Three steps to success in cosmetics

From ideation to market launch, this article will guide you on formulating and launching skin care products.

Whether you want to formulate a single product or launch an entire range, the key to success lies in correct formulation, appropriate ingredient and raw material selection and thorough testing to ensure that once your product reaches the shelf it remains safe for use and delivers on its claims.

According to Robyn Brown, founder of The Personal Care Coach and Training Company, there are three key steps that need to be taken into account when launching a product to market.

1. Formulation

Once you have a clear idea of what you want your product to do and depending on how knowledgeable you are about ingredients and actives, you can start working on a formulation.  If it is the first time you are formulating, you can take a basic formulation and simply add specific actives to it to achieve the outcomes you want. For example, if you want to create an anti-ageing night cream, you could source a basic night cream formulation and then source appropriate anti-ageing actives to add to this in order to create your product. This is the easiest way and often the safest as these ‘generic formulations’ have been tried and tested already – you will just need to ensure you get your balance of actives and other ingredients right.

If however, you want to create something totally unique, you will need to consult with a cosmetic scientist or formulator who can either formulate on your behalf based on your brief or advise you on what to do and what will work best. 

Formulating is a process, and it is worthwhile spending time on getting the formulation right from the outset in order to avoid having to reformulate later.

Cosmetic ingredients and formulation samples in packaging (Image: The Personal Care Coach and Training Company)
Cosmetic ingredients and formulation samples in packaging (Image: The Personal Care Coach and Training Company)

2. Ingredients

As an entrepreneur, price is always going to be a factor when identifying and choosing ingredients.  However, it should not be the only factor – the functionality, quality, availability, safety and regulatory compliance of ingredients should all play a role in what ingredients and actives you choose.  It is also important to identify the benefits and risks of each ingredient, as well as the compatibility and stability of the raw materials, ingredients and actives used in a formulation.

According to Brown it is important to refer to technical data sheets and other information from the supplier.  This will highlight incompatibilities and stability issues including pH limitations, potential for oxidation, hot/cold tolerance, and sensitivity to light.

However, with there being are so many impressive and effective ingredients available it may be difficult to choose the right one. Rather than making costly errors, seeking advice and guidance from a reputable supplier of raw materials, ingredients and actives is advisable. 

Also be aware that actives and ingredients are often sold in large quantities, which is expensive and unpractical for a small business. Rather look for suppliers such as The Personal Care Coach and Training Company, which supply ingredients in small packs.

3. Testing

Probably one of the most common questions we get asked is “what testing do I require to be completed prior to putting my product on shelf?” followed by “why do I need to do testing”?

Testing is required to ensure the safety of the consumer using the product. Not all testing is compulsory, however it is advisable and recommended to prevent costly returns and long-term damage to your product or brand’s reputation.

It is compulsory to have completed preservative challenge testing. This test ensures that the preservative in your product is sufficient to protect your product from becoming contaminated while in use. Only pathogenic (disease causing) organisms are tested to ensure customer is protected from contamination of dangerous microorganisms. 

Brown explains that the actual testing takes 28 days to complete but needs extra time to set up and for the report to be compiled. Products that contain no water or more than 40% alcohol do not have to have preservative challenge testing, however they would still need to show there is no microbial contamination of product. Total plate count, yeasts and moulds and pathogen testing is still required.

Stability testing is not compulsory – but is highly recommended as changes in temperature, exposure to light and even just transportation can cause changes in the product which may affect the efficacy and aesthetics of the product, causing reputational damage. 

Tests are usually performed for 12 weeks at 4 different temperatures, and this is called accelerated stability testing. It is important that both the bulk and the packaged product are tested as the formulation needs to be checked to ensure it is stable. Packaging compatibility is also tested to ensure there is no interaction of the product with the packaging material. Cracks, leakages and blowing are also reported.

Label checks are also vital for regulatory compliance. Whether an entrepreneur, start up or a growing brand it is best to get professional testing done by a reputable laboratory that has the expertise and equipment to ensure your product is safe for use and compliant. The Personal Care Coach and Training Company can guide you and help perform all these tests and check on label compliance.

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