How can I know that a particular lab or chemist is good? - Cosmetic Science Talk

How can I know that a particular lab or chemist is good?

Hi Chemists:  Q: How can I know if a particular lab is good? I don't know people in this business. And not everyone's listed with the Better Business Bureau or Yelp. I'm Googling for an hour now and there's nothing about a particular lab I'm considering, anywhere. 
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  • Don't just google them. Make a time to personally visit their place and see if they have certificates etc.
  • Hello @SheilaInBoston

    This is a very good question.  I agree with @Laniee that simply googling will not tell you much about the ability of the chemist however, the fact that they have a website is a positive thing.  Here are some things I would suggest you look for.

    1.  Google - use this to find labs or formulators. If there is a lot written about the organization then read that. If not, that is not necessarily a bad thing but it does demonstrate that they are either really good (and don't require business from the Internet to keep them in business) or they are really new & haven't had a lot of jobs.

    2.  LinkedIn - for a lab find out whether the chemists who work there have a LinkedIn presence and look for their background.  Use the information to get a sense about their experience.  However, some of the veteran chemists who have a list of clients already probably won't be listed on LindedIn. 

    3.  Email - Contact someone at the lab through email and ask them questions about types of formulas they've worked on and whether there are any products on the market that they created. Even if they can't tell you specific brands they should be able to tell you product types they made. Not every formulator can make every formulation type. Some specialize in hair, skin care or color cosmetics.

    4.  Phone - Ideally, you would talk to someone on the phone. Find out as much as you can about their operation such as the size of the batches they can make and their lab setup. Also, ask them the kind of connections they have with raw material suppliers. If it is just a formulator ask them what contract manufacturer they might direct you to to get your formulas produced.

    Ultimately, the only way you're going to be able to tell if someone is good is if they deliver on their promises. Give them a description of your product and then agree on a timeline for samples and a finished formula. Do not pay all up front but agree with some percentage.  

    I would also ask for samples of products they made so you can get a sense of their formulating abilities.

    Hope that helps.

  • Hi there,

    I'm from a full turn key facility. We focus on helping new brands launch. I'd love to chat!

    Emily@DebutDevelopmentLLC.com

  • Hello @emily.flemer - I appreciate your participation in the forum but all your responses come off as adverts for your services. Could you at least provide some useful answer before advertising?  For example, can you answer the question posted above?

    How can (a client) know that a particular lab or chemist is good?  Why should they work with your company?
  • Thanks, all.  I took the plunge and made a deposit.  Their LinkedIn is probably what did it, combined with knowledgeable conversations and really excellent customer service.  (Went with Freelance Formulations in FL.)
  • edited September 18
    Hi there!

    Perry I totally agree. Research is key. I think phone conversation with the chemist are also necessary.
    Also asking others who have successfully formulated. Ask them what the selling point for them was. Personally I think the lab should also turn over all rights to you as the owner. 
  • If the lab does not turn over all rights than why use them?
  • Many labs attached to Contract manufacturers will hold onto the IP, the Formula. They offer a discounted R&D fee and under their fee, they never transfer the ownership. I have had clients counter my fees with "XYZ Cosmetic Manufacturer says that they will do the Formula for $350." Later on down the road, they learn that when they want the Formula, there is often an exorbitant cost attached. Keep in mind that most CM's make their money in manufacturing and can discount the R&D fee from future manufacturing revenue. When this opportunity is lost to them, they have fees to recoup these costs.
    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications.
  • From the CM's point of view, their ideal customer is locked into buying exclusively from them forever. To do this, their primary tactic is to keep their formulations as secret as possible.

    So why would people use them at all? It's all about upfront costs. Prospective customers get charged a small fraction of the actual R&D costs, typically 10 - 25%. Existing customers typically don't pay any R&D fees at all, and big-name customers get wined-and-dined to the point that it costs CM's a fair amount to go after their business.

    All this has to get paid for somehow. But if you don't have the cash to lay out as you're starting up, the option of paying a minimal fee at the beginning, and then a larger fee when you've outgrown the CM can be very appealing.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • @Bobzchemist and some CMs resort to dodgy tactics (providing uninformative/misleading/incorrect documents) in order to actively prevent customers taking their business elsewhere, by rendering the products nearly impossible to reproduce by anyone but the most skilled chemists
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
  • Your best bet are phone conversations or in person meetings to see if there is "chemistry" between the two of you and checking client references.  Although, you're probably only going to get good client references when you ask, it can help you determine if past clients were satisfied with the services.

    We're all too familiar with the Contract Manufacturer sleight of hand of telling clients that the CM needs to "modify" the formula, even it it's been fully stability tested and PCT challenged and passed all tests.

    I had one client who found a CM, had a meeting with the CM and then called to inform me that the CM told him they would have to modify the formula in order to manufacture it for him.  I asked him ... "Did you share the formula and method of production with the CM?" ... I was confused as the product had passed all required testing.

    My client's answer "No" ... I then asked him ... if you did not share the formula with the CM, how would they possibly know the formula needed modification? ... and, then proceeded to school him that by modifying the formula, the IP became the property of the CM and he would be locked into them and would no longer owned the formula that he paid to have developed.  It is unfortunate that I have had a few clients that this has happened to.

    So do your due diligence and check references.  Read the contract thoroughly. 
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    Provides Formulation Development and Lab-Scale Contract Manufacturing Services.  See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com

  • @MarkBroussard Bingo. I have had clients relay the same information to me. I believe in many cases they may have thought they had a layperson developed "recipe" and we all know that they usually are not nearly ready for Production. However, if bringing a tested and credibly designed Formulation, I warn my clients of this wrinkle. When my clients brought it up, the CM added a clause into their contracts fixing the issue, but they were not very happy.
    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications.
  • We offer an R&D service where the client pays a fee but we technically own the formula and they always have the right to purchase their formula at anytime. We are always upfront about the different costs involved. This helps people get started without a huge upfront expense. Years ago we did the R&D for free in most cases but with start ups many people get cold feet about starting a business and we have to pay our chemists whether the customer opens shop or not. Charging a fee of some sort helps to wean through those that are serious about starting a company and some that aren't or may be unsure. We get several customers that come to us and their previous manufacturer won't sell them the formula regardless of the price because they don't want to lose the business. In this case we just reverse engineer it for them. It's always best to visit the lab/ facility and use your best judgement to decide if they are a good fit for you. 
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