Sign up for exclusive discounts, product launches, and new stories on The Lab.
You might be asking, “Don’t chemicals already have names? Why do they need another?” That’s a good question. There's also a good answer.
B-silk™ protein, our proprietary polypeptide, was recently awarded an official INCI name. Lindsay Wray, PhD, our Chief Science Officer, gives us the low-down on what an INCI name means, how we got ours, and why it matters.
Exciting news: B-silk™ protein has received an official INCI name! Meet sr-Wasp Spider Polypeptide-1 Oligopeptide-178.
Confused about what this means? We were too at first.
Ultimately we were excited to get the “wasp spider” designation. After all, you couldn’t ask for a more badass set of bugs as a namesake! However, we were a little surprised that a very important word was missing from the name: SILK. Spiders make a lot of different proteins (like venom, for example). How is a consumer to know that our ingredient comes from spider silk and not another spider protein?
For a naming body to tout that they are all about consumer transparency we thought this was not very, well, transparent.
Secondly, there doesn’t seem to be much consistency behind how animal names are assigned to proteins. Sometimes the INCI name uses the common name (as in our case), but other times they use the latin name.
For example, a company called Nexgen makes an ingredient called “sr-Jellyfish Polypeptide-1”. If INCI was being consistent it would be named “sr-Crystal Jellyfish Polypeptide-1”. Or why wasn’t “sr- bovine polypeptide-1” called “sr-cow polypeptide-1”. For us the animal name is less of a big deal than the name of the protein. Wouldn’t you rather know that “sr-Jellyfish Polypeptide-1” is a Green Fluorescent Protein or that “sr- bovine polypeptide-1” is a Pancreatic Ribonuclease?
Why should you care about an INCI name? Learning how to read an INCI name is essential to understanding what’s in your products. Read on to learn more.
Trademarked name = B-SILK™ PROTEIN
INCI name = sr-Wasp Spider Polypeptide-1 Oligopeptide-178
Nickname = 18B (where we got our name, Eighteen B)
What does INCI stand for ?
INCI (pronounced “inky”) stands for the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. These names are chosen by the International Nomenclature Committee (INC) and published by the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC). They names are a systematic way to label chemicals specifically for the cosmetic industry. You might be asking, “Don’t chemicals already have names? Why do they need another?” That’s a good question. There’s also a good answer.
Why do INCI names exist?
Short Answer: You. INCI names exist to bring transparency to consumers.
Turns out, one chemical can go by many names because there is no mandated central chemical naming body. In the science universe chemicals are typically referred to by (1) their International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) name or by their (2) American Chemical Society‘s CAS numbers. If we went by these standards, instead of reading “glycerin” on your moisturizer it would read “propane-1,2,3-triol” according to IUPAC or “56-81-5” according to it’s CAS number. As you can see, it might be hard to interpret what a chemical name might be if you are not an expert in chemistry…and remember the whole point of the ingredient list is to bring transparency to the consumer. So INCI names not only ensure there is only one name for each ingredient worldwide but also that the name is appropriate for the consumer audience.
There is more at play than just the consumer however. INCI names make it easy for the cosmetic industry and the medical community to identify ingredients, no matter where they come from. This is particularly important for consumers with allergies, or those who avoid certain ingredients for ethical reasons. According to Rachel Quirk, our Associate Director of Quality & Regulatory, “All countries accept and most expect ingredients to be listed using their INCI name. Why? If an ingredient goes by multiple names, it can be hard to keep track of all the scientific information associated with an ingredient. It also becomes hard to track the regulatory and safety status of an ingredient.”
Getting an INCI name is hard work!
One reason we are excited about our INCI name is that a lot of work went into getting it (above and beyond our innovating a new ingredient)! “INCI asks for a LOT of information in the application,” Rachel (who had a hand in this process from start to finish) told us. “We had to provide the chemical structure, compositional information, and a detailed step-by-step of the manufacturing method. For peptides, they ask for additional information, including the full peptide sequence.” It just goes to show how committed we are to ingredient transparency.
So, what does sr-Wasp Spider Polypeptide-1 Oligopeptide-178 mean?
Why did we get the name sr-Wasp Spider Polypeptide-1 Oligopeptide-178? Let’s break it down.
“Sr-” stands for “synthetic recombinant.” “Recombinant” means our silk was made by recombining the silk DNA sequence you find in spiders with the DNA of our fermentation organism (in our case, a yeast). “Synthetic” means we did not use a perfect copy of the natural DNA; we shortened it a bit for optimal performance.
“Wasp Spider” is the common name for Argiope bruennichi, the spider species that makes b-silk™ protein in nature. Why did we choose this spider silk to model our b-silk™ protein after? The wasp spider evolved to make a very special silk, one that hits the sweet spot for being strong but also elastic, effectively combining the powers of collagen and elastin into one.
“Polypeptide-1” means that our protein has more than 100 amino acids, which makes b-silk™ protein a high molecular weight protein. This is what sets b-silk™ protein apart from hydrolyzed silk, which is commonly found in cosmetics. We are “-1” because we are the first polypeptide inspired by wasp spider to apply for an INCI name.
Finally, “Oligopeptide-178” indicates that we have a small sequence on the end of our protein that was not derived from spider. This is less than 100 amino acids long. We are the 178th oligopeptide to get an INCI name.
We’re proud to have an INCI name because it shows our commitment to transparency and our dedication to innovation. And that drive to innovate is what makes us at Eighteen B who we are.
Want to learn more about how we created b-silk™ protein? We thought you’d never ask. Click here for the full story.
Do you have questions for Lindsay? Comments? Topics you want us to cover? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.