How to read cosmetic ingredients label? INCI understanding

Reading of cosmetic ingredients label is one of the elements of concious skincare. After recognazing our skin type, we choose specific ingredients in products, which are costumized to our skin needs. Those components are targeted on specific problems which we currently struggling with.

What is INCI?

INCI is shortcut of International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. It’s international system of naming cosmetic ingredients. The names of the chemical substances are described in English, and the plant based ingredients, in Latin. It was introduced to standardize the nomenclature of substances. It allows the consumer to see and know the content of the product. This list is valid in the countries of the European Union, USA, China and Japan. The law in the EU requires all cosmetics to include the ingredients according to INCI on the packaging or leaflet. Most cosmetics consist of three elements – base, active ingredients and auxiliary substances.

How to read cosmetic labels according to INCI?

There are few basic rules and tips which are helpful to analyze the labels.

  • The order of writing the ingredients is arranged in descending order of their concentration

The ingredients are arranged in order according to the concentration of a given substance – from the highest to the lowest. This rule applies only to concentrations above 1%, those with a lower concentration can be arranged in any order. Usually it’s fragrances, dyes and preservatives.

  • The manufacturer is not required to specify the concentrations of the ingredients

Thanks to this, the recipe of a product is protected. Some brands indicate the concentration of the main active ingredient on the packaging, such as Basiclab or The ordinary.

  • The composition according to INCI must include fragrance allergens if they are present in the right concentration

There are 26 sensitizing substances which producers must list in the composition. It is obligatory that they should be listed if they are present in a concentration of 0.001% in a leave-on product and 0.01% in a washable product. Below these concentrations, it is not necessary to administer them. Many fragrances can be hidden under the name Parfum or Fragrance. Sample names of fragrances: Benzyl Salicylate, Benzyl Alcohol, Citronelol, Limonen, Linalool.

  • Coloring matter takes the form of numbers preceded by “CI”, eg CI 10006

The dyes are preceded by the shortcut “CI” – Color Index. They may be listed at the end of the composition in any order.

  • Repeated group names of ingredients
When reading the compositions, you can notice repetitive words that make it easier to remember and recognize individual substances. Some of them are:
(…) Extract – plant extracts, e.g. Yerba mate extract
(…) Hydrosol/Water – hydrolates e.g. Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Flower Water
(…) Oil – vegetable oils and essential oils, e.g. Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil (olej kokosowy)
The exception is Mineral Oil / Paraffin Oil – petroleum substances.
(…) Acid – e.g. Citric Acid, Salicylic Acid
(…) Alcohol – fatty alcohols, e.g. Ceterayl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol
The exception is Alcohol and Alcohol Denat, which have a completely different effect, act as a preservative, but dry the skin.
(…) Glycol – e.g. Propylene Glycol (glikol propylenowy)
– (…) paraben – e.g. Methylparaben,
Silikony – names ending in -cone, -siloxane or -conol, e.g. Dimethicone, Methicone, Cyclopentasiloxane

Applications and programs analyzing the composition according to INCI

The multitude of ingredients with strange names may discourage you from reading and analyzing them. At the beginning, the names of ingredients can be quite enigmatic for us, but over time, checking a given substance on the Internet, or paying attention to repeated names, you can get into practice. Mobile applications and websites that can be helped also come with help. These are, for example:

  • Lupa kosmetyczna
  • Skincoda
  • Ingred

Why is it worth reading and analyzing the composition of cosmetics?

After recognizing your skin type, you can “hunt” for ingredients that are recommended for your skin type, or those that are targeted at a given problem. If we know that we are allergic to an ingredient, or that our skin becomes clogged, we simply avoid it with the next product. Non-accidental cosmetic purchases make us conscious consumers. It is worth paying attention to what we put on our skin (as well as what we eat :)) There are some controversial substances that I avoid in my cosmetics, but this is a topic for another article.

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