INCI Isn’t Everything: Daft Punk Shows Us Why

Knowing the components of something doesn’t tell us their proportions, quality and properties, or how they’re put together.

Like how Daft Punk sampled Eddie Johns’ song “More Spell On You”; snipped, stretched, looped, and rearranged it into “One More Time” — ingredients can be remixed to create something new.

What is INCI? INCI or International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients is an English language ingredient dictionary and system of rules for naming the ingredients used in cosmetics.

If no INCI name or naming rule exists, other chemical, scientific, or common names can sometimes be used, depending on the region.

An ingredient list is just that, a list of ingredients. In some regions, the ingredients will be listed in decreasing concentration – some allow them to be listed in any order.

In the US the FDA regulations allow ingredients less than 1% in concentration to be listed in any order (after things higher than 1% in concentration).

Based on the ingredient list of this baked good:

Flour, Milk, Vegetable Oil, Egg, Sugar, Salt

Can you really tell what it is? It could be a cake, a crepe, a popover, a muffin, or pancakes. It could be a lot of things.

Having the concentration of the ingredients gives us a better idea. All this information is missing from an INCI list.

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup white sugar

1 egg

1 cup milk

¼ cup vegetable oil

But the way that it’s put together is also very important (also information missing from an INCI list).

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

Step 2: Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl froth the egg with a fork, then add the milk and oil. Pour all at once into a well in the flour mixture. Mix gently until the batter is lumpy.

Step 3: Pour the batter into paper lined muffin pan cups.

Step 4: Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden.

Only now do we know that they’re muffins.

Just like the ingredient list of something we eat, a cosmetic or skincare ingredient list can provide us with valuable information.

It might highlight potential allergens or things we are looking to avoid. An ingredient list might give you a general sense of what it will be like. But it can’t tell you everything, and it’s not worth aching over.

You simply can’t divine concentrations, formulations, raw material information, and manufacturing processes if that information just isn’t there.

A vegan lanolin alternative made from plant oils


Today I wanted to share with you these plant oil based vegan alternatives to lanolin.

Lanolin is great at forming an emollient film on the skin, and reducing water-loss through evaporation from the skin. It’s very sticky which means it often remains on the skin longer than petrolatum and oils. Lanolin also has the interesting ability to absorb water, up to 200% in some cases.

Many people are allergic to lanolin and others, like the wonderful @phyrra, choose to use animal and cruelty-free products, but it’s difficult to get the same effect with natural alternatives. Lanolin is made up wax esters, lanolin alcohols, and lanolin acids which give it its unique properties.

I’ve come across other ingredients that are marketed as lanolin alternatives, but they’re often hydrogenated oils or plant butters. While they often have the melting point and waxiness of lanolin, they lack the stickiness and water absorption.

These have a similar stickiness and effect on the skin as lanolin, absorb around 200% water, and they’re made with components found in plant oils!

Plant oils (and many animal fats) are triglycerides. They are made up of three fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule.

Below is the structure of tristearin, a triglyceride found in nutmeg! The blue part of the molecule is the glycerol. The long chains are fatty acids, 3 stearic acids are shown.


The company uses a patented method using radio frequency heating and catalysts to rearrange the molecules and attach extra glycerol molecules to the fatty acids. The results are biodegradable, safe, and the whole process adheres to many of the tenants of green chemistry. They’re also ECOCERT and COSMOS approved.

Below is glyceryl stearate, which is 1 glycerol molecule (in blue) attached to 1 stearic acid (in red).


The samples are organized from thinnest to thickest from left to right, and these changes are made by attaching differing amounts of glycerol to the fatty acids, or rearranging them in different structures.

As an example, in the molecule below, 3 glycerol molecules have been chained together to form triglyceryl stearate


These are great for balms, adding extra emollience to moisturizers, and even for keeping pigments from lipsticks on your lips! The company has also done human trials on these that have shown they have a long-term effect on moisture levels in the skin – similar to lanolin!

Alcaligenes Polysaccharides


This is a water gelling agent made from a Gram-negative bacteria, similar to xanthan gum.

A 0.001% concentration can thicken up a product quite nicely, which is good because it costs more than $10 000 for a kilo.

Beyond thickening water, it also has moisturizing properties, similar to hyaluronic acid.

Is it better or worth the money? I’m not sure – but if the popularity of this ingredient increases, the cost will go down. Much of the cost is the low yield from production. You can read more about how it’s produced here.

Japanese and Korean suppliers tend to have many unique and interesting raw materials, from my experience.

It’s found in a few commercial products, which are very luxury and expensive (as is to be expected).

Have you used a product that had this ingredient in it? Did you like it? Does knowing the cost of the raw material help justify the cost of the product for you?