The INCI Guide

The INCI Guide
What is INCI?

The INCI Guide

The INCI Guide was put together to help those new at formulating.

INCI (pronounced inkie) stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. This is a standard system used for cosmetics worldwide based on scientific names to identify the ingredients in cosmetics. The USA, European Union and other countries use the INCI system. By having a standard system that is used worldwide and using the INCI name, we can identify the ingredient even though it may be called something different in another country or by the supplier. The INCI name is important for ordering raw materials and to understand a product label to know the ingredients in the product.

There are over 16,000 cosmetic ingredients listed on INCI!

Trade Name
The trade name is the brand name. I’m going to use peanut butter as an example. The name peanut butter would be the INCI name. The trade name is Jiff, Skippy, Peter Pan, Justin’s or Earth Balance. If you asked a friend to go to the grocery store and buy you a jar of Earth Balance and she never heard of Earth Balance she would not know what to look for at the grocery store. If you told her to get peanut butter and the brand Earth Balance then she would know the right one to buy.

Look Up INCI

Online Databases

  1. EU CosIng Database: Free, search EU cosmetic ingredients.
  2. wINCI: Paid subscriber service.
  3. AICS: Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances, includes some cosmetic ingredients.

International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook
INCI names are published in a book and online with an extensive listing of ingredients used in cosmetic and personal care products.

The book is expensive, $500- $800, depending if you are a member or not. The book is in its 15th edition and there are 21,000 names listed. Access to the names is also available online at $525 to $1250 per user per year, again, depending if you have membership at the Personal Care Council.

Ingredient Not Listed in Dictionary
If the ingredient is not listed in this dictionary; there is an application process and review to approve it for the dictionary.

Examples of INCI 

Some ingredients can have several trade names. That is why it is important to use the INCI name when ordering materials.

Trade Name: Vegetable Wax NF
INCI Name: Vegetable Wax NF
Did you know that Vegetable Emulsifying Wax NF was created 80 years ago and listed in the NF (National Formulary) and that is how the INCI name became Vegetable Emulsifying Wax. If it were given an INCI name today it would not be named this. The name should be Cetearyl Alchol (and) Polysorbate 60.

Trade Name: ECOMulse, NatraMulse or Ritamulse
INCI Name: Glyceryl Stearate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate

Trade Name: Olivem1000
INCI Name: Cetearyl Olivate (and) Sorbitan Olivate

Formulating Tip
On your formula make sure to note the INCI name, Trade name and the supplier.

Joan Morais is a natural cosmetic formulator, instructor, author and the owner of Joan Morais Naturals. Joan assists product makers on how to make high quality, stable and effective natural body, hair and skin care products for personal use and a product making business.

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