Decode Cosmetic Ingredient Lists

In Being Savvy at Skincare by Cheryl Wooodman4 Comments

Decode cosmetic ingredient lists - INCI

(Look out for the brackets)

The way cosmetic ingredients get labelled is not in human! I mean seriously, why do we end up reading a list in another language where cocoa butter is called “Theobroma cacao” and shea butter is “Butyrospermum parkii”. Well cosmetic companies are slowly catching onto the fact we want to know what we are putting on our skin and several will now bracket the English and human name. Generally the more brackets you see on an ingredient list, the more natural the product.

First on the list

… Means there is most of this in your product. The ingredients are listed similarly to food, if it’s on first then there is more of this in there than the next, and the next and so on. This is down until 1% where they can be listed in any order. It’s a good tip, if you’re buying what is sold on the front of pack as a ‘cocoa butter cream or butter’ to look out for where on the ingredients list this rates! To find out the science name of something type in INCI name + Ingredient into Google (other search engines are available – haha!). 


Water, water everywhere

Water will always be your first ingredient in a cream, this is one most of us will know from school science class, ‘aqua’. This is good! Our skin needs both water and oil, and the purpose of a cream is to get both of these usually non-mixable ingredients (think balsamic olive oil dressing separation!) to absorb into our skin.



Eww such a let-down! Covering up the cause instead of treating the problem! Some creams basically contain plastic – shocker! It is used as it will give your skin a really smooth feeling. Two of the most common to look out for ‘dimethicone’ and “cyclomethicone”. Now for your hair I think these are fine – your hair does not need to breathe, if you are prone to breakouts or have sensitive skin, these are probably not for you.


What do you look out for at the moment on a cosmetic ingredients list?