All cosmetic ingredient lists must use INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) names for all cosmetic ingredients. The use of trade or common names is not allowed on cosmetic ingredient lists. INCI names are uniform scientific names. INCI names are mandated on the ingredient statement of every consumer personal care product.

INCI is an international designation for the declaration of the ingredients on the packaging of cosmetics. The use of INCI minimizes the language barriers that often hinder consumer understanding and international trade. The INCI names are allocated by the American Cosmetic Association, Personal Care Products Council and are used internationally. The adoption of INCI terminology ensures that cosmetic ingredients are consistently listed using the same ingredient name from product to product.

In the U.S., the FDA requires that all cosmetics include a listing of ingredients using the standardized INCI name for each ingredient. INCI ingredient names on product labels allow consumers to easily compare the ingredients between multiple products, using a common language. INCI ensures transparency in cosmetic ingredient disclosure.

INCI is required in America under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. In Canada INCI is required by Food and Drugs Act and Cosmetic Regulations. The declaration of the ingredients in accordance with the INCI system has been a legal requirement in the European Union since 1993. The declaration of ingredients in cosmetics with the INCI name is required to be in descending order.

Do not be fooled into believing the idea that “if you can’t pronounce it, it can’t be good for you.” The cosmetic regulation laws were designed to insure consumer safety and to give the consumer a consistent means to identify the ingredient content of cosmetics. All cosmetic ingredients therefore have scientific names that the majority of consumers cannot pronounce. I still can’t pronounce Butyrospermum Parkii, but Shea Butter is as safe as ingredients come.

Whether you can pronounce the INCI term or not, the use of INCI nomenclature is the law. Here is a link that will allow you to look up the proper INCI term for any ingredient in your cosmetic product.


Robert Tisserand has been instrumental in bringing widespread professional and public recognition to aromatherapy. During his 15 years as a massage therapist, he wrote one of the first books on aromatherapy in 1977. The Art of Aromatherapy is now published in twelve languages. In 1974 he established The Aromatic Oil Company (a predecessor of Tisserand Aromatherapy) and in 1988 he founded The Tisserand Institute, setting new standards for vocational aromatherapy education. Also in 1988, he launched The International Journal of Aromatherapy, which he published and edited for 12 years. In the 1990s, Robert orchestrated three international AROMA conferences at British Universities, each attracting some 300 attendees. Robert tracks all the published research relevant to essential oils and collaborates with doctors, herbalists and pharmacologists, integrating scientific data with traditional medicine and holistic principles. He is familiar with the foundations of oriental medicine, and Western herbal and naturopathic traditions, with their emphasis on cleansing, protecting, strengthening immune function and aiding natural healing processes. Robert also has 40 years of experience in essential oil blending and aromatherapy product development, and has an expert knowledge of essential oil safety. Robert is on the International Advisory Board of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and is a member of the Natural Perfumers Guild. In recognition of his pioneering work, he has been awarded Honorary Lifetime Membership of the International Federation of Aromatherapists, the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists, and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists. He was privileged to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the AIA in Denver in 2007, and is the current chair of the AIA Research Committee. Books: The Art of Aromatherapy (1977), Aromatherapy for Everyone (1987), Essential Oil Safety (1995) co-author. Books chapters: “Essential Oils as Psychotherapeutic Agents”. In: Perfumery: The Psychology and Biology of Fragrance (1988). Books edited: Gattefossé’s Aromatherapy (1993), The Practice of Aromatherapy, Dr Jean Valnet (1982)

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