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INCI Explained

You’ve probably bumped into them in cosmetic products labels. You tried to read them out loud and scratch your head at the same time. Congratulations, you just read an INCI name 🙂

INCI names are the long-tailed Latin names in the ingredients label on every cosmetic product you probably ever purchased. But let’s start from the beginning –

The Committee

International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (or just INCI) is an international committee that assigns a unique name to each cosmetic ingredient out there. There’s a set of rules and a cosmetic ingredient dictionary with which that committee decides what INCI name will be assigned to what ingredient.

 

Latin names in the ingredients list

Once there’s a decision, this INCI name is the one that will be shown on cosmetic and skincare product labels across the world – U.S.A, Canada, European Union, Japan and many other countries that adhere to global trade regulations.

Why use INCI?

It’s true, INCI names are a mouthful of ancient language words that makes almost no sense. But, this system serves a useful purpose.

First, let’s agree that putting down a product’s ingredient list is a must. The same way you check the ingredients list of a food product, you check your cosmetics. It’s like a detailed report of what ingredients will be absorbed into your body, through your skin.

Now, in the cosmetics world, there are thousands of ingredients out there. If there’s no one authority that assigns an agreed name to each ingredient, chaos will rule. Every cosmetic manufacturer might use different languages to list ingredients. Or, use one of many ways to refer to the same ingredient, creating confusion.

It’s clear that creating such a dictionary will standardize ingredient names across the world. This will enable every user to just lookup the INCI name and identify the ingredient right away.

Ingredient examples and their respective INCI name

  • Coconut oil – Cocos Nucifera

  • Palm Oil – Elaeis Guineensis

  • Vitamin E – Tocopherol

  • Baking Soda – Sodium Bicarbonate

  • Shea Butter – Butyrospermum Parkii

  • Lavender oil – Lavandula Angustifolia

  • Water – Aqua

Now grab one of your cosmetics products at home, go over the label and try to identify the contained ingredients, it’s fun!

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