Deciphering the INCI Naming System

cnf health canada inci Jul 30, 2019

Original Release Date: July 22, 2019

When you’re labeling and submitting CNF’s to Health Canada, you need to be using the INCI format.

What is INCI?

INCI stands for the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. It is a system of naming cosmetic ingredients that are based on scientific, Latin, and English words of the ingredient, and can be used around the world.

With few exceptions, the INCI labeling names in all countries around the world are the same.

Where to find these names

The International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary & Handbook contains the most comprehensive listing of ingredients used in cosmetic and personal care products. It has more than 22,600 International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) labeling names for the United States, the European Union, and other countries.

However, access to this resource will run you thousands of dollars.



What to do??

Instead, you can use a free resource called CosIng which is the EU’s database with information on cosmetic substances and ingredients.

You can use this search engine to check to make sure all the terms you are using are in the INCI format.

Supplier websites

Another great resource is to check with your supplier, or on their website, to see if they have listed the INCI name of the ingredient you purchased.

I know both Windy Point and Soap and More is really good about having the INCI in the listing info.


If you are using essential oils to fragrance your products, you will need the INCI name of the oil. Make sure you have the correct variety, as certain oils like lavender can have many varieties (ie. Bulgarian lavender, French lavender, Lavender 40/42, etc).

If you use a fragrance oil, you may list either "fragrance" or "parfum" in your CNF and on your labels.


If you are using natural colorants like clays or botanicals, you will need their INCI name.

For other colouring ingredients like micas, glitters, or pigments, use the Colour Index (CI) number or colour name (not both).

One last thing

If you're making soap, whether it be CP, HP, or melt and pour, you need to consider that the raw oils will be saponified and will become fatty acid salts. That means, olive oil will become sodium olivate, and coconut oil will turn into sodium cocoate.





50% Complete


Want new article notifications, biz tips and tricks, and more? Sign up for updates below.