All ingredients used in cosmetic, toiletry and perfumery products must be listed on the ingredients list. This list is mainly there for people who have been professionally diagnosed with an allergy, so that they can avoid the ingredients to which they are allergic. To avoid these people having to know ingredient names in many different languages, many years ago the industry agreed on a common naming system called the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients, or INCI. The same ingredient names are used in every European country and most countries worldwide. Although the names sometimes appear complicated, this is necessary to precisely identify each ingredient and the name is usually simpler than the chemical or botanical name. Further information about ingredient labelling may be found in CTPA's Ingredient Labelling Help Note.
The list of standard ingredient INCI names can be viewed online on the European Commission website for cosmetics. It was published as Commission Decision 96/335/EC and was amended by Commission Decision 2006/257/EC.
The Inventory of standard ingredient INCI names has now been repealed and replaced by the European Glossary, published on 8 May 2019:
The glossary is based on the previous Inventory but expanded to include additional substances and amended to include the most up-to-date names for ingredients. Where any changes are applicable, the labels of products being placed on the market should be updated within 12 months of publication.
Commission Decision (EU) 2019/701 will become the official resource for European cosmetic label names 20 days after its publication.
The European Commission makes available a searchable electronic database of cosmetic ingredients which, as well as other useful information, includes the INCI names for the substances listed. Whilst a useful tool, the CosIng ingredient database is not a legal resource and the correct legal texts should always be consulted.