1. Water is not a “cheap filler”. It has a crucial role- it’s a major SOLVENT. Some of the ingredients used in a formula can be water-soluble (vit C or niacinamide), or oil-soluble. Water helps dissolve water-soluble ingredients since many of them come in a form of powder (e.g “aloe vera leaf juice extract” is a powder & is mixed with water by a formulator)
  2. INCI list shows ingredients in descending order (the first ingredient is added in the biggest amount, the next one in a smaller, & so on )BUT once it gets to the concentration of 1% or less – all ingredients are listed RANDOMLY. Again – if ingredients are added at 1% or less, a company groups them & within that group lists them in whatever order it sees fit.
  3. INCI lists are a great source to eliminate your allergens & speculate a general direction of the product. But you can’t tell how much of an ingredient is there, yet again – because ingredients under 1% are listed in no particular order. There’s a common saying that everything that comes AFTER phenoxyethanol on the list is added at less than 1% (phenoxyethanol is regulated to be added at MAX 1%) BUT it’s not a FULL picture! Ingredients that come BEFORE phenoxyethanol can also be added at <1%, since there’s no particular order in “<1%” group.
  4. Many ingredients bring MOST benefits at VERY LOW concentrations, e.g. hyaluronic acid (at less than 2% & even 0.1% can do a lot), retinol (e.g. 0.04-0.5%) or niacinamide (often 0.2-5%). Bigger concentration can make a formulation be a thick blob or harm your skin. Closer to the end of the INCI≠no efficacy.
  5. Companies can manipulate your perspective via INCI lists. Say, phenoxyethanol at 0.9% (preservative) & retinol at 0.1% (vit A) are both in a product. What a company can do is put retinol at the very top of “less than 1%” group (closer to the middle of INCI), & phenoxyethanol as a very last. That’s legal. But that creates an appearance that there’s “more good retinol” & less “nasty preservatives” (example reworded from @charlotteparler) [Preservatives ARE AMAZING, that’s why all the beef between actual experts & “Clean” beauty marketing]