What are all these ingredients in cosmetic products?



Element 44 Inc, Chicago, USA

When I was studying chemistry in college, I looked at the back of my shampoo bottle and saw a long list of chemicals. I wondered why it took so many ingredients to make a shampoo and why I didn’t recognize most of the chemical names. It turns out that some ingredients are more crucial than others but every one is added for a specific reason. It also turns out the cosmetic industry has their own way of naming chemicals.


If you took any chemistry courses during college you no doubt will have learned name for many different chemicals. There are simple names like Acetic Acid, Sucrose, and Sodium Chloride. And you might have even heard some more complicated names like n,n Diethylmetatoluamide (DEET). The ingredient names learned in chemistry courses include some common names but most come from the naming system of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).


The IUPAC system was designed for chemists as a way to easily communicate information about chemicals. If you are skilled in the nomenclature system you’ll read the name of any ingredient and be able to work out its molecular structure. The system is efficient, b ...