We often get questions about formulating and frequently those are centered on Natural cosmetic formulating. Here is a recent question sent in by someone who has limited background in chemistry but an interest in formulating.
Do you know if there are any places that offer instruction on natural cosmetic formulation, teaching formulation by using only natural ingredients instead of synthetic materials?
Course on Natural formulating
Last year we created a course in conjunction with Allured Publishing to address this exact question. The naturals cosmetic formulating course is a 9 lesson, online video training course which teaches you exactly which ingredients you can use for creating products that would be classified as “natural.” The two instructors, Art Georgalas and Judi Beerling have many years of formulating experience specifically in the naturals area. It is an excellent course for anyone interested in this area. However, if you are new to formulating, you might do better starting with our Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry course which goes specifically through how formulating is done.
Get this free Natural formulating book
And if you want to get a primer on natural formulating, be sure to sign up for our free natural cosmetic formulating report. In it you will learn the complicated issues with creating your own natural cosmetic line.
Reality of natural formulating
Ok, so natural formulating is a real thing and there are a number of people in the cosmetic industry trying to create products which could be considered natural. But if you are not trained in chemistry or cosmetic formulation then I want to make you aware of a few of the realities of natural formulating. It is a much more complicated thing than you might imagine.
Natural formulating is hard
First, formulating natural is hard. This is because the cosmetic products that currently exist are pretty good. Most people are satisfied with the performance of their skin creams and hair products. They are always seeking new products but for the most part, cosmetics work as described. This has created a certain expectation of performance in the consumer’s mind for any product they will buy. If you sell a product that does not perform as well as one that the consumer is used to, they will not continue to buy your product. Unfortunately, when you limit yourself to only “natural” ingredients you cut out a lot of the best-performing ingredients. You reduce the number of surfactants you can use, the polymers, the preservatives, the fragrances and more. It is like being a painter and trying to use 3 colors versus competitors who can use 300. It is hard!
There is no standard definition
Another problem of natural formulating is that there are no standard definitions. There are a few different systems and we’ve written about natural formulating standards before. But there is not yet a requirement for any company to follow those standards. That means your all-natural cosmetic line is going to compete with companies who produce pseudo-natural cosmetic lines which are produced using standard ingredients with natural ingredients sprinkled in. These products will work better than yours. You will be at a marketing disadvantage. But that is the challenge of natural formulating.
One of the biggest challenges of natural formulating is that your products have to be proven safe. It is illegal to sell unsafe cosmetics in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Since most of the ingredients that you would use in cosmetics are capable of being contaminated with microbial growth, you will have to use some kind of preservative to prevent that. Unfortunately, the ingredients that are really effective at killing disease-causing microbes are not natural. You are severely limited in the ingredients you can use. This means that unless you have some special air-tight packaging made under anti-septic conditions or you have an expiration date on your product, you will not be able to honestly create an all-natural, preservative free cosmetic formulation. I know there are companies out there that claim they are but most are using tricks to pretend they are not using preservatives when they actually are. This is an extremely difficult problem.
As I said before, formulating natural