What is a clean formula?
Cosmetics are part of our daily lives, for better or for worse. It is essential to select them with care, in order to avoid certain elements that could be harmful to our body. Organic products naturally appear to be the best. However, the slogan on the container is not enough, you need to learn to decipher the list of ingredients to ensure that you are dealing with a truly clean formula.
The INCI list: a mandatory statement on all cosmetic products
INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. It was introduced in 1973 by the American Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA). It was introduced in Europe in 1998.
The INCI list lists all the ingredients of a cosmetic product. Mandatory in France, including on imported products, it appears on the primary and/or secondary packaging.
The INCI list uses international language to qualify ingredients. Generally, plant extracts are listed in Latin; chemical substances or substances of natural origin, but transformed by a chemical process, appear in English.
Fragrances are grouped under the word "perfume" or "aroma". Plant extracts may specify the part of the plant used: leaf, fruit, bark, root, seed, etc.
For organic products, when a product is processed, an asterisk must be added to the list of ingredients. It specifies which ingredients are organic with a reference at the end of the list such as:
*from organic farming.
The order of ingredients
Manufacturers are not obliged to specify the percentages corresponding to the presence of each element. However, they are required to list the ingredients in descending order of concentration. All ingredients that are 1% or less in the composition are listed at the bottom of the list, in random order.
Families of ingredients
To understand the INCI list, you need to be familiar with the ingredient families.
~ Water is the main ingredient of any cosmetic product, as we will come back to later in the article. It is at the top of the list, under the name "aqua".
~ Plant extracts must be in the majority in a cosmetic. They are selected for their moisturising, softening, antioxidant, etc. properties. They appear in the list under their Latin name, followed by the word "extract".
~ The vegetable oils contribute to the texture of the product and each has its own virtues. They are identified by the word "oil" which follows the plant from which they are derived.
~ Fragrances that make cosmetics smell good are strictly limited in organic products. They are composed of essential oils - powerful plant concentrates - listed by their Latin name, followed by the words "aroma", "parfum", "fragrance" or "flavour".
~ Alcohols are also restricted in organic products. They are valued for their ability to scent a cosmetic, to provide a fresh effect and a dry feel, as they evaporate quickly, and for their preservative properties. They appear under the name "alcohol" or "alcohol denat" for "denatured" (usually processed ethanol).
~ Preservatives are essential to preserve cosmetics. Their use is limited in organic cosmetics.
Preservatives are questionable, as some of them can be irritating or even allergenic. Indeed, as they fight against micro-organisms, they tend to disturb the microbial flora of the skin. In organic cosmetics, only 5 products are authorised. These are the so-called "nature-identical" active ingredients:
1. benzyl alcohol;
2. salicylic acid and its salts;
3. sorbic acid and its salts ;
4. benzoic acid and its salts;
5. dehydroacetic acid and its salts
Water content in cosmetic products
Regardless of the type of cosmetic, water is always the main ingredient, accounting for 60-90% of the product. That's why it's at the top of the INCI list. This percentage may seem high to you, but as a reminder, the human body is made up of 65% water!
Even if water is not "virtuous" in itself, it has a determining role in the composition of a cosmetic, as it constitutes the link between all the ingredients that make it up. Used as a solvent, it allows all the elements to be solubilised to form a homogeneous product.
It is important that the water is of the highest quality. It must be purified and free of limescale, germs and bacteria, mineral salts and heavy metals.
In our formulations, water allows us to vary the galenic formulas by leaving room for active ingredients to provide more benefits to the most demanding skins. This is the case with our Pur&Pure and BioLove baby-child ranges where water is replaced by aloe vera.
Ingredients to avoid in your cosmetics
It is impossible to draw up an exhaustive list of products to be avoided at all costs, as they are so numerous. On the other hand, chemical engineers create new ones every day. However, you can already learn to spot the most frequently used ones by consulting the INCI list. Each compound in the list below is followed by some of its names.
- Alcohol: Alcohols are a bit of a departure from this list. They are risky ingredients if they appear at the top of the list, because of their irritating and drying properties. On the other hand, if they appear at the bottom of the list, they are not considered harmful.
INCI: Alcohol, Alcohol denat, Benzyl Alcohol (Cosgard).
- Alkylphenols: these emulsifying agents are suspected of acting as endocrine disruptors and affecting fertility and the foetus.
INCI: Nonylphenol (used in spermicides), Nonoxynol, Octylphenol, Propylphenol.
- BHA and BHT: these preservatives are endocrine disruptors, potentially carcinogenic.
- DEA: this acidity regulator is considered a carcinogen.
INCI: Cocamide DEA, Lauramide DEA.
- Glycol ethers: used as solvents and perfumes, these endocrine disruptors are irritants and allergens.
They are also suspected of causing reproductive disorders in humans and of being carcinogenic.
INCI: 2-phenoxyethanol, Phenoxytol.
- Formaldehyde: a known carcinogen, this preservative causes irritation and triggers allergies.
INCI: DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, Methenamine and Quaternium-15.
- Mineral oils: derived from petrochemicals, mineral oils form a film that clogs the pores of the skin.
INCI : Paraffinum liquidum, Mineral Oil, Cera Microcristallina, Petrolatum.
- Silicone oils and waxes: common in hair cosmetics, these oils and waxes provide great softness, but create a film that smothers the hair and skin.
INCI : Dimethicone, Amodimethicone, Cyclohexasiloxane, Cetyl dimethicone copolyol, Phenyl trimethicone, Stearyl dimethicone, - one, - ane terminations.
- Parabens: these preservatives have everything to dislike! They are classified as endocrine disruptors, allergens and potential carcinogens.
INCI: Butylparaben, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, E214 to E219, Propyl parahydroxybenzoate, Methyl parahydroxybenzoate.
- PEGs: these moisturising and emulsifying surfactants give creams a better consistency and more smoothness. They are derived from chemical processes using toxic gases and increase the risk of tumour development, particularly of the breast.
INCI: Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Polypropylene Glycol (PPG), PEG-6, PEG-8, PEG-40, PEG-100.
- Phthalates: disguised as fragrance or perfume, these mixtures of various chemicals act as endocrine disruptors and are potentially carcinogenic.
INCI: - Phthalate, Diisodecylphthalate, Perfume, Fragrance.
- Aluminium salts: a component of deodorants for its ability to block perspiration, aluminium has a negative influence on the nervous system and may be carcinogenic.
- Sulphates - SLS and ALS: these endocrine disruptors are used as emulsifiers, surfactants and foaming agents in shower gels, shampoos and toothpastes. They irritate and dry out the skin.
INCI: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate.
- Triclosan: this preservative is particularly irritating to the skin and acts as an endocrine disruptor.
INCI: Triclosan, TCL, Trichlorine, Cloxifenolum, Lexol 300, Aquasept, Irgasan, Gamophen, DP300, Diphenyl Hydroxyl Ether.