I was just alerted to this article that said J&J will be reformulating their sun cream formulation after receiving 150 allergic reaction claims. It turns out that one of the ingredients, Methylisothiazolinone (a preservative) is a skin sensitizer in some segment of the population. In fact, it is so predominant that the EU recently announced it was restricting its use in leave-on cosmetics. J&J is smart to reformulate. But the story made me think of all the other times when a cosmetic chemist might have to reformulate. Here are the most common reasons.
1. Consumer complaints – As J&J found out, consumer complaints are a significant reason for reformulating. If enough consumers don’t like your product or they are having a reaction to it, then reformulating is the only reasonable option.
2. Regulatory requirements – Sometimes you can’t sell your formula any more because regulations in a country have changed. This is particularly true of preservatives since countries are banning them all the time.
3. Cost savings – Perhaps the most common voluntary reasons for reformulating is that you are trying to reduce the cost of your cosmetic formula. Since most formulas are not optimized, there is almost always ways to reformulate and make them less expensive.
4. Raw material is discontinued – Sometimes you are forced to reformulate because a raw material supplier stops producing a raw material. This can be very annoying and demonstrates why you should always have a second supplier for every raw material that you use.
5. Inconsistent supply – There are often situations where your supplier is unable to get you the raw material you need when you need it. This is especially true if you are a smaller cosmetic company and one of the supplier’s bigger customer needs more attention.
6. Acquiring a company – Acquisitions in the cosmetic industry are quite common. In fact, the company I used to work for acquired a couple of companies while I was there. They also got acquired themselves and subsequently shut down. Anyway, whenever you acquire a company you often have different raw material suppliers or your company does things different. To integrate into the new company, you usually have to reformulate all the purchased formulas.
7. Marketing reasons – Another time to reformulate is when your marketing group wants to sell products in a different way. Suppose they want to relaunch and add the phrase “new and improved formula.” You have to change something about the formula to make that happen. There are other marketing reasons such as adding an ingredient consistent throughout the line or claiming your products are all-natural. All will require some reformulation.
8. Production efficiencies – Sometimes your production people find a faster way to do things such as moving from a batch process to an inline, continuous process. Whenever something like this happens you’ll have to reformulate to ensure that you can make a product that matches the new process.
9. Stability problems – On occassion your formula will start to exhibit stability problems. This can happen if there is some subtle ingredient change that you didn’t know happened. In these situations, you usually have to reformulate to fix the problem.
10. Claims support – Sometimes your regulatory department will look through the claims being made about your product and discover that the product has to be reformulated to meet the performance claims. Or maybe you try to sell your product in another country that has different claims support requirements. Usually, only a product reformulation will help in these cases.
There you have it, the top ten reasons for cosmetic reformulation. While this can be annoying, overall it is a good thing because it keeps cosmetic chemists employed and working. These reformulations have to be done so don’t get used to any one formula. No doubt, in a few years you will have to change it.