Selling Homemade Cosmetics
Selling cosmetics that you have made in your own lab can be very rewarding, fun and creative. There are, however, a lot of things to think about. Below we have summarized a list of all the steps you have to consider when you plan to create your own cosmetic business.
However, starting your own cosmetic business doesn't necessarily mean that you have to do everything on your own. For each step of the process you can consult with professional firms that help you create formulas, do the manufacturing or packaging design, or assist you with regulatory questions (e.g. FDA compliant labeling). However, such services often are not inexpensive can take away much of your creativity, flexibility and fun.
Defining Your Marketplace
Before you start experimenting with formulas or even creating your first batch of cosmetics you should have a very clear understanding about which segment of the market you'd like to focus on. As the cosmetic market is dominated by large, multinational corporations selling mass products in all market segments you have to specialize in just one type or group of customer to stay competitive (unless you have a budget of millions of dollars).
Within this specific group, however, you can overtake the large competitors by better products and better service. And remember: The market does not need more cosmetics, but the market lusts for exciting, different, fresh NEW product concepts. By the end of the day you should have a clear idea what niche you'd like market with your products (e.g. "I want to sell natural hand creams at an affordable price for outdoor working people with rough and dry hands.")
Define Market Segment: Focus on a specific group of customers (e.g. nature loving, middle-aged woman). Note: you can always expand your business to new segments but it's easier to start with just one group of customers.
Know Your Customer: Do some research and get to know your customer's habits, wishes, willingness to spend money, locations where they prefer to shop, fragrances they might like best, etc.
Finding and Testing Formulas
Creating your own formula is a lot fun even though it typically requires a lot of experimenting, modifying, playing around with concentrations, and exchanging ingredients with new ingredients. However, once your formula stands it gives you a lot of satisfaction as you have created something truly unique.
You may also look for existing formulas posted on our website or other online databases, or reproduce formulas from the ingredient lists of commercial products. However, it is often necessary that even marketed formulas you have obtained from other sources need to be modified to your specific needs.
- Create or Choose the Right Formulas: Before starting to formulate, make sure you consider the right form of the product (e.g. is a lotion or cream better for the container I have in mind?), and the kind of ingredients that fit your target customer (e.g. high-performance or more natural ingredients?)
- Test Your Formulas: Don't just test your formula on your own or your friend's skin. Do stability tests! Stability testing is your very best friend; it will prevent your company from marketing a product that is unstable, and your reputation being ruined. Check out our stability testing checklist.
Manufacturing the Products
First off, always strive for good quality whether you plan to manufacture your products from scratch or modify prefabricated bases purchased from us or somebody else. Pay strict attention to stringent hygiene, a clean working space, and proper use and storage of ingredients.
Once your business moves from a kitchen-based production facility to a more professional level with your own laboratory you should follow the Cosmetic Good Manufacturing Practice Guidelines as required by the FDA.
- Manufacture at consistent quality: Set up quality rules and follow them strictly: buy only ingredients from trusted sources, use only distilled water (not tap water), store ingredients adequately, use only clean and disinfected tools and containers, wear disposable gloves and a face mask, keep a log book to record all your batch productions, reserve samples of every batch.
- Consider a contract manufacturer: If you can not or do not want to manufacture your products on your own consider consulting a contract manufacturer. This is especially the case if your business has grown to a size where you have to manufacture large quantities (drum sizes) as large scale production has its own challenges! Typically, contract manufacturers usually have a minimum of 2'000 to 5'000 containers per product.
Getting the Packaging, Label, and Registration
Packaging is often referred to as a silent salesman; its use is critical within any marketing plan, whether it responds to market needs or whether it creates new opportunities and new markets. Research has shown that over 50% of customers bought a certain brand only because they were drawn to the packaging. Purchasing cosmetics is an emotive purchase.
Thus, you could go all the way using a custom-designed container with silk-screen printed labeling, packed in a 4-color printed carton box, and wrapped in cellophane. But this costs may be very expensive.
Our advice is: find a good compromise between a high-end luxury packaging and an unprofessionally looking homemade packaging. And don't forget that, besides the design, cosmetic packaging needs also to be functional, practical, and made of a good quality (no leaking, no plastic smelling, no breaking during transport).
- Find Containers: Before buying a container in bulk quantities (typically in the thousands) buy first a few single containers of various sizes, designs and materials and decide only then which containers fits your needs best.
- Design Label: If you are familiar using drawing or photo editing programs and have a flair for good design, go ahead and design your own label. Otherwise get help from a professional graphic designer.
- Check Labeling Regulations: The FDA has very strict labeling regulations which you have to follow. If your label doesn't meet all the requirements you can be fined and/or your products must be withdrawn from the market. Read more about labeling regulations.
- Select Type of Label: Cosmetic containers can be labeled in two ways, either by sticking a printed label onto the container or by having the text printed directly onto the container (a process called silk screen printing or hot stamping). The advantage of silk screen printing is that it looks very professional and you don't have to stick labels to the containers anymore. However, there is typically a minimum of several thousand containers and once the containers are printed you can't change the text anymore. Silk screen printing is offered by most container manufacturers or by specialized companies. If you want to print your own labels we recommend using a high-quality color laser printer or the Primera printing system (www.primeralabel.com). Otherwise, there are many label printing companies who offer custom label printing at reasonable cost and with low minimum quantities.
- Register with Authorities: Besides registering your business with your City and/or State government, you don't have to register your business or your products with the FDA. Also, you don't need to send products to the FDA (or any other authority) for approval as the FDA does not approve any cosmetic product. However, if you plan to sell cosmetics that contain APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients) like sunscreens, salicylic acid, antiperspirants and others, then you do need to register your business and your products with the FDA. See Selling Sunscreens to get more details.