Trade Name vs. INCI Name

Knowing the difference between a Trade Name & an INCI Name is valuable when communicating with chemists, companies, or suppliers. Just by knowing the difference between trade names and INCI names will allow for a quicker process when you are communicating with other people.

What is a Trade Name?

“a name by which something is known in a particular trade or profession”
– The Google Definition (praise Google)

In the cosmetic industry, a trade name is associated with a particular raw material produced/sold by a cosmetic raw material company. This raw material can consist of just one ingredient or be a blend of ingredients. Some raw material companies have distributors or suppliers that they work with to distribute their products.

Think of it like trading Pokémon cards.

Nintendo & Creatures, the Pokémon company, create Pokémon cards with particular names & attributes (trade names) that people can then trade amongst each other (distributors/suppliers) — by trade, I mean sell because you obviously won’t be able to just trade stuff in real-life businesses.

Why are Trade Names important?

Different raw material companies can sell the same ingredient (it doesn’t necessarily mean they source it from the same place) & can offer it at different prices with different specifications and purity levels. This just means that you have different Trade Name options from different companies.

Think of it like mandarin oranges from the grocery store.

You’re looking specifically for mandarin oranges. The grocery store offers you 3 different brands — Cuties, Halos, or the store brand one. It is up to you as the consumer which brand you want to use & at what price you can afford it.

Although these aren’t perfect examples, hopefully it simplified the concept of a trade name in the cosmetics industry for you.

What is INCI?

INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients & it is internationally used and recognized to identify cosmetic ingredients. These are the names that are most predominantly seen on the Ingredients Lists of cosmetic products.

“They are developed by the International Nomenclature Committee (INC) and published by the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) in the International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook, available electronically as wINCI.”
Personal Care Products Council

Think of it as the Cosmetic Industry version of IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) that you probably learned in General Chemistry & Organic Chemistry.

IUPAC Refresher: Remember learning the rules for the number of saturated or unsaturated hydrocarbons? That’s the naming convention that I’m referring to. IUPAC is a universally-recognized nomenclature system used to name, classify, and distinguish different chemical compounds.

Why is INCI important?

INCI provides a system that can be used in labeling cosmetic products that is uniform internationally. This helps scientists, medical professionals, and consumers the ability to reference ingredients by using the “same language”. It also allows for the ability to track the safety & regulatory status of ingredients to ensure product safety & compliance.


Trade names are used by cosmetic raw material companies to name the raw material ingredients they are selling or distributing. Multiple raw material companies can sell “the same” ingredient; therefore, by giving it a trade name, chemists can differentiate all of the options for that ingredient from different companies.

INCI names are the names given to ingredients by the INC and published by the PCPC. These are typically the names that you see on the Ingredients Lists of your cosmetic products.

As a cosmetic chemist, it is important to understand Trade Names & INCI Names.

You’ll have to assess the different trade names available for particular ingredients & decide which one you will move forward with. It can all come down to availability & sustainability of the material, cost, your relationship with the raw material company/supplier, etc.

It is also important for you to know how to use INCI names. The raw material company/supplier should be able to provide you with a composition breakdown of the material that you have decided to use in a cosmetic product. Typically, the composition breakdown will be listed with the INCI names & their composition. You can use this composition breakdown to create the ingredients list for the product & use the provided INCI names.

Hopefully this little course helped you understand the difference between trade names and INCI names & how both are used in the cosmetic industry

Comment below if you found this post helpful or if you have any questions. You can also submit comments/questions through the Contact tab or directly e-mail:  Thank you for being a part of this journey!

– Cosmetic Padacts

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