Article by: Perry Romanowski

Formulating is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a cosmetic chemist. This is when you get to blend all the cosmetic science you’ve formulation chemistslearned with your creative inspirations. It’s how you can make your mark as a formulation chemist.

The following 6 steps will help you take your ideas and convert them into functioning cosmetic products.

Step 1 — Define your product

Before you get started, you need to think about what you are going to make. Figure out what functions you want your product to achieve. Is it a cleansing product, a moisturizer, a coloring product, or maybe a combination of factors? Also think about the aesthetic characteristics like color, thickness, clarity, etc. and the cosmetic product form. Write these parameters down so you’ll know when you done whether you’ve been successful.

It is always helpful to have a target product with characteristics that you are trying to match. Be sure to get a sample to look at and feel.

Step 2 — Find a starting formula

Next you need to figure out a good starting formula. Starting formulas can be found from a variety of sources. You can look at some of the most useful cosmetic science books. You can also look at online formularies like the one from Happi.com or Chemidex.com. Raw material suppliers like Croda and Rhodia also have formularies that you can use. Another useful source is patents. You can use Google patents or the USPTO.gov website to find formulas. Of course, you can also talk to a colleague who may be able to share one of her starting formulas with you. Finally, if you work at a big company, they will have a big archive of old formulas that will give you a great starting basis.

Remember, starting formulas are not meant to be finished formulas

Step 3 — Prepare for your batch

Once you have your starting formula, you’ll want to determine how much you want to make and create a spreadsheet which lists out how much of each ingredient you need. Then you’ll need to list the specifications that you will test when the batch is finished. After that you’ll have to gather up all the raw materials and processing equipment needed to make the batch. Next, put on your safety glasses & start making your batch.

Step 4 — Making the batch

Making a cosmetic product is much like cooking. You weigh or measure out your ingredients, mix them together as dictated in the procedure and heat & cool as required. During the entire process you should be writing detailed notes and observations in your lab notebook. These will come in handy when you need to make refinements for future prototypes.

You almost never make a perfect batch on your first try

Step 5 — Test your batch

Once you’ve finished your formula, you’ll want to test it to see how successful you were. After letting the sample equilibrate to room temperature, take appropriate measurements like pH and viscosity to see if you are within specifications. Also, weigh the batch to see how much water weight you lost during the heating and cooling process. If you’ve lost more than a few % of water you may want to add water to make up the difference. In addition to specification tests, you should also do some performance tests to see how well the product functions. At the very least try the product on yourself. If the formula meets your satisfaction then you’ll want to do a stability test.

If you won’t use the product you made, why should anyone else?

Step 6 — Revise formula and Repeat

After you’ve tested the product and determined where it doesn’t quite measure up, you’ll need to make adjustments to see if it can be improved. I’ve found that knockout experiments are the most helpful way to figure out the effect that every ingredient has on the final formula. Once you know what the ingredients do, you’ll know which ones to increase or decrease to improve your formula.

After a dozen or so revisions, you should have a formula that meets your needs.

Cosmetic formulating is as much an art as it is a science. As you gain more experience, you’ll find ingredients that you like to work with and others that you avoid. You’ll develop your own style and ideally make products and formulas that are genuinely unique to you. I always liked to add a “signature” in my formulas by using some ingredient at a % that included the number 44. It didn’t usually have much affect on the formula but it did make me feel like the formula was my own creation. And it was.

Good luck in your formulating career!

43 comments

  1. Arezki

    Mr. Perry Romanowski, Thanks a lot, very helpful advice.

  2. Tony

    I need to make formula for burgundy henna hair colour can you give any ideas

  3. Zachary Tomlinson

    I love how you said that you should make sure to look at science books. I would think that science is really important in cosmetics. You would probably need a quality scale or balance to make sure you are adding the right amounts of everything. I’m going to go see what I can find.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yes, a good quality balance is essential for formulating.

  4. Faiza

    Hello
    .i m a cosmetology student…I want to create a new cosmetic product with innovative function . .plz help me out with formulation and its procedure ..thank you.!

