Monday, March 21, 2016The language of labels

Batch numbers and bar codes: what do they mean?

© Thinkstock/L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques

These series of numbers and initials may seem quite obscure, and therefore pretty useless. And yet, if they are mandatory on cosmetics labels, it means they do have role to play, that of giving information. And all consumers can understand and learn how to use them, whenever needed.

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We are all used to seeing bar codes on consumer goods, and cosmetics are no exception, as regulations also require a batch number to be indicated on their packaging. Though we hardly ever pay attention to them, they do provide necessary information to identify our products, and in certain cases, this can actually be crucial

The batch number

It is the basis of a product’s traceability.
The batch number is mandatory on any primary packaging (jars, tubes, bottles… in contact with the formula) and secondary packaging (cardboard cases…). Only one special dispensation has been provided for: if, for practical reasons, it is impossible to follow this rule due to a cosmetic product’s reduced dimensions (most often makeup), it is authorized to indicate the number on the secondary packaging. There is no regular place for it, as it can be on the fold of the tube, at the bottom of the jar, at the top of the bottle… but it must be somewhere.

It is not really codified: its shape and the way it is developed are up to the manufacturer. It can appear as a series of numbers and/or letters, a date, a random figure… What matters is the precise …

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