Always when you look at a cosmetic product, ingredients must be written somewhere. The description of these ingredients is based on the INCI list. If INCI isn’t available the name can be based on the chemical name of the ingredient.
Ingredients of cosmetic products must be listed on the decreasing order of weight. But only if their content in the product is bigger than 1%. If it’s smaller, the ingredients can be listed by pure chance.
But we cannot use all the ingredients randomly. There is a Regulation on cosmetic products. This Regulation consists of:
1. Report on the safety of the cosmetic product
2. Annex of prohibited substances (Annex II)
3. Annex with restricted substances: pigments, preservatives, UV filters (Annexes III – VI)
The substances we pay special attention to are: ingredients with restrictions, nanomaterials and CMR substances (hormonal interrupter). Why? Because this is the only way to ensure that cosmetic products are safe for the consumer. We have a lot to say about nanomaterials.
We want to clear something out. Animal testing has been banned since 2013. When writing the Safety Report on Cosmetic Products, researches done before 2013 and tested on animals, can be used. But there cannot be any new animal testing. Instead of animal testing, alternative methods have been introduced, which are slowly replacing animal testing. But the truth is that all this is prohibited in the EU. If we order a product from another continent where these restrictions are different, no one can guarantee us that the product has not been tested on animals. Because it can’t be controlled.
From theory to practice
We will now look at some examples. Almost all preservatives that are allowed in cosmetic products have certain limitations. We know what the preservatives are, right?
So, the easiest way to “understand” INCI is to know the restrictions of a particular substance. The exact percentage of a substance doesn’t have to be given. But what we want to know is at least the approximation of that percentage.
Let’s look at the structure of the cream containing vitamin C. If we buy a cream containing vitamin C, we want some effect, right? But if the percentage is too low, there will be no effect.
Aqua, Isoamyl P-Methoxycinnamate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, Glycerin, Gyceryl Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Acrylates / C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, 3-0-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol , Sodium hydroxide, Hexyl cinnamal, Linalool, Limonene, CI 15510, Citronellol, Benzyl Salicylate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Geraniol, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Sulfate, CI, Fragrance, Sodium Citrate, Ethylhexylglycerine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Crystalline Ethylenediamine Disuccinate 14700
So, we can find a preservative in the INCI list. In our case, this is phenoxyethanol, the concentration of which is limited to max 1% in the Regulation. As you can see, vitamin C (ethyl ascorbic acid) is listed after phenoxyethanol, which means that this product contains less than 1% of vitamin C.
Aqua, Isoamyl P-Methoxycinnamate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, Glycerin, 3-0-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Gyceryl Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Acrylates / C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol , Sodium hydroxide, Hexyl cinnamal, Linalool, Limonene, CI 15510, Citronellol, Benzyl Salicylate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Geraniol, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Sulfate, CI, Fragrance, Sodium Citrate, Ethylhexylglycerine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Crystalline Ethylenediamine Disuccinate 14700
Well, this looks a bit better. In this case, we can look at other substances with restrictions. For example UV filters. Methoxy cinnamate and triazine are limited to a maximum concentration of 10%. Phenoxyethanol is found after vitamin C (ascorbic acid). That usually means that this product contains more vitamin C than in the example above, but not necessarily. Since there is no rule dictating whether there need to be written the exact concentrations of the ingredients, we can only assume about the real concentrations in the products.
Some more useful web pages, if you ever find yourself in a dead end
Most verifying website for substances in cosmetic products is called CosIng. What can we find on this site?
1. All the names of the substances (chemical, INCI, other possible names)
2. Restrictions, if there are any (there is an attachment, where all restrictions are written)
3. What’s the function of the substance in the products
4. The SCCS opinion (we have already discussed this, in the case of parabens, which have been said to have carcinogenic affects – the committee has checked all the studies and limited the percentage so that the use is safe now)
SCCS = group (committee) of independent experts writing opinions on ˝problematic˝ substances.
There is also Rapex, where we can find all products containing any prohibited substances. If the product is in the Rapex system, it’s immediately removed from the market. The company may change product’s composition (they replace the problematic substance with another) and then the product has a ˝second try˝ on the market.
Yes, in cosmetic industry it’s all limited just approximately. But still, we can manage this ˝chaos˝ more or less. It’s not the easiest, but it’s the most effective. Hopefully, the next time you will be experts on checking the composition of your cosmetic products and you will be able to decide whether you are being misleaded or not.