Saturday, March 23, 2013

Neutrogena: INCI and scientific species names

Screenshot of Neutrogena Naturals Lip Balm, from Neutrogena's website
(c) Neutrogena, fair use.

Neutrogena properly lists the scientific names of its plant-based ingredients according to the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI). For example, this lip balm lists the ingredient as 'Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter'. 

Unfortunately, even if these ingredient names are based originally on scientific names of plants, they are formatted differently (i.e., no italics and both genus and species epithet starting with capital letter). Additional confusion arises when INCI does not update their names on plant-derived substances and products when the botanical scientific names get changed or updated. For example, the updated scientific name for the shea butter plant is Vitellaria paradoxa (link, and link). 

Sometimes a species name has changed in the last decade or so due to new evolutionary data showing that a genus has to be have a different circumscription to form a natural group.  That is the main reason why genus names change.  Sometimes it turns out that one species is actually two, or that two species actually is the same species, and then the species epithet change and maybe the genus stays the same.  (See here for a blog post about scientific names in general).

The plant ingredients listed for Neutrogena's Naturals Lip Balm are listed to left according to INCI, and the source plant's scientific name is to the right:

Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) =  Simmondsia chinensis
Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil = Sesamum indicum
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil = Helianthus annuus
Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil = Olea europaea
Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter = Vitellaria paradoxa (link, and link)
Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter= Theobroma cacao

See how confusing this can become?  So, if you talk about an ingredient in a cosmetics product you as a consumer or the commercial producer need to follow INCI, and if you talk about the actual plant that this ingredient comes from, then you should follow the most updated scientific plant name.  No wonder the public and companies are confused about plant ingredients, plant names, and plant species. After all, there is a quarter million plants or so to keep track of.