Decoding & Writing Cosmetic Labels: What's Omitted?

Decoding & Writing Cosmetic Labels: What's Omitted?

Have you ever found yourself scrutinizing the back of your favorite skincare product, trying to decipher a seemingly cryptic list of ingredients? You're not alone. Understanding what goes into your cosmetics can feel like navigating a labyrinth of scientific jargon and marketing wizardry. But fear not, for there's a method to this madness, and it lies within the realm of International Nomenclature Committee (INC) names, also known as INCI names.


INCI aka the International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient, serves as the universal language for identifying cosmetic ingredients. Developed by the International Nomenclature Committee and published by the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), these names provide a standardized way to label ingredients. Each ingredient is assigned an INCI name, which is used to create the ingredient labels you see on packaging – commonly referred to as "IL decks."


Suppliers of cosmetic ingredients propose INCI names for their products, often opting for names that sound benign or appealing. However, these names don't reveal the methods used in manufacturing, such as mode of extraction or distillation, which can impact the properties of the ingredient. Consequently, products with the same INCI name may vary in efficacy, purity, and compound concentration.

Crafting an ingredient list is a delicate balance of art and science. Formulators must consider the composition of each raw material and calculate the optimal ratios for efficacy and safety. This process is further complicated by the omission of individual preservatives, manufacturing aids, and additives (allowed by US labeling guidelines), leaves more information off the deck than written on it. Consider that most products contain 70-90% water, but also utilize water-based ingredients. Each component shipped from a raw material supplier would need PH adjusters, preservatives, and stabilizers. THAT’S RIGHT- FOR EVERY INGREDIENT.  This translates to most often 50% or more of ingredients missing from the printed listing.


Ever noticed how ingredient decks list components from highest to lowest concentration until the 1% mark? This hierarchy isn't always straightforward, as marketers may employ tactics to obscure what they believe is more attractive to see first and push it higher in the deck. When marketers write an IL it’s all about creating the best possible appearance to sell products regardless of what is in the composition of the products.

Additionally, higher concentrations of active ingredients don't necessarily equate to better performance. Achieving optimal results often requires synergy between ingredients and meticulous formulation based on supplier provided clinicals. Many bioactives are tested for use by dosage and have a diminishing return when used above the recommended tested levels. Best known low concentration actives are molecules that act on receptors including peptides, retinol mimicking ingredients, and many anti-oxidants.

Lesser known but of equal importance, There are ingredients that scientifically have great activity in published studies but in formulation are very unstable. These ingredients can often become pro-oxidants in a formula and cause troubles as well as negative activities onto the skin. This concept can be pretty complicated for most people to grasp but the best analogy is eating rotten fruit because it is past its expiration.


At our company, transparency isn't just a buzzword – it's a cornerstone of our philosophy. We meticulously source and formulate all our products in-house to ensure consistency and quality control. Unlike many beauty companies that outsource manufacturing, we take pride in overseeing every step of the process, from design to sourcing of our raws. Just take a look at this ingredient page we put together.

Each supplier is chosen for their pure ingredients, thoroughness of documentation (IR GC, Composition, Origin, Fair Trade, Sustainability, Methods of Manufacturing, etc). Since we develop in house AND choose every supplier/ingredient we are able to maintain the highest quality formulas.  

If you are asking yourself: “Well doesn’t every brand do this?” your surprising answer would be, NO! Many brands don’t have the depth of knowledge or any scientific chemist or skincare experts on staff. At least 75% of brands hire third party manufacturers to maintain and create all their formulas. Brands may never even know supplier or even have the IP rights to their on products. The world of contract manufacturing is an interesting one. Most brands focus on marketing and Branding which is why you often feel “sold to” and greenwashing is rampant in the beauty world.

Don’t get us started on white labelling… that’s a unique topic for another day.

Furthermore, our commitment to transparency extends to our customers. We provide proven, verified testimonials on product results and performance, allowing you to make informed decisions about your skincare regimen.


In a world inundated with beauty products promising miracles in a bottle, it's essential to arm yourself with knowledge. Understanding the language of cosmetic ingredient labeling empowers you to make informed choices about the products you use on your skin. By critically considering INCI names and decoding ingredient decks, you can embark on a journey towards healthier, happier skin – one ingredient at a time. But did we need to tell you that? You are already a DEWER which means you seem to know more than the rest.

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Great additional reads

FDA Cosmetic Labeling Guide:

Personal Care Products Council (PCPC):

European Union Cosmetic Regulations:

Cosmetics Business: