Before I can start talking about individual cosmetic ingredients, it is important to talk about the system that goes behind the INCI-list first.
INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients.
The first item on the list is always the one that is present the most in the product. Almost always this is water (aqua). Shower gels and shampoos for example can contain a very high percentage of water.
Anhydrous products however, like pressed powders and most lipsticks, will contain no water.
The INCI list is always arranged so that the ingredients are in descending order. But after concentrations of less than 1%, the ingredients can be arranged in any order. Most cosmetic companies use this to their advantage, placing the active ingredients that can be present at very low levels higher up the ingredient list. Thereby tricking the consumer into thinking that the wonderful miracle ingredient is present at a high concentration in the product. In reality some ingredients that are used in the product claims can be in a product at concentrations of even less than 0.01%.
So lets take some very well-known products and deconstruct their INCI list:
Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream Skin Protectant
Petrolatum - The common name for petrolatum is petroleum jelly (Vaseline). This is a petrochemical product, and is not sourced sustainably. Function: emollient, antistatic agent.
Lanolin – This is a refined derivative of the sebaceous secretion of sheep. Basically sheep’s wool fat. Function: emollient, skin conditioning agent.
Paraffinum Liquidum – White mineral oil. This is also a petrochemical. Function: emollient, skin protecting.
Parfum – Fragrance. A scent is often used to mask the underlying smell of the inde
Salicylic Acid – This ingredient is commonly used in anti-acne formulations. Function: antidandruff, preservative, skin conditioning.
Propylparaben - Paraben. Function: preservative.
Castor Oil – Function: emollient.
Corn Oil – Function: emollient.
Tocopherol – Vitamin E. Function: skin conditioning, antioxidant.
BHT – Function: antioxidant.
Iron Oxides - Function: colourants.
This is a very simple one phase formulation, that basically comprises of mineral oil, petroleum jelly and lanolin. The rest of the ingredients must be present at very low levels in the formulation, since a high level of Salicylic acid would alter the pH. Also, the maximum legally allowed concentration of propylparaben is 0.4%, so therefore the ingredients below propylparaben have to all be less than 1%.
Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Radiant Touch
Aqua - Water.
Cyclomethicone – A volatile silicone. This gives the product great skin-feel and also evaporates, making the formulation dry quicker on the skin. Cyclomethicone is controversial in the industry because it is not environmentally safe. Many greener companies do not use it all, but because of its incredible skin-feel it is unlikely that it will ever completely leave cosmetics. Function: emollient, solvent, viscosity controlling agent.
Glycerin – This helps the formulation from drying out in the pen. Function: humectant.
Talc – This is the main ingredient in most pressed powders. It gives the formulation coverage and bulk. Function: opacifying, bulking.
Paraffinum Liquidum - White mineral oil. A petrochemical. Function: emollient, skin protecting.
Peg/ Ppg-18/18 Dimethicone – Function: emulsifier.
Magnesium Sulfate – Function: bulking, viscosity controlling.
Trideceth-3 – Function: emulsifier.
Methicone – This is another silicone, but one with less negative environmental issues than Cyclomethicone. This is also used in many formulations to give excellent skin-feel and spreadability. Function: emollient.
Methylparaben – Paraben. Function: preservative.
Squalane – Function: emollient, skin conditioning.
May Contain: CI 7789, CI 77019, CI 77492, CI 77491, CI 77499, CI 77007, CI 77510, CI 77742, CI 75470
These are all colour or pearlescent pigments, they give the product its hue and “light”.
This is also a very simple silicone-in-water emulsion where the pearlescent and colour pigments give the effect of highlighting.
So these two very expensive products actually have bery simple formulations and nothing special in the ingredient list. Makes one oneder, why do people pay so much for these?