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Why A Skincare Product Ingredient List May Not Tell You So Much

Why A Skincare Product Ingredient List May Not Tell You So Much

While the ingredient list of a skincare product provides valuable insights into its formulation, there are several reasons why it may not tell you everything you need to know about the product.

The skincare ingredient list, often referred to as the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) list, is a comprehensive breakdown of all the ingredients contained in a skincare product. The INCI system is a standardized naming convention used globally to ensure consistency and clarity in listing cosmetic ingredients. Understanding the skincare ingredient list is essential for consumers to make informed decisions about the products they use on their skin

 Here is the ingredient list for Kambiio Stellar Brilliance Concentrate

Citrus Aurantium  Amara Distillate, Rosa Damascena Distillate, Pelargonium Graveolens Distillate, Daucus Carota Distillate, Glycerin, Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos) leaf Extract, Hibiscus Sabdariffa (Hibiscus) Flower Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice,  Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, DL-Panthenol, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid

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The INCI names are standardized scientific names assigned to cosmetic ingredients. These names are often derived from Latin, English, or scientific terminology and are used universally to identify specific ingredients. For example, "Aqua" is the INCI name for water.

In most regions, ingredients on the skincare ingredient list are listed in descending order of concentration, with the highest concentrations listed first and the lowest concentrations listed last. This means that the ingredient listed first is present in the highest amount in the product, while the ingredient listed last is present in the smallest amount. However, when the concentration of the ingredient is less than 1%, that ingredient can be listed anywhere on the list. It is a tricky one especially when you see certain actives where the specification for use is below 1% but it is listed as the first ingredient on the INCI list.


Ingredient Components

Active and Inactive Ingredients:

Skincare products contain both active and inactive ingredients. Active ingredients are the components of the product that provide specific benefits or effects on the skin, such as moisturizing, exfoliating, or anti-aging properties. Inactive ingredients, also known as excipients, are used to stabilize, preserve, or enhance the formulation but do not directly contribute to the product's primary function. It is important to note that both active and inactive ingredients are essential to creating the product formula.

Functional Categories:

Ingredients on the skincare ingredient list are often categorized based on their function or purpose in the formulation. Common functional categories include emollients (e.g., oils and butters), humectants (e.g., glycerin and hyaluronic acid), surfactants (e.g., cleansing agents), occlusives (e.g beeswax), exfoliants (e.g alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), enzymes like papain and bromelain, Beta Hydroxy acid (BHA) like salicylic acid) brightening agents, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, preservatives, fragrances, aromatics, and botanical extracts.

Allergens and Sensitizers:

Skincare ingredient lists may also include potential allergens or sensitizers, such as fragrance ingredients, essential oils, or certain preservatives. These ingredients are typically highlighted or marked to alert consumers with sensitivities or allergies to avoid them.

Multi-Functional Ingredients and Complexes:

Skincare formulations may contain multi-functional ingredients or complexes, which combine multiple active ingredients to target specific skin concerns or provide synergistic benefits. These ingredients may be listed individually or collectively under a single INCI name, depending on regulatory requirements.

Understanding the skincare ingredient list empowers consumers to make informed choices about the products they use on their skin. However, the ingredient list does not tell you everything about the product. Here are the reasons:


The Factors 

Concentration of Ingredients:

The ingredient list typically lists ingredients in descending order of concentration, with the highest concentration ingredients listed first. However, it doesn't provide specific information about the exact percentages or concentration level of each ingredient. The efficacy of certain active ingredients, such as vitamin C or alpha arbutin can vary significantly depending on their concentration. Without knowing the precise concentrations, it's challenging to gauge the potency and effectiveness of the product.


Formulation and Synergy:

Formulation and synergy of a skincare product involve a meticulous process of selecting, combining, and balancing ingredients to create a safe, stable, and effective product that delivers targeted skincare benefits. Skincare products are carefully formulated to achieve specific goals, whether it's hydrating, brightening, or anti-aging. The efficacy of the product often relies on the synergy between various ingredients and the overall formulation. Synergy refers to the interaction between ingredients that enhances their individual effects and produces a greater overall benefit when combined. Certain ingredients work synergistically to amplify each other's efficacy or address multiple aspects of a skincare concern. For example, antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E work synergistically to neutralize free radicals and protect the skin from oxidative stress more effectively than when used alone. Other factors to note are pH balance, the delivery systems, compatibility and stability of the overall formula and the sensory experience all contribute to improve penetration, bioavailability, and overall performance.


Manufacturing Processes (ingredients and delivery systems):

The quality and effectiveness of skincare products can be influenced by factors such as manufacturing processes, ingredient sourcing (e.g refined vs unrefined, sourcing the same ingredient from different regions), and product stability. For instance, the purity and stability of active ingredients may vary depending on how they are sourced and processed. The formulation may incorporate specialized delivery systems or technologies to optimize the absorption, penetration, and bioavailability of active ingredients in the skin. Liposomes, nanoparticles, and encapsulation techniques help encapsulate and protect sensitive or unstable ingredients, allowing them to penetrate deeper into the skin for enhanced efficacy. Manufacturing practices can impact the product's texture, consistency, and overall performance. Without insight into the manufacturing processes, it's challenging to assess the product's quality and reliability. It is not typical that consumers will know this level of information.


pH Levels and Packaging:

The pH level of a skincare product plays a crucial role in maintaining the skin's natural pH balance and ensuring optimal efficacy of active ingredients. Skincare products often contain ingredients that are sensitive to pH levels, such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or vitamin C. The pH of the product can affect the stability and efficacy of these ingredients. Formulators adjust the pH of the formulation to match the skin's pH level, minimizing disruption to the skin barrier and maximizing the absorption and effectiveness of key ingredients. Furthermore, the packaging of the product, such as airless pumps, opaque bottles, plastic jars or bottles, amber or miron bottles/jar can impact its shelf life and protection against light and air exposure. Information about pH levels is typically not included in the ingredient list but can significantly influence the product's performance. 


Individual Skin Reactions:

Everyone's skin is unique, and individual skin reactions can vary widely based on factors such as skin type, sensitivity, and existing skincare routines. While certain ingredients may be well-tolerated by most people, they may cause irritation or allergic reactions in others. Understanding how your skin responds to specific ingredients often requires personal experimentation and observation, which may not be reflected in the ingredient list. Consulting with skincare professionals or conducting patch tests can also provide valuable insights into the product's performance and compatibility with your skin.


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