If you look at any bottle of skin care or cosmetics, you will see a list of ingredients somewhere on the packaging. This ingredient list is called INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) list. This is a legal and regulatory requirement in most countries, and the list will always be on the outermost packaging of the product. Here we'll go through how to interpret the list and make wiser decisions when it comes to purchasing products!
Ingredients order is from greatest to lowest amount
Ingredients are listed in descending order, starting with the largest amount in the product to the least. For example, the following is the ingredient list for our Pomegranate Hair & Scalp Treatment Oil:
Punica granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil, Ricinus communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Vitis vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Salvia sclarea (Clary Sage) Oil, Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Cedrus atlantica (Cedarwood) Bark Oil, Cymbopogon flexuosus (Lemongrass) Oil, Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Bud Oil
From the list, you can see that it has the most Pomegranate Seed Oil, followed by Castor Seed Oil, then Sunflower Seed Oil, and so on.
Knowing this will let you identify what is the primary components in a product. If you are looking for a Rosehip Oil for example, a product name could be called Rosehip Refreshing Oil (or whatever the brand wants), but if the first ingredient is Sunflower Seed Oil, then you know you aren't getting the pure oil but a blend that contains less Rosehip Oil than Sunflower Seed Oil. The INCI list for our Rosehip Pure Oil is as follows:
Rosa canina (Rosehip) Seed Oil
which shows that our product consists of 100% genuine Rosehip Oil.
high quality Rosehip oil has a deep yellow-orange colour and a unique, woody scent
INCI names don't always reflect scientific or common names
Think of the names as a standard for the skin care industry. They don't always match up with the species name or common names (since it's quite often where a species has multiple common names as well. Even for chemicals, they don't always reflect the scientific name.
For example, "alcohol" in INCI terms means ethanol (scientific formula C2H5OH), but in chemistry, alcohol is a class that covers a wide range of compounds, and other forms of alcohol in skin care have different INCI names like: "Isocetyl Alcohol", "Stearyl Alcohol" and so on.
For a natural example, the INCI name for the oil from the seed of the Tamanu plant is "Calophyllum inophyllum Seed Oil". The common name Tamanu is not in the INCI name at all, where as in the case of Rosehip oil it is.
If you want to know exact what an ingredient on your label is, you can use this free website.
INCI names don't tell you the quality or type of a natural ingredient
For example, the INCI name for coconut oil is "Cocos Nucifera Oil". If you see this ingredient in the list, you know the product has coconut oil, but you can't tell if it is high quality virgin coconut oil or refined, bleached, deodorized coconut oil. The refined version is cheaper and contains little to no active ingredients.
RDB coconut oil is yellow and looks like cooking oil, while virgin coconut oil is entirely clear
Aside from that, even within the same "type" of natural ingredient, for example, cold-processed virgin Argan Oil, the quality of the plant used in the first place as well as the care taken into creating the product is not taken into account in the INCI list.
This is not as much a problem with synthetic ingredients as they are created in a lab and thus is far easier to standardize.
Stay tuned for ingredients to avoid on the INCI list for wiser skincare decisions!