  5. Ro JOnes

    I have a product made from 2 other products to make another product. I have found the magic formula mixture that makes the new product awesome. I need to know how to list ingredients so I can make a label to sell my product. Please help me on where I need to go to get this done.

  6. sarah

    l have come up with a toner that reduces wrinkles drastically. Its purely organic and has no preservatives used. l have been using it for two months and the results are very impressive. I used three different products to make the toner. I need advise on how to preserve it for longer period.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      The most effective preservatives for most systems are parabens and ingredients like DMDM Hydantoin.

  7. DEGOD

    kindly help me with the formulation of hair relaxer range manufacturing procedure.

  8. Kaytla

    I am interested in creating products for individual clients.
    Is it possible to have chemist’s overseas create the product with my formulas?
    I would also like to package and label the products for each individual client, do you have any links to some reputable companies, is it better to have this done overseas as well?
    Interested in getting more details from anyone who has knowledge in this area.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      You can look up Private Label cosmetic companies who can do that for you.

  9. Ray Tavakkoli

    I would like to be a cosmetic manufacture, Can you afew books in Cosmetic Chemistry recommend which can help me. Also, should I patent my formula before mass productions? or if I use some formulas online should I have a permission to produce. Thank you

  10. Sarah

    I have created a formula for lipsticks but am unsure of how to start getting it mass-produced. What type of manufacturer should I go to? Do I give them the formula and have them create it or will they want to create a new one for me? Any suggestions for manufacturers?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      You should look for a contract manufacturer who can produce lipsticks. Do a Google search for one near you.

  11. sangam patel

    Hello,I would like to develope my own cosmetic manufacturing company on starting base .what procedures should I follow?please give me some idea.thank in advance

  12. Alan Salaman

    Has anyone come up with a formula for makeup fillers, plus concealers?

  13. Patrick

    I developed a formula for hair conditioner but I dont know how to write it step by step to be explanatry in a professional presentation . Coud you please assist me.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I don’t know what you need.

    2. Aruna

      Hi,
      I am a scientist who worked on writing standard operating procedures and batch records in other words I can write a step by step technical document for your formula. Please contact me if you are interested. My email id is sagi.aruna@gmail.com

  14. Ken

    I have a cosmetic product that is not produced anymore and would like to have it recreated. I have a sample of the original project and looking for leads on how to do this ?

    1. Deems

      I too have remains of a product that is no longer produced and was wondering if you had any luck getting yours formulated I do not know what year you posted .

  15. My Diva Center

    Hi there, we are new company that would like to present our own beauty & wellness brand in a herbal organic natural way of ingredients.
    We have already have various herbal organic natural ingredients that we would like to dvelop but we need a chemist that can mix this ingredients for my company. I will to mix this products that can only last 2-3 years per request of mixing so the preservatives for this products to stay long is not as high as other products. And that will make the difference of our products to other products. It is real puur & natural & homemade…

  16. stephen smith

    I have a large selection of manufacturing procedures for sale from some of the worlds top cosmetic companies if anyone is intrested or has any questions please let me know.

    1. Cong Chien

      I would like to make cosmetic for sale in Vietnam. Pls let me know some fomular first. I like cosmetic.

      My email: congchien2301@gmail.com

      Thanks with RG!
      Cong Chien

  17. Linda Cash

    I have an idea for a male product. How do I go about finding a chemist to help me develop my idea? Thank you in advance for your assistance .

    Linda Cash

      1. ashish aggarwal

        i can help you developing your idea into final product as we our own govt. approved lab along with our manufacturing unit . with govt approved chemist and lab chemist for research and development… who knows our company develop a product which is something different

        1. VICTORIA MURCHISON

          I AM AT THE BEGINNING STAGE OF PRODUCING A COSMETIC LINE AND WOULD LOVE ANY ADVICE ANYONE HAS TO OFFER. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO EMAIL V.MURCHIE@GMAIL.COM THANK YOU 🙂

  18. Pingback:6 Steps to Creating a Cosmetic Formula – DIYCosmetics

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  20. zahid

    kindly send formulation of makeup range manufacturing procedure

  21. Inamullah khan

    kindly send step by step formulation and manufacturing of hydrogen per oxide (oxidient cream) required for hair coloring

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