What is INCIDecoder?

What is INCIDecoder? I Mirra Skincare

Photo by Francesca Grima on Unsplash

The mass movement of consumers demanding brands to produce transparent, trustworthy, and custom-tailored products has caused people everywhere to scrutinize ingredient lists and conduct about 100 Google searches for any one product. When choosing a product, it is important to know ingredients to avoid, as well as ingredients that will be the most beneficial for your skincare needs. INCIDecoder is on a mission to simplify this process. 


1. The Breakdown

2. How to use the INCIDecoder

3. Final Thoughts

Key Points

  • INCIDecoder is a free, public database to analyze products
  • The website breaks down information into 3 main sections
  • Knowing ingredients can help you avoid harmful reactions

The Breakdown

INCIDecoder was created and is updated by The Personal Care Products Council. PCPC was formed in 1894. It was renamed the American Manufacturers of Toilet Articles (AMTA) in 1922, then renamed the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association in 1970, finally settling on the Personal Care Products Council in November 2007.

INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. Basically, INCIDecoder is a massive database of products and their ingredients broken down so they are easy for anyone to understand. The website used standardized names for cosmetic components. For example, argania spinosa kernel oil is the INCI term for argan oil, while INCI refers to table salt as sodium chloride (an oddly frequent component in cosmetics).

Via Giphy

Juxtaposed with this is their overall ranking system:

1. Superstars

This is a very stringent grade, indicating that the component has been well investigated, comprehended, and performs very well on the skin (think retinol or niacinamide).

2. Goodie

This is a more permissive grade, indicating that a substance is typically beneficial to your skin.

3. Icky

This grade is for elements that might be troublesome, such as fragrance allergies or other possible irritants. It is important to note that this does not mean they are “icky” for everyone, just something to be aware of.

Via Giphy

4. There is no rating

Functional components, such as emulsifiers or thickeners, that are essential for the product but don't make your skin pleasant and healthy, don't receive a grade (but do get a description).

*While exploring the website, I found there to be many ingredients with no rating or information, however, this is still a great resource to start with when trying to decode your product's ingredient list.  Also, the website is limited in that it cannot tell you the source of ingredients, their skin feel, or their exact effectiveness. 

How to use the INCIDecoder

First and foremost, this free website is incredibly easy to navigate. INCIDecoder works with any ingredient list, just copy and paste the ingredient list of a product from whatever website you are browsing, then simply click analyze. Or search for a specific product and click the link.

If the ingredient list for a product you're interested in isn't publicly available in their database, you can create an account and upload an ingredient list or a picture of one. The website will decipher the list right away and tell you what's a goodie or an icky (It can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for new items to be approved for public use in the database, but you can see the product breakdown immediately away via a direct link.)

Whichever option you choose, INCIDecoder then gives you information in 3 different ways.

First, they show the ingredients grouped in terms of performance or function. This includes options like: abrasive, emmoilent, perfuming, etc. Each ingredient comes with clickable links that give you more information. They also feature a compare tool where you can view products side by side.

Via Giphy

The second section is a table where you have all ingredient names, “what-it-does”, its probability of clogging pores or causing irritation on a 0-5 scale, and then its overall ranking. The table is concise and easy to read. The third section is each ingredient broken down in paragraph form, with a name, a description, their opinion, and links to additional research. *Opening links in a separate tab may be helpful if you are deep diving into a product.

The cosmetics and personal care industry in the United States is primarily self-regulated, including everything from makeup to shampoo, lotion, and sunscreen. Only nine chemicals have been barred from use since they first came under FDA jurisdiction in the 1930s. Today, almost 12,000 substances have been licensed for usage.

For years, consumer health activists and some researchers have warned that some of these products are dangerous. There is growing data painting the links between commonly used products and certain concerning and unexplained illness patterns, particularly among women. 

Final Thoughts 

Choosing a new product can seem daunting, all things considered. But this website can give you a quick snapshot into products, making the task a little easier. It can immediately show you ingredients to avoid, ingredients you're looking for, and other products containing those ingredients. It also functions as a quick way to check active ingredient claims made by brands. INCIDecoder is a helpful, growing resource for decoding products that can help with future purchases, diagnose ingredients that may be irritating your skin, find comparable products, and more. 

Written by Kiana St. Onge


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  1. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/23/are-chemicals-in-beauty-products-making-us-ill
  2. https://incidecoder.com/comedogenic-rating


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