Formulating products is our core skill at Colin’s Cosmetic Consultancy. We’ve been doing it for a long time, and if you are in the UK it is very likely you’ve a product that a member of the team here has formulated. We’ve formulated most categories of product from simple soap bars and balms all the way up to licensed medical products and award-winning high-end skincare – and lots of things in between.
One of the questions we often get asked by people interested in launching their own product, is what is the process? Here’s a very quick overview.
- Idea Generation: The first step in developing a cosmetic product is to come up with the idea of what the product should be. This might involve market research, trend analysis, and identifying gaps in your company’s product line or in the market. But a lot of the best ideas come straight from the entrepreneur’s imagination. There was nothing on the market like the Body Shop until Anita Roddick started it. And they are often ideas that industry insiders would dismiss. I remember how skeptical the managers at the first lab I worked in were when asked to create products without colour or fragrance. Who’d want products that looked dull and didn’t smell nice? The Simple brand continues to sell well all around the world. More recently, I can remember predicting that The Ordinary skincare range wouldn’t get anywhere.
- Concept Development: Once the idea is generated, the team or the entrepreneur develops the concept in greater detail. This can include defining the desired characteristics of the product such as its smell, texture, color, active ingredients, and most importantly what margin it needs to be sold at. This is often most easily done by identifying a benchmark. A lot cosmetic chemists spend big chunks of their careers copying the work of other cosmetic chemists.
- Formulation Development: This is the first step that typically happens in a laboratory. Cosmetic chemists will develop a formulation that meets the requirements identified in the concept development stage. This can involve researching and testing different ingredients, combinations, and quantities.
The biggest part of the process is making up samples and passing them to the client for feedback. This is the stage at which the product takes shape and becomes something real rather than just a concept. A common and understandable question is how long does it take. The answer is anywhere from a couple of days through to several years. It just depends on how hard the particular job is.
- Stability Testing: Once a preliminary formulation has been developed, it will need to go through stability testing. This testing is done to ensure that the product will remain effective and safe for the duration of its shelf life. It can involve testing the product under various conditions (like different temperatures or levels of light exposure) to simulate how it might be stored by consumers.
- Safety Testing: Safety testing is also crucial to ensure that the product does not cause irritation or other adverse effects. This can involve testing on human skin (often synthetic or in-vitro) or using other testing methods. Animal testing is largely phased out in many regions due to ethical concerns.
- User Trials: Assuming the product passes the stability and safety tests, it can then be sent to a panel of users for trials. These users can provide feedback on the product’s efficacy and user experience, such as how it feels on the skin, if it delivers the promised results, and if it’s easy to use.
- Regulatory Review: In many regions, cosmetic products must meet certain regulatory standards. This can involve a review of the product’s formulation, labeling, and claims.
- Production: Once the product has passed all of the necessary tests and reviews, it can move into the production phase. This involves scaling up the formulation from a laboratory scale to a production scale.
- Quality Control: Even after the product goes into production, ongoing quality control measures are necessary. This can involve regular testing of the product to ensure that it remains safe and effective.
- Launch: Finally, the new product can be launched and marketed to consumers. This can involve creating advertisements, setting up in-store displays, and much more.
Each step in the process is designed to ensure that the final product is safe, effective, and meets the needs and desires of consumers. Developing a new cosmetic product is a complex process that involves a wide range of skills and expertise.