Deciphering Cosmetics: INCI Guide to Informed Beauty

In the contemporary landscape of beauty and skincare, an increasing number of discerning consumers are adopting a meticulous approach to scrutinise beauty product labels, demonstrating their genuine concern for the ingredients that come into contact with their skin. This growing awareness about what goes into cosmetics has sparked a significant movement supporting healthier, eco-friendly options.

INCI and Cosmetic Transparency: Understanding Beauty Labels

In the quest for transparency, the INCI list (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) plays a crucial role. This standard harmonises the way ingredients are listed on cosmetics labels, offering a uniform approach on an international scale. Key aspects of INCI include :

  • Natural products must be written in Latin, while synthetic substances are written in English.
  • Ingredients are systematically listed in descending order, meaning that the lower an ingredient is on the list, the less it is present in the final product. 
  • Additives such as preservatives, dyes, fragrances and others are always listed at the end. It is important to note that if their final concentration is less than 1%, the manufacturer is free to place them in the order of his choice.

The fundamental aim of these INCI guidelines is to provide consumers with a clear and consistent basis of information about the composition of cosmetic products, helping them to make informed decisions about their usage.

Focus on preservatives: Deciphering Cosmetic Choices

Cosmetic preservatives play a fundamental role in the world of beauty products, ensuring their stability and shelf life. The choice of the percentage of preservatives to include in a specific formula depends closely on the intrinsic composition of the product in question. It is crucial to note that a cosmetic product with no water in its composition does not necessarily need traditional preservatives. In this case, the use of antioxidants may be sufficient to preserve the product’s quality and integrity over time.

In recent years, some conservatives have been the subject of criticism and concern. But which preservatives are we talking about, and why are they the subject of so much criticism? 

  • Parabens, found naturally in some fruits and veggies, are used in the cosmetics industry for their antibacterial and antifungal perks. Despite being considered as potential disruptors to the endocrine system, several brands are phasing them out from their formulations. As of now, no studies have clearly demonstrated the danger of these ingredients for human beings. Yet, lingering concerns, especially surrounding butylparaben and propylparaben, suggest a cautious approach. Parabens are still given the green light, as long as they don’t surpass 0.8% of the formula.
  • Methylisothiazolinone, commonly known as MIT, stands out as a powerful preservative with broad applications. However, its strength comes with a downside – it’s highly allergenic. Although it has traditionally been a staple in various products like body milks and wipes, it has faced restrictions, being prohibited in items that don’t need rinsing. It’s imperative to exercise caution, particularly for those prone to allergies, as complete avoidance is recommended
  • Phenoxyethanol, a cost-effective preservative widely employed in cosmetics, has sparked worries due to its potential for irritation and suspected impact on the endocrine system, along with potential liver toxicity. While no conclusive studies have validated these concerns, the use of phenoxyethanol is still permitted. However, it’s strictly limited to 1% of the overall formula and reserved solely for adult-targeted products.

In conclusion, deciphering the secrets of the cosmetics industry reveals a complex reality where transparency is becoming an essential element for informed consumers. The adoption of the INCI standard offers a uniform approach worldwide, enabling users to understand the composition of cosmetic products more clearly. The hierarchy of ingredients and the way additives are listed provide crucial guidance for making informed decisions.

Examining cosmetic preservatives highlights the delicate balance between product stability and health concerns. While some preservatives, such as parabens, are being phased out due to potential health concerns, others, such as phenoxyethanol, raise questions about their safe use. Consumers are encouraged to remain informed and aware of the choices they make, while recognising that regulations strictly control the use of certain preservatives, limiting their concentrations and reserving their use to specific product categories.

Ultimately, a more conscious approach to beauty is emerging, where in-depth understanding of labels and questioning of ingredients become powerful tools for those seeking to align their personal care routine with their health and environmental values. Informed choice, combined with vigilance in the face of controversies surrounding certain ingredients, is paving the way for more ethical and responsible cosmetic consumption.