INCI: how to decode your cosmetic ingredients

It stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients and it's used internationally for the classification of the ingredients of a cosmetic product.

INCI was introduced to protect consumers

Manufacturers must indicate the ingredients present in their products, allowing people to prevent allergies and make informed choices.

Knowing the order of the ingredients that make up a product is essential for those who want to understand the quality of a product and know if the ingredients advertised on the packaging as main (for example, an aloe cream) really appear first in the label list.

In a cosmetic product the ingredients are indicated in order of quantity, in fact for all the cosmetic ingredients present in quantities greater than 1%, there is a general rule that consists in listing the components respecting a descending order, while those present in quantities less than 1% can be inserted in no particular order. Often, for example, the first ingredient is water, as it is present in almost all products.

Even the addition of fragrances must be clearly indicated on the label, in general when the fragrance is of natural origin, “essential oil” is reported, to indicate the use of a pure essential oil, while all other fragrances can be reported under the inscription “Parfum”.

Inside a product, there may also be potentially allergenic substances contained in the formulation that must be declared on the label, such as:

Most frequently reported and recognized allergens

  • Amyl cinnamal
  • Amyl cinnamyl alcohol
  • Benzyl alcohol
  • Benzyl salicylate
  • Cinnamyl alcohol
  • Cinnamal
  • Citral
  • Coumarin
  • Eugenol
  • Geraniol
  • Hydroxycitronellal

Substances less frequently reported and documented as allergens

  • Anisyl alcohol
  • Benzyl benzoate
  • Benzyl cinnamate
  • Citronellol
  • Farnesol
  • Hexyl cinnamaldehyde
  • Lilial
  • d-Limonene
  • Linalool
  • Methyl heptine carbonate

This also applies to products with the green INCI, as it's possible that a product almost totally natural is suitable for you. If the word “parfum” or “fragrance” appears in the ingredients, remember that the parfum is a known allergen. In addition, it is not certain that a 100% product of natural origin cannot awaken allergies, in case the skin does not tolerate contact with a specific ingredient.

The importance of reading the label and know how to interpret it

This is not always easy, so to our rescue there are apps created specifically to discover the formulation of a product, allowing you to directly scan the barcode of the cosmetic and evaluating the INCI.

Furthermore, with regard to the natural and organic world, it is good to always make sure that a product has at least one certification (for example ICEA or ECOCERT) and that the formulation of the product has a good percentage of natural or organic ingredients.


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