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How To Decode the INCI List of Your Favourite Products

With all of the complex ingredients listed on skin care products today, it can often feel like you need to be a chemist to understand what you’re putting on your skin. Safety is one thing but picking products that contain ingredients that truly promote skin health are another, so here’s our how to guide on how to decode those somewhat confusing ingredient lists…

All about the INCI

The INCI (or International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) is a structured ingredient list that follows a defined framework and is how skincare and cosmetic brands list their ingredients – understanding how this works is the key to knowing the ingredients that make up your favourite products. It is the the global designation for declaring the ingredients in a product and provides a common understanding for both industry and consumers across the world. This is very helpful when you look at purchasing products from other countries, for example. 

Order Matters 

The ingredients on products are always listed in the order of highest to lowest concentration. As a general rule, the first five ingredients make up, roughly, 80% of the product so they are the ones you want to be focusing on. However, it is also important to remember that just because an ingredient isn’t at the top of the list, it doesn’t mean it isn’t important – some ingredients are effective in smaller concentrations such as ceramides and plant oils.

Complex Is Cool

It’s easy to look at an ingredients list and be overwhelmed by what seems like an endless stream of baffling scientific words. With a little research and experience, you will start to see through the jargon, for example, Ascorbic Acid is more commonly known as Vitamin C and Dehydroretinol is also known as Vitamin A. And don’t be afraid to be an ingredient detective – when in doubt, look it up! 

Watch Out For Allergens

If you have very sensitive skin or notice that some products can irritate you, it’s very important that you pay attention to the ingredients found within the skin care you’re using. Different skins can react or become allergic to any type of ingredient, but the most common allergens can be found at the end of the INCI list, often marked by asterisks, and are usually artificial fragrances, sulfates and essential oils. 

Actives and Extras 

An active ingredient is one that performs a function for a specific condition or concern, for example, Salicylic Acid is an active for acne and Titanium Dioxide is added for sun protection. These kinds of ingredients are listed along with their percentages, plus advice on how that product should be applied for effective and safe results. 

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