What is essential is invisible to the eye: how much INCI reveals?

The Little Prince quote came really handy for this purpose. Is INCI even enough for a good cosmetic product assessment?

Ingredients, ingredients

I remember how empowered we felt, when we started discovering that cosmetic products have ingredients lists, that expensive doesn’t mean better, that alcohol denat is bad for you skin, sodium laurly (laureth?!) sulfate should be avoided at all costs and octocrylene will basically kill you slowly and painfully. OK, to be less dramatic and to make a long story short  – that there can be such a thing as smart and informed skincare. Whoa!

Don’t worry I’m not going to burst that bubble, The ingredients list – INCI is still T H E source of unbiased information for us mere mortals, and we can keep the scientific smart ass attitude while scanning cosmetic products in drugstores. INCI based knowledge about which ingredients to avoid, include and combine in your specific skincare routine, is still the most significant step towards a beautiful, youthful and healthy skin.

OK so INCI is still the alma mater, what then?

Ingredients vs. effects

What actually kept me up at night (did you notice I’m a drama queen too?) was that sometimes cosmetic products that looked spectacular by INCI, didn’t do absolutely N O T H I N G  worth mentioning for my skin? Don’t get me wrong. I’m a seasoned skincare junkie, I don’t expect -10 years, but I expect some effect in terms of glow, suppleness, softness etc. Gimme some!

And there were other times, when I looked and the INCI and said »meh« OK, it has some nice oils and vitamin E deep down there, nothing spectacular, but no nasties either, so I’ll give it a go.

A N D…my skin felt renewed, soft, glowing. Like, what a heck?

The first and most common cause of deviation between sensible expectation and individual reaction is the individual skin condition and specific circumstances. My skin is very »morose«, so I expect untypical reactions, but with some products I noticed a common disappointment or enthusiasm among users against any logic based on INCI.


Cliche: there is more to it...

Because INCI in extreme cases can be a stunningly beautiful lady with a boring personality, or a dull-looking girl with a sparkling personality. Because INCI is only a list and mostly doesn’t tell us anything about:

  • Ingredient origin: quality may differ
  • Active ingredient concentrations: how concentrated are the active ingredients? Does this % have proven effects on the skin?
  • Ingredient grade:g. pharma grade, food grade, cosmetic grade: differs in purity, level of testing
  • Formulation process: quantities and effects of ingredients

And more.

As I personally see it, INCI might just be the tip of an iceberg.

I’m in no position in terms of knowledge to elaborate this categories any further, I would just like to give you an idea about what INCI actually reveals. or better, what it doesn’t. And what it doesn’t is information that is hard to obtain unless manufacturers decide to disclose more, e.g. decide to be more or less transparent about their production process, beyond the legislative norms.

What now?

So here we are, at the beginning, with the INCI list »only«. We could be more mindful in terms of brand transparency, do more research, read more about our chosen brands, maybe even ask questions if an opportunity arises. What is the concentration of the active ingredient listed? Is it proven that this concentration has the listed effect? Where do you acquire your ingredients? Which studies are backing up your claims of efficiency?

Too much homework for a mere mortal. It is too much even for a skincare junkie.

So I guess we’ll stick to INCI and spend an extra 15 minutes with Google to check for unbiased reviews and opinions.

And who knows, maybe the future of cosmetic industry holds more transparency for us.

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