At Beauty Cleanse Skincare, we believe if you want to take the control back of what goes on your skin and into the planet, the first thing you need to do is become a Pro in reading and understanding your Labels. It all starts from your Ingredients. You can adopt a minimalist and slow beauty approach only when you know what is inside your products and how do they impact your skin and the planet.
The first step to understand your ingredients is to look beyond the marketing claims & buzzwords and take a closer look at your INCI list.
What is INCI List?
Every beauty product has an ingredient list by law, usually printed in the smallest font possible (regrettably).
As a legal requirement, companies are always required to disclose their ingredients in their INCI names. INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. The INCI system was established in the early 1970’s by the Personal Care Products Council (former CTFA, Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association) and the list is maintained by the Personal Care Products Council. INCI names are used in the United States, the European Union, China, Japan, and many other countries, for listing ingredients on cosmetic product labels. With few exceptions, the INCI labelling names in all countries are the same.
Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight, i.e. with the ingredients present in largest quantities appearing first in the list. This rule ceases to apply for most ingredients present at levels of less than 1% of the total. That means once you hit anything below 1%, the order is meaningless. The exceptions are colourants (other than those intended to colour hair) which may be listed at the end of the ingredient list.
What INCI is not?
The assignment of an INCI name to an ingredient does not suggest that the ingredient is safe, or that its use in a cosmetic product complies with the laws and regulations of the US or other global regions. The safety and fitness of use for an ingredient, along with regulatory considerations, is carefully evaluated by the manufacturer as part of the development process before the product is marketed.
Does the INCI List include everything that is inside your products?
Unfortunately, not! Some ingredients escape being included in the list because they are either unavoidable impurities in the raw materials used; subsidiary technical materials used in the manufacturing processes but which are not present in the final product; or fragrance ingredients which can be listed by the blanket terms of ‘parfum’ or ‘aroma
Mostly, the first few ingredients compose majority (roughly 80 percent) of the product. So those are the most important ones to check. However, be cautious that there are some ingredients that are still very potent, but only need to be used in very lower concentrations, such as Preservatives and Fragrances. (as discussed above – 1% rule )
So, once you are careful about the first few ingredients, now the focus should be to understand the function of those key ingredients? Do you know what they mean? Are they sustainable? What is their impact on your skin after regular use? What happens when they are washed down the drains? Can you even pronounce them? Chances are you may not know any of this.
So, the question is how to get around this complexity?
There is nothing more powerful than being a savvy consumer and learn all about the controversial ingredients that should be excluded from your routines. There are also some websites that will explain the INCI names, such as Skin Deep Database
But, what about all other facts that clarifies if your choice is actually better for your skin and your environment?
This is where the power of transparency comes in
Some companies try to list the standard names in brackets next to each ingredient to be more transparent to their customers. They could even go extra mile to show their origins and functions along with their sustainability credentials on their websites or packaging. Always watch out for this level of transparency, as it also shows that a company care about its customers and it has nothing to hide in the name of confusing jargons and meaningless buzzwords.
Another way to understand your ingredients in detail is by contacting the brand and ask them to explain it. As a consumer it is your right to know what is in your products. Always verify the information with your own research or sometimes just a good judgment based on the properties of the ingredient & your skin type.
An INCI list is a great place to start, given that it’s a universal classification system, but for those who have sensitive skin, there’s so much more than just knowing the common name of the ingredient. Ultimately, it will come down to the amount of trust you have in the brand you’re buying from. If they already implement transparency, sustainability, and mindfulness in everything they do, chances are you can rely on them for sure.
List of Controversial Ingredients
Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are some of the key ingredients we consider the most important to avoid if you want to start a journey of clean and sustainable beauty, and specially if you have a sensitive skin.
Sulfates: These detergent ingredients are used to create a foam in your products, so they are mainly found in cleansing products such as, face cleansers, shampoos, hand washes and body washes. They are so harsh that they strip away the natural skin’s oils and compromise its protective barrier. They can lead to increased dryness and irritation. They usually end with names such as “sulfate,” sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, etc.
Synthetic fragrances: These artificial fragrances are the common cause of allergic skin reactions and contains hidden chemicals and phthalates (linked to hormone disruption). Do you know As a trade secret, companies don’t have to disclose a complete list of what a fragrance is made up of? Can you remember seeing a word “parfum” on the ingredient list? This itself can have its own INCI list but it doesnt due to being manufacturer’s trade secret.
Silicones: They are generally a low hazard ingredient, but they come with various skin issues due to their properties. They give a smooth silky effect to your creams, oils and lotions, but this is a temporary surface effect. Like plastic wrap, silicones form a barrier on top of your skin due to their large molecular size. Along with trapping moisture in the skin, they can also trap dirt, sweat, bacteria, sebum and dead skin cells along with it. They prevent other ingredients from absorbing and disrupt the skin’s natural regulatory process. With continued and prolonged use, they can promote acne, blackheads and contribute to dehydrated skin.
Silicones should always be avoided if you have a sensitive skin because there is more chance of them getting absorbed into the skin and cause irritation. They are also hard to remove with just a basic cleansing at the end of your day. They are also unsustainable and leaves a negative impact on the natural resources. Their names usually end in “-cone,” “-siloxane” or “-conol.
Mineral oil: This deodorized form of kerosene also has an occlusive effect on the skin, which can interrupt cell renewal, aggravate acne and dryness, etc. Also known as petrolatum, liquid petroleum, paraffin oil or paraffinum liquidum.
Parabens: The main reason to avoid these ingredients is their ability to mimic estrogen (hormone). They are used in many food and personal care products. They usually end in words “-paraben.”
Formaldehyde releasers: There are some ingredients that leach formaldehyde and traces of 1,4-dioxane into the formulation and are linked to allergic reactions and endocrine disruption. They may even be carcinogenic.
Few ingredients that can be found in products that are more likely to contain trace amounts of formaldehyde are; Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoid, Imidazolindinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea and for traces of 1,4-dioxane, ingredients such as; PEG-100, Stearate, Sodium laureth sulfate, Polyethylene, Cetereath-20.