Do you want to be an informed cosmetics brand creator or become a more informed consumer; detect truly natural products or simply better understand the formulation?

Reading cosmetic labels can be a real headache at first. Here is a comprehensive list of the main ingredients in cosmetics to help you find your way around.

Understanding cosmetic labels

In order to be an informed cosmetics brand creator or consumer, we advise you to understand the labels on cosmetic products.

First of all, in order to choose a good cream, you need to focus on its composition. To decipher a composition label, we refer to the INCI list (see blog), which is a list of all the ingredients present in the product, written in English and in Latin for plants.

The elements are listed in descending order, i.e. the first component is the majority component: it is often “aqua”: water.

The example of a classic moisturiser cream

It is most often composed as follows: 

Water, Aqua:

Water allows the skin to be moisturised and allows the active ingredients to solubilise with each other and thus promote topical application.

Fatty substance:

Of mineral origin (paraffin, petroleum jelly…); synthetic (silicones ); or natural (sweet almond oil…): Their function is to protect, soften and nourish the skin.


Synthetic or of natural origin. They allow the creation of an emulsion of 2 liquids which are not miscible at the beginning. Examples: PEG, PPG (polyethylene glycol), polysorbate, or cetearyl or cetyl alcohol from olive oil.

Texturing agents:

Synthetic (silicone, gels) or natural texture (guar gum, xanthan gum, beeswax). They are gelling, film-forming, opacifying, humectant, or emulsion stabilising agents. This makes the texture pleasant to the touch on application.

Preservatives and antioxidants:

They prevent the proliferation of bacteria and the oxidation of the creams and thus prolong the life of the product. Standard preservatives: triclosan, phenoxyethanol, BHT, BHA. Ecocert approved preservatives: citric acid, benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid, natural vitamin E

Synthetic or vegetable active ingredients:

These are what each cosmetic claims to be different from the others

Perfumes :

Mask the odours of many malodorous cosmetic ingredients, however favour allergen-free perfumes for sensitive skin


They must cover all the UV rays of the light spectrum, be suitable for all skin types, be water-resistant (in the case of a suncare product), be easy to apply and not pollute.

There are mineral filters that are inert to the skin. Thanks to their “mirror” effect, they do not cause damage to humans or the environment, unlike organic filters. Among these filters, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the ones to be preferred. However, these filters must be non-nano particulate for the sake of the environment.

In addition, the variety of sun filters plays a role in the protection index. The more different sunscreens there are in a cream, the higher its protection factor.

Silicones and other components, especially petrochemical ones:

Conventional creams, unlike organic creams, contain petrochemical components. It is therefore preferable to buy and use a cream free of nanoparticles, parabens, alcohol, allergens, synthetic oils or waxes, silicones. Vegetable oils are preferred to silicones or synthetic oils.  Essential oils will be banned if they contain too many allergens and preservatives reputed to be “harmful to the environment” will be replaced by “gentler” preservatives.

Be demanding in your marketing brief, and do not hesitate to list

  • The ingredients to be favoured
  • The ingredients to be banned
  • Origin of the raw materials and possibly the way they are obtained


An informed consumer must also master the issue of biodegradability. The biodegradability of a cream is essential for the respect of the environment. Indeed, the more a cream is biodegradable, the less polluting it is. Its biodegradability will be all the higher if it is made of natural materials (of animal or vegetable origin, not synthetic). Therefore, pay attention to the origin of the ingredients.

You can also be vigilant about the composition of the packaging (made from recycled or recyclable materials)

Be also demanding in your marketing brief 

Would you like to be accompanied by experts  to develop or re-develop your product range?