What on earth does that label say?

Labeling. A very important part of the cosmetic industry. A very controversial one that is actually governed and overseen by Health Canada and it’s very specific regulations. A label must have the name and contact information of the company that produced the item, the name of the item and last (but not least) the list of ingredients that must be listed in a very specific way. And maybe a lot or batch number.

So first things first. Name and contact information are pretty straight forward, as is the name of the item which being in Canada must be bilingual (I think I just fell down on the job here but I sell to primarily English speaking folk.) A lot number is to track which batch the specific item comes from and consequently the paperwork and test sample associated with that batch which most responsible companies will keep.

This brings me to the ingredients list. This is the tricky one because who knows what on earth those funny words say! Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter, Cocos Nucifera Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Bicarbonate, Potassium Bitartrate, I could go on but my tongue thinks it’s reading from the pages of the famous Dr. Seuss.

There’s actually a good reason for these names being listed in the way that they are. Say you were traveling abroad or at least in an area where you did not speak the local language or didn’t know the local name for something specific and had an allergy to that specific thing. How bad would it be if you were to buy that thing and not know that it contained the thing that you were deathly allergic to? Well, the cosmetic industry realized this a few decades ago and implemented what is called the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients or INCI for short. They got together and created an international dictionary of cosmetic ingredients based on scientific, Latin and English names. If a cosmetic in Europe has an ingredient list it will be essentially the same list in Canada, the US or any other place that uses this naming system.

In Canada it is law to list your ingredients using the INCI and to list them in the order of percentage that they occur. I may only speak English and some French, but I could pick up a bar of soap with a German label and still be able to understand that Theobroma Cacao (the Latin/Botanical name for the plant) seed butter is cocoa butter, that Simondsia Chinensis seed oil is Jojoba oil and that Sodium Hydroxide is lye. I personally know someone who is allergic to aloe barbadensis (aloe) leaf extract and breaks out in hives if she touches it. Aloe barbadensis is the simple aloe vera plant. It’s leaf gel is in most shampoos, conditioners and body washes. It would be horrible to purchase something with aloe in it, use it, and get hives all over from using it.

Oh and Sodium bicarbonate? It’s just baking soda, or Backpulver in German, bicarbonate de soude in French, bicarbonato di sodio in Italian, etc.


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