Understanding the codes on labels
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Understanding the codes on labels

The ingredients of finished cosmetic products are listed on their labels according to an international system, the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients, known as INCI, which is used throughout the EU member states and other countries as well, for instance the US, Russia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and others.
This nomenclature contains some terms in Latin (botanical names and those of ingredients included in the pharmacopoeia), but the majority of the names are in English and, in the case of dyes, the numbers assigned to them in the Colour Index (e.g. CI 45430) are used.
The International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients was adopted by the European Commission on 1 January 1997, with the aim of providing an additional safeguard for consumers. The purpose of the INCI system is, indeed, prevalently that of allowing people who suffer from allergies, anywhere in Europe or, often, wherever in the world they happened to be, to easily determine whether or not a product contains any substances to which they are allergic before they use it.
All cosmetic products carry an ingredients list. By law, a product’s label must contain the list of its ingredients, preceded by the word “ingredienti” (t.n. in Italy) or “ingredients”, arranged by order of weight at the moment of each ingredient’s incorporation, from greatest to least. This rule applies to substances that account for more than 1% of the product, while those that account for less than 1% can be listed in any order.
The problem arises when we must begin codifying ingredients.
Below is a list of a few ingredients, their INCI names, descriptions and cosmetic properties.

 

INCI NAME DESCRIPTION COSMETICPROPERTIES/COMMENT
Aqua (water)  Water The basic ingredient of most formulations
Glycerin Glycerin moisturises the skin’s surface, humectant
Butyrospermum parkii(Shea)butter Shea butter improves elasticity, nourishing and emollient, a solid oil
Argania Spinosa (kernel) oil  Argan oil   Skin conditioner, nourishing, a light oil
Mel (honey) Honey  Moisturising, humectant
Prunus dulcis (sweet almond) oil Sweet almond oil   Emollient, improves elasticity, a very skin-compatible oil
Aloe Arborescens leaf extract Extract from the leaves of Aloe Arborescens Soothing, protective, moisturising
Ocimum Basilicum (basil) leaf extract Extract from the leaves of basil Tonifying, astringent, cleansing, refreshing
Olive glycerides oil Olive oil glycerides Emollient, improves elasticity
Cetearyl glucoside  Natural emulsifier Makes it possible to blend the aqueous phase and the oleaginous phase
Cetearyl alcohol Cetearyl alcohol  Consistency factor, rheology modifier, co-emulsifier
Glyceryl stearate Glyceryl stearate Consistency factor, rheology modifier
Phenoxyethanol Phenoxyethanol Broad spectrum preservative
Sodium dehydroacetate Dehydroacetic acid sodium salt Preservative, especially antifungal
Benzoic acid Benzoic acid Broad spectrum preservative
Sodium PCA Sodium salt of pyroglutamic acid Humectant and antistatic agent
Xanthan gum Xanthan gum  Gelling agent, vegetable polysaccharide
Disodium cocoamphodiacetate   Amphoteric surfactant   Derived from coconut and palm
Sodium lauryl sarcosinate Anionic surfactant Derived from coconut and sarcosine (amino acid)
Lecithin  Lecithin Plant-derived antioxidant
Tocopherol Tocopherol Vitamin E plant-derived antioxidant
Tocopheryl acetate Tocopherol acetate Pro-vitamin E  plant-derived antioxidant
Citric acid Citric acid Corrects the pH-balance, plant-derived
Linalool,limonene, geraniol, citral  Occur naturally in fragrances and essential oils.  

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