Article by: Perry Romanowski

One of our favorite cosmetic chemist resources, SpecialChem for Cosmetics, just got a whole lot better.

At this website, you can find all kinds of free information about the cosmetic industry like industry news, technology launches, and even some basic articles. This is good and all, but the INCI Directory that they just launched is really something special. In fact, in some ways it’s even BETTER than the online version of the actual INCI dictionary published by the PCPC.

And best of all…it’s FREE!

INCI Dictionary

The INCI Dictionary is the book which contains all the legal names for the ingredients used in cosmetics. See this previous post on naming cosmetic ingredients for more information. Unfortunately, to get access to the online version you have to be a paying member of the PCPC (not something most individuals can afford).

With the new INCI Directory from SpecialChem, all you need to do is be a registered member to get access. It’s great!

Why the INCI Directory is useful

As a new cosmetic chemist, you are going to run into names of chemicals you’ve never heard. There are literally thousands of compounds and new ones being launched all the time. You just can’t keep up.

If you want to know more about a chemical with an unfamiliar name you would have to go search for the supplier or visit the library (unless you had access to the INCI online dictionary). Now, you can use the INCI Directory instead.

INCI Directory Benefits

The best thing about the INCI Directory for a formulation chemist is the search function. You can look up chemicals by their CAS numbers and by partial matches of their name. One of the biggest complaints about the online INCI Dictionary is that their search function is terrible. You need exact matches instead of partial matches.

Another great feature is the extra information attached to each compound. You’ll find links to technical data sheets, suggested starting formulations, articles which discuss the ingredient, news mentions of the ingredient and even a list of finished products that use the ingredient. This is much more information than the INCI Dictionary gives.

INCI Directory Deficiencies

The primary problem with the free directory is that you have no guarantee that the information is up-to-date and accurate. The PCPC might change something about their listing which the directory might not update. But this is of minor concern when you are doing some basic background research on an ingredient.

The other problem is that you don’t get the chemical formula or molecular structure like you do with the standard INCI Dictionary. However, this information is easily obtained through the numerous technical data sheets that are attached to each entry.

INCI Directory

This is a great resource that every cosmetic chemist should be using on a regular basis. The free information should speed up your development time and introduce you to new cosmetic materials you might be interested in trying. It doesn’t replace the INCI Dictionary, but it certainly makes the information much more useful.

Excellent work SpecialChem!!



  1. Avatar

    Hi Perry,

    My question has to do with peptides specifically, but also applies to all the chemical names in the INCI. Are there specific chemical structures that are attached to the INCI names?

    For example, I can’t find much structural information on Oligopeptide-29. This is largely the case for any peptide ingredient I try to find the structure of actually. (To my understanding, the naming convention behind the number is completely arbitrary) Is this because it is only produced by one supplier, who keeps its structure confidential?

    On the more general scale, is there any sense of accountability that the chemicals listed on a product are actually what are inside?


    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Not all INCI names have structures you can figure out from the names. Many of the ingredients are blends of molecules so there isn’t a simple structure. And for things like Oligopeptide-29, yes the structure is likely a trade secret although you may be able to ask the supplier for a general structure.

      The purpose for ingredient lists is really to let consumers know whether there is an ingredient in the formula that might cause an allergic reaction. It is not put there for scientists to be able to figure out the exact formulas or even the chemical makeup. We use it this way but that is not the intent. For that reason, the naming system isn’t set up to perfectly identify ingredients. It is put there for practical consumer use purposes. This is also why the names aren’t the same as the IUPAC which allows you to get structure from the name.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you very much for this article. That’s the information i needed for my research.
    I have two questions and I would be happy if you could answer them :
    1 – Do you know why INCI library access is not free ? Data gathering and indexing was, originally, made for costomers (I guess) to help them make better choices. I can’t understand this point … above all the price is really really hight. That’s not fair.
    2 – There are many sites out there (like you talked about) that offer to look for cosmetics components based on the INCI name. Do you have any idea on how these sites work ? Where did they get the data from ? Have they paid the PCPC membership ?

    Again thank you and have a good day,

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      1. The INCI dictionary was not made for consumers. It was made for manufacturers which is why it costs a lot of money.

      2. Yes, they likely have a paid PCPC membership or they get the data in some other way like through the individual raw material manufacturers.

  3. Avatar

    hi Perry
    could you explain that what is the Eucerine? i can’t find it in INCI. Although i ‘ve seen on label of many product in European union. Does Eucerin is an independent chemical compound? Whether or not ,this emollient just produced by Eucerin in France?
    thank you for your sharing

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Eucerine is a brand that has many different products. I don’t know what product you are looking for. Here is the ingredient list of their Q10 anti-wrinkle product.

