Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Learning this one weird thing will save you money and keep you from ordering too many supplies

It's true, I tells ya! Learning how to read INCI names will save you time and money on supplies!

Sorry for the click-bait name, but I had to get your attention somehow, didn't I?

INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients, which sets out how our ingredients should be named on products or through suppliers. The INCI should be the same for products all around the world, and the intention is to make it clear what we are getting in our products.

A few examples...
Water - INCI Water (Aqua)
Vitamin E - INCI Tocopherol
Shea butter - INCI Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter
Jojoba oil - INCI Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil

It's a good thing to know the INCI names of the ingredients so you aren't buying the same product through different suppliers. For instance, the INCI name for Croda's Incroquat BTMS-25 is the same as Rita BTMS-225 - both are behentrimonium methosulfate (and) cetearyl alcohol. This isn't to say they are the same product: You might have 25% behentrimonium methosulfate in one and 50% in the other, but at least you know they have the same ingredients. (As an aside, both BTMS-25 and BTMS-225 are listed as having 25% behentrimonium methosulfate.)

Anyone selling a cosmetic product should be using the INCI names. If someone is selling a product with tea tree essential oil, they should be listing it as Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil not tea tree essential oil. Some people might list things like this to make it easier to read - olive oil (Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil) - and others might just use the INCI name.

Check out the Cosmetics Info site for more information on INCI names. 

Using INCI names when you're shopping for supplies can prevent you from buying the same thing two or three times at different suppliers. Incroquat BTMS-50 is behentrimonium methosulfate (and) cetyl alcohol (and) butylene glycol regardless of what your supplier calls it. If you see the INCI of Cetearyl Alcohol (and) PEG-40 Castor Oil (and) Stearalkonium Chloride, you have Incroquat CR. If you see an INCI of Cetearyl Alcohol, PEG-3 Distearoylamidoethylmonium Methosulfate, Polysorbate 60, you have Incroquat OSC (one step conditioner). And if you see an INCI of Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol, you have BTMS-25 with 25% active BTMS, no humectant, and poor emulsification abilities compared to BTMS-50. And any of these could be called a conditioning emulsifier, emulsifying conditioner, concentrated conditioner, a cream rinse concentrate, or something else - so check before you buy! (And if all these names looked confusing to you, then think of how annoyed you'll get scrolling down the screen trying to figure out the differences!)

If you don't live in North America, there might be different names for your products - let's say Amphosol CG for cocamidopropyl betaine - but the INCI should remain the same. So don't go looking for Hydrovance, look for INCI hydroxyethyl urea. Surfactants can be really difficult to find under the same brand name from supplier to supplier, let alone country to country, so learning that DLS mild has an INCI of disodium laureth sulfosuccinate or Steol 230-CS is actually sodium laureth sulfate (or sulphate) makes it easier to find what you want! I've tried to include the INCI information for every product I review unless it's really obvious like stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, oil, butter, and some humectant names (in other words, the INCI tends to be the name of the product).

Note: Outside of America, sulfate can be spelled sulphate and aluminum can be spelled aluminium. In Canada, we use both spellings of each word! 

I know it's not easy to remember all of these things, but it's worth it. (Believe me, I don't remember even a tenth of our INCI names!) Make up a chart for the products in a searchable form on the computer and update it when you learn something new. I'm all for being loyal to our favourite suppliers, but sometimes you need faster service or a closer location to make body wash before you run out and have to go Wal-Mart to use something inferior to what you create in the workshop! If you know the INCI of your product, you won't end up ordering the wrong product. (If the supplier doesn't give you the INCI give that supplier a miss or ask them before spending a ton of money, if you have no other choice! They should have them easily available on their ordering sheet or the data bulletin for the product.)

As I mentioned above, a lot of suppliers will change the name of the ingredient they carry to represent their company or their core values. We have a lot of confusion about "conditioning emulsifier" and it helps to know the proper name of the ingredient so you aren't reliant upon one supplier.

Let's say you're interested in Coco SilkyCleanse from the Herbarie or Creations from Eden. Knowing that the INCI for this ingredient is disodium cocoamphodiacetate means I can go to the Personal Formulator or Of A Simple Nature (UK) and buy it there!

I try to use the INCI for ingredients like surfactants and esters because it makes it easier to find these ingredients in your local suppliers' stores, but sometimes they are simply too long to type!

One of the problems with surfactants is that suppliers like to sell blends of surfactants, which means you're reliant upon them for that specific combination. (My guru, LabRat, always said don't get reliant upon blends because if they run out or stop carrying it, you'll have to reformulate. This happened to me with Bioterge 804!) For instance, I love to use BSB and LSB from Voyageur (those are also the names Stepan gives them) and I can't find those combinations anywhere else. When you see BSB on this blog, you can substitute it for a different blend, generally ones that are considered "baby blends" like the Baby Blend Concentrate from the Herbarie. When you see LSB on the blog, substitute it for your favourite surfactant or the surfactants found in the INCI name.

BSB is INCI: PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Disodium Lauroamphodiacetate, PEG-150 Distearate, Sodium Laureth-13 Carboxylate, Quaternium-15.
LSB is INCI: Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate and Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate

It gets worse with emulsifying wax. I use Polawax, which is listed as emulsifying wax NF (the ingredients are a trade secret) and you'll see emulsifying wax NF listed for a number of different products. Before you invest in an emulsifying wax NF or something listed as an emulsifier, read the INCI. For instance, Aromantic (UK) has a product called "Emulsifying Wax Natural" that contains Glyceryl monostearate and cetyl alcohol, which is not emulsifying wax NF. There are a number of different ways to make emulsifying wax NF, and you'll want to check the INCI so you can ensure you'll get the same product again.

If you are looking for Ritamulse SCG (INCI: Glyceryl Stearate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate), you'll want to look for NatraMulse at the Herbarie and Creations from Eden and ECOmulse at Lotioncrafter. (This, by the way, is an emulsifier approved for organic products, and something I hope to play with over my Christmas break from work!)

In the original post on this topic, DuhBe noted she keeps a spreadsheet of her ingredients with the INCI names on it so she can compare prices between suppliers. I think this is a good way of keeping track of what you're buying and what you want. I can't think of a better way to do this, other than memorizing every ingredient or only referring to said ingredient by the INCI name (which is what I did - I refuse to call it Amphosol AS-40 any more as it's really C14-16 olefin sulfonate, but I don't expect you to be as chemistry obsessed as I am!)

Ideally, I would include the various names for each ingredient in every post, but I simply don't have the knowledge of names outside of North America and I don't have the time doing a search of every supplier for that information.

As usual, the naming of these suppliers should not constitute an endorsement by me of these companies. I use them as examples of where I found these specific ingredients.

As a secondary note, if your supplier is advertising that the ingredient you're about to purchase contains "no chemicals" or was created "without chemicals", you're dealing with someone who doesn't know his/her business very well. Run away now.

If your supplier doesn't list the INCI, ask them for it. It's something that should be standard on every suppliers' website. If they don't know it, refuse to give it to you, or don't bother responding to your e-mail, find another supplier (if possible).

And finally a note to suppliers - for the love of all that is good and holy, could you please learn to type and/or proofread your sites? In going through a few of them, I was shocked to see so many poorly spelled ingredient names. Not only is it annoying to those of us obsessed with correct grammar and spelling, it makes it really hard to do a search for an ingredient when you've spelled it wrong!

Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating! 


Sânziene şi Mătrăgună said...

great post for beginners! and catchy title as well! It sounded like one of those adds on the web which many click on to view some shocking news / miracle product / dirty news :))))

as for the suppliers not spelling their ingredients correctly... good one! I was not aware of the aluminum vs aluminium, sulfate vs sulphate as well. Thanks! :)

that being said, looking forward to your new posts!

Veronique said...

Great post thank you!

Gail Ruhland said...

Great information. Oh, I have started using a piping bag to fill bottles and jars. Works GREAT. Thanks so much.

Nico said...

Hi! I know this post is old but I've been wondering about the GMS and cetyl alcohol as emulsifier. You said in another post that it's not a stable emulsifier. So I was wondering, if I had these ingredients separately and I use the HLB system, would it still be unstable? Also, if I wanted the benefits of cetyl alcohol in a lotion (for the glidy feel), would I have to add extra cetyl alcohol to the lotion apart from what was added in there as an emulsifier along with GMS? I dunno if I'm just missing some bits of information here, if it's common sense or something but it's driving me nuts! Thanks in advance!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Nico. Check out the posts on the HLB system - look to your right, then to "links to lists" to see all the stuff on the HLB system or do a search for "HLB system". The short answer is that cetyl alcohol isn't an emulsifier; it's an ingredient with an HLB value that is calculated as part of the oil phase, not part of the emulsifier. So no, your emulsifier wouldn't be stable. You want to partner GMS - I'm assuming this acryonym is based on glycerol monostearate in some way? - with a high HLB emulsifier, like cetearth-20 or polysorbate 80 and so on.

The long answer is to check out the HLB system posts and see which emulsifier you'd like to pair with GMS.

It's not an old post! Did you see my note on the right hand side of the page about there being no old posts? I don't know why people think two years is old!

Nico said...

Thank you so much! It's been driving me nuts cos my supplier keeps insisting that glycerol monostearate (yes, GMS, sorry about that) and cetyl alcohol create a stable emulsion, showing me their lotion as proof. And they have actually gone to the extent of saying glycerol monostearate can be used as an emulsifier on its own. Thank you for the quick reply!

Also, I absolutely love your e books. I definitely got overwhelmed when I first started reading it, and felt like my brain was gonna short circuit! However, I had a hard time purchasing it because of my location. I did find a way, but it had additional charges that no one really wants. Plus, I wanted to donate to your youth groups, but couldn't! I hope the e books can be available to everyone. You are definitely admired and appreciated from all over the globe!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Nico! Thank you for your kind words. I'm sorry it was so hard to order the e-books. I don't know why that is, so if you could email me privately at, I can look into it.