sustainable counterparts. There are a couple of reasons for this. This includes annual payments for certifications such as ‘vegan’, according to eco-conscious bloggers. Other considerations include how manufacturing processes, sourcing ingredients, and potent formulas can be more expensive.

Let’s take cotton beauty pads as an example….Boots own Round Wool Cotton Pads Pack of 100 costs £1.59, equalling 15p per pad. Their Botanics 100% Organic Cotton Pads go up to £2.29, meaning 22p per pad. When you look at more sustainable options, the prices increase further. Garnier Micellar Reusable Make-Up Remover pads cost £5.99 and you’ll only get 3 pads. That’s £1.99 for each pad. UpCircle Beauty stock Hemp & Cotton Makeup Remover Pads on their website for £8.99. This includes 7 reusable pads and a wash bag, meaning they cost at most £1.28 per pad. 

The question is….are they really more expensive? 

On the surface, yes. However, Garnier’s reusable pads promise at least 1000 uses with one pad. This means you won’t have to keep standing in queue to buy more face pads again. It’s also made of thicker material to clean off more make-up too than having to use multiple face pads or disposable wipes.

Vegan Skincare vs ‘Normal’ Skincare

We can see the same thing with skincare products. Organic skincare products usually contain more potent ingredients compared to non-organic ones. Most beauty products will list around 70% of ‘Aqua’ as their ingredient. Organic or vegan skincare tends to focus on one or two main potent ingredients that will deliver results. 

Take acne products as an example. Tea Tree Oil has been typically used to treat skin concerns such as acne. The Tea Tree Oil 20ml from The Body Shop costs £14. This product only lists Tea Tree oil as its ingredient, which is vegan and community fair-trade. This means this product is potent in its ingredients and a small amount can go a long way. 

Meanwhile, Neutrogena Refreshingly Clear Facial Wash costs £4.99 for 200ml and is also designed to treat acne. However, its ingredients list Aqua is the first ingredient on the list. It also has other less useful ingredients such as Parfum and Fruit Extract. The acne-fighting ingredients are listed but amongst these others too. 

The True Cost of Vegan & Sustainable Beauty

We’d recommend vegan and organic skincare products as a good way to do more for the environment and animal cruelty. Their price tag is usually more expensive. In the long run, you usually have a more effective and guilt-free product.

We hope you’ve found this guide to beauty labels helpful when making your purchasing decisions. Be sure to check out MyVoucherCodes for the latest discounts on vegan, organic, and recyclable beauty brands. After all, doing your part for the planet shouldn’t cost you the Earth.

Becky Spicer
Health & Beauty Editor

I’ve been the Health and Beauty Editor here at MyVoucherCodes since March 2022. I love writing, and I’ve been doing it since my second year of university back in 2019, and what I love to write about most is beauty, skincare, health, protein, and wellness. On top of my work for MyVoucherCodes, I have a lifestyle blog on social media.

In my spare time, I enjoy heading to the gym, watching Love Island, and spending some time with a good book. I also have a degree BA degree in Creative Writing and English Literature from Bath Spa University.