what is INCI and how come i don’t understand your labels/ingredients?

INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients.  In November 2006 Health Canada required that all personal care products be labelled with INCI names exclusively.  This is the reasoning they use:

INCI is a system for naming cosmetic ingredients that is multilingual, multinational and based on Latin language. It consists of a common, single nomenclature for each ingredient used in a cosmetic product. It is a nomenclature based on international lists of ingredients known and used by pharmacists and scientists worldwide. It has been developed in the United States and Europe and it is used extensively throughout the world. Health Canada, along with other government and industry representatives, is a participant of the International Nomenclature Committee which determines the INCI name assigned to each cosmetic ingredient. INCI is the mandatory nomenclature in the United States, the European Union, and now Canada.

INCI ideally should make it easier for consumers to know exactly what is in the products they are purchasing but there is a steep learning curve involved since most of us are not that familiar with Latin or the botanical names of certain plants.  Uninformed consumers may think that a product is loaded with “chemicals” (read “synthetics”) since Latin names for very natural, benign ingredients can sound “chemical”, like sodium chloride (salt).

If you are interested in finding out what some of those names are in common (Canadian) English, there is a non-exhaustive INCI list here.

what do you mean by natural?

the term natural is not regulated in any way and natural means different things to different people.  naked® does not use terms like “naturally derived” because we believe almost anything can be described this way, including things we would never put on our bodies and that most of us would not consider natural (SLS is “derived from coconuts”).  we believe that natural means that an ingredient is not synthesized in a lab and occurs naturally in our world.  that being said, we believe that the removal of a dangerous naturally-occurring compound in an ingredient doesn’t render that ingredient un-natural.  as an example, naked® would consider natural bitter almond oil that has been rectified (removal of poisonous hydrogen cyanide from the oil) as natural but “nature identical benzyldehyde” (an identical compound to the natural oil minus the cyanide that has been synthesized in a lab), is not natural and therefore would not be used in the making of naked® products. 

what is soap?

soap is actually a salt, chemically speaking. when fatty acids (oils) come into contact with a caustic alkalai base (in this case, a sodium hydroxide and water solution), the fatty acids thicken to a pudding-like consistency, this is the beginning of a chemical reaction called saponification.  this batter is poured into a mould and left for 24 hours during which time saponification causes the mixture to heat up, go through a gel phase, then cool down into a solid. most of the free sodium hydroxide has disappeared by this point but naked® soap is left for an additional 4 weeks to “cure” until all the sodium hydroxide has dissipated, any water has evaporated out of the bar and the soap is gentle and ready to use. a wonderful by-product of saponification is glycerin, a natural humectant (something that draws moisture to itself). the transparent soap that is often called “glycerin soap” is a bit of a misnomer – all soap has glycerin, unless it has been removed. commercially made soap often has the glycerin removed to sell to cosmetic companies.

what are some of the ingredients you list?

sodium hydroxide: sodium hydroxide is commonly known as lye.  you cannot make soap without lye (see “what is soap?”). since the 1700s sodium hydroxide has been derived from sea salt and is now sold in a standardized flake or grain form, much like table salt, or sodium chloride. sodium hydroxide produces bar soap, potassium hydroxide (another “lye”) is used to make liquid soaps.

fruit, vegetable and nut oils: naked® uses only pure non-animal oils to make our soaps. some naked soaps are not, however, suitable for vegans since we do use beeswax, honey and goat’s milk.

all natural colours and scents: naked® uses only natural spices, herbs, clays and vegetables to colour our soap. because of this our soaps are not uniformly coloured, may fade a bit and don’t have the bright colours of many commercial soaps. we use only pure essential oils to scent our soap – no synthetic fragrance oils or perfumes.

other additives: beeswax is added for colour, scent, and to produce a harder bar that will last longer in your soap dish. honey is a natural humectant (draws moisture to your skin) and is used for colour and scent since it caramelizes during the gel phase of the soap process. goat’s milk is used for it’s softening effects and to make the lather creamier. oatmeal is added to soften as well as to gently buff your skin. lavender flowers, ground almonds, myrrh powder and other natural ingredients are added for texture, eye appeal or to provide mild exfoliation to slough off dead skin cells.

copyright naked soapworks® 2013


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