      Water, Glycerin, Ethylhexyl Cocoate, Hydrogenated Coco Glycerides, Stearyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Octyldodecanol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ubiquinone, Biotin, Biosaccharide Gum 1, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Beta Carotene, Tocopherol, 1,2 Hexanediol, Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Trisodium EDTA, Dehydroacetic Acid, Phenoxyethanol

      There is nothing unique to Eucerine here.

  4. Avatar

    If an ingredient’s INCI does not show up in that directory(or in Cosing), does that mean it cannot be used? I’m thinking about Nobiletin in particular.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      You need to use ingredients that have an INCI name. Check with the supplier to get the name.

  5. Avatar
    Mustafa long

    Hello Perry,

    Thank you for this amazing resource! I was looking to start exporting to Canada and EU and have ran into an INCI conundrum. In the US I have listed my ingredients as they are ranked concentration with the exact INCI name. For example if the third highest concentration ingredient (ingredient 3) was INCI named: water and air and sugar (example) the label’s ingredients would look as follows : ingredient 1, ingredient 2, water, air, sugar. Now my first question is: Should I look up the concentrations of these 3 ingredients and put them in different places on the label or am I doing it correctly placing them as I did in the example? Secondly, would you do this for an export product as well. The problem I am running into is that for export they need exact or close to exact range in which the ingredient is present. So ingredient 3 in the above example may be at 30%, however the individual INCI components obviously are not; And of course if I listed them each at 30% my formulation would have well over 100% of ingredients which make it up. My formulas and products are good but not 150% good. Thank you for your consideration of my question.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Yes, you have to list ingredients by % activity in your formula. If the ingredient is 98% water, 1% air and 1% sugar you would have to list the water first but then could put the air and sugar in any order. Yes, do that for exported products. All ingredients should be listed in order of % activity. But at 1% or less you can list them in any order.

  6. Avatar
    nidhi agarwal

    Can you please confirm INCI name of Lycopene in CTFA dictionary? Thanks.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      I don’t have access to an official INCI so I can’t say for certain & you shouldn’t use this advice as evidence for any decision you make. But as far as I can find, Lycopene is the official INCI name.

  7. Avatar
    harga cream tabita

    When choosing a toner, look for one that is alcohol-free because alcohol can cause skin dryness and flakiness,
    and can therefore make it more difficult for you
    to exfoliate. Avoid using rough towels and use those which are made
    of cotton. Exfoliate – Get rid of your dry winter skin by exfoliating.

    1. Avatar
      Eudice Germaine

      I am a retired Esthetician who worked for 35 years in the industry. I had clients from many parts of the U.S. and did so because I knew what I was doing.
      The best astringent is Grain Alcohol, which is Vodka. It does not dry the skin but cleanses it and dissolves and removes excess oils from the pores before they have a chance to solidify and become a blackhead.
      People with oily skin should use it a few times day. Normal skin, once a day is fine.

      1. Avatar

        Wish I could know more about you !!!

  8. Avatar
    Christian Leymann

    The INCI from Special4Cosmetics obviously has disappeared. I didn’t manage to find it again after the redesign of their webpage (which is now much worse than it was before…)

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      I think you can still search the site for ingredients. It’s just not as nice.

  9. Avatar
    Greg Hahn

    I have European customers asking about a product we produce and its use in a cosmetic application. I found the INCI name listing in the SpecChem website–thanks for that tip. They are also suggesting other info be included: CTFA Monograph ID XXXX (where XXXX is a numerical value, presumably an ID number). What is this number and what does it mean to the industry? I cannot find much about the number at all, only about the organization CTFA or PCPC itself.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      You need to check with the PCPC for the number. I’m not familiar with a CTFA Monograph number.

  10. Avatar

    how much is the Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary? thank you

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      You’ll have to check with the PCPC

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  14. Avatar

    I’m sorry to tell, but this INCI Directory is crap. Because it is far from being complete. I tried to look for some pigments – for some I have found European INCI names only, for some US INCI names only, for some non-INCI names at all, and some are missing completely. It’s incomplete and misguiding. I wouldn’t trust the info.

    1. Avatar

      Thanks for the feedback. I have found the directory useful but as you suggest it is not 100% reliable

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  16. Avatar

    Aldee Inci name?

    1. Avatar

      I do not know what that ingredient is. Who is the supplier?

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