When I began this professional formulation journey, two things stuck out to me. First, how little I understood about ingredients and their often wonky names, and Second, how these wonky names heavily influenced my buying decisions.

I remember hearing (from whom, I have no idea) that you should be able to know what each ingredient is in a product before buying. I totally agree. But, such ingredient knowledge presumes the average consumer has a scientific background to understand nomenclature specific to the beauty industry. #hugelightbulbmoment.

This awareness of ingredient names was such a game-changer for me.  If you have ever looked on the back of your face moisturizer bottle or eyeshadow palette and seen three and four word ingredients, raise your hand if you have thought, “what that??”  “I am not putting THAT on my face!” “THAT” being any word that we do not recognize. So you put the product back and keep searching the aisles or online for words that you can simply recognize.

I was there.

So here is the short version of how ingredient listing works. There are two names to know with ingredients. A Trade name and an INCI name. The Trade name is as it sounds, the common or street name, if you will, of a product. What most people know the product as, like Cocoa Butter. But this ingredient may have a different trade name, to start, even its spelling can be interchangeable with “Cacao.”  The difference in names may depend on how it was processed. But regardless of how it is processed, having a uniform name for the ingredient enables those using it to know they have the intended product. And this uniform name is universal. This is the INCI name.

“INCI” stands for the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. It is a list of the standardized and internationally accepted names used in the declaration of ingredients on cosmetic and personal care products.

The INCI name for Cocoa Butter is Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter.

The INCI names provide far more information for the consumer than the trade name. For example, Theobroma means “food of the gods” in Greek.  The well-known chocolatey scent/flavor comes from the seeds of the cacao fruit.  Ahem, hence why ‘cacao seed’ is in the INCI name.  Just saying Cocoa Butter doesn’t quiiiiiite get to that point.

By law (ahem, the beauty cosmetic gurus) say that we who make products must provide the INCI name on our ingredient list, along with the trade name. So if I use Cocoa Butter in a product, the ingredient on the back would look like:

Theobroma Cacao Seed (Cocoa) Butter or Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter (Cocoa Butter). 

This ingredient does not seem sooo intimidating, perhaps, because the words ‘Cacao,’ ‘Seed,’ and ‘Butter’ seem fairly harmless. But what about “Persea Gratissima Oil” — what that?  Yeah, that’s just Avocado oil. Or what about Tocopherol or Coco-Caprylate/Caprate? EEEK, chemicals right!? Nope. Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant to extend the life of oils in a product. And  Coco-Caprylate/Caprate is a fatty alcohol from coconut — an emollient, or non-oily ‘oil.’  Essentially it is a replacement for heavy oils we traditionally think of like olive or coconut. Formulators use these non-oils to create a light silky feel to products.

But the INCI name alone may make you run or put the product back on the shelf.

I was you. I was intimidated by the INCI names (and I certainly did not even know what an INCI was). The result was that I did not believe product labeling that touted itself as natural or clean.

I mean, come on, how can you be natural or clean with a name like Tocopherol?

Needless to say, my professional pursuit in formulation empowered my understanding of ingredients and it is my goal to empower you. I will not only maintain the legal requirement to include the INCI and Trade name of my natural ingredients, but I will go a step further to educate you on what the ingredients DO in the product.

If you read my story about making my daughter’s first eyeshadow palette for Christmas, I was pretty darn proud of myself for my three-ingredient ‘formulation.’ Ha!  I can laugh now because I was clueless.  I mean do not get me wrong, Arrowroot powder [INCI: Maranta Arundinacea Root Extract] is awesome. But it is often used in cosmetic formulations as a thickener. Yet, what I really need in my eye shadow is good adhesion, oil absorption, slip, glide, etc. And truth is if we want skincare and cosmetic products that actually work, it is not all just coconut oil and Lavender essential oil. I’m just sayin.

I got off track with the Christmas eye shadow story. Sorry.

Here is my point. Every natural ingredient in every product was chosen for a reason. And I’m going to do more than just tell you the INCI and Trade name, I will educate you on why I included it. What benefit does it add to the product?

I do not want you to be intimidated because Tocopherol or Maranta Arundinacea Root Extract is in the ingredient list. I want you to be empowered to know why.

This is our promise to you.

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