What's inside my skincare?

How to Read Cosmetic Labels?

Cosmetic Labels can be confusing with some of the ingredients having extremely long and unfamiliar sounding names. How is one supposed to know as a consumer what the real ingredients are and what to look out for? We’ll be discussing that in this article so you can feel confident the next time you read a product label. 

What are INCI names?

On some labels, you may see complicated ingredient names. These are more often than not the INCI names. INCI stands for “International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient.” These were established for the consistency in naming and labelling of ingredients in the cosmetic industry across the world. Ingredients can be also listed with the common names in a given language, however by law the INCI names MUST be included on the product labels e.g. INCI Name: Butyrospermum Parkii Common Name: Shea Butter. Should you need to check any of these you can simply look these up in the INCI database. 

Natural vs. Synthetic

When looking at an ingredient label, it’s important to keep a look out for words like “natural”. If a product claims it’s natural, then that bears little fruit. What is most likely meant by that description is that it contains botanical and plant-derived ingredients. However, in terms of quality and safety, the important differentiating factor is that with INCI names you can access COSMOS or Ecocert databases online and check if these are listed as approved ingredients. If not, that means these are not allowed in natural/organic cosmetics.

Allergens List

The EU Cosmetic Regulation lists 26 potential allergenic substances that occur in natural skincare products. In order to satisfy regulatory requirements, these must be listed on the label if the total in the product exceeds 0.001% of the product. There are different requirements for if these products are leave-on or rinse-off. Regardless of what kind of product, allergens must and will be listed on the label according to the law. Keep an eye out for these to determine if it’s safe for you to apply onto your skin.


Two other things to keep an eye out for on your product label is the Period After Opening (PAO) and the Best Before End (BBE) date. There are differences between these two labels. PAO will let you know how long the product is effective. This is usually communicated by an M after the number, indicating how many months the product is still good for after opening. 

If BBE is displayed on a label this means that the product is only safe to use before the date stated as “best before the end of”. Both of these signs are required by country specific cosmetics regulations across the world to ensure your safety. 

Important Storage Tips for Natural Skincare 

Natural cosmetic products and skincare products often contain many ingredients that are volatile in nature and can't be stored the same way as synthetic ones which often use strong preserving ingredients and non-volatile synthetic components. It is essential to keep your products away from direct sunlight and away from direct heat sources, often at or below 25 degrees. If you follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturers, you ensure the freshness and preserve the quality of your cosmetic and skincare products.

Potion Organic

At Potion Organic we make sure to take out the guesswork for you. We have all the ingredients listed in full transparency, and we also provide product pages with the list of all potential allergens and extra information that may be helpful to you. We know that skin is something that can help you feel beautiful - and we want to help you make that happen in a safe way that feels good to you! Should you have any questions or concerns regarding the ingredients we will be more than happy to help. Please do not hesitate to get in touch and we will answer all your questions the best we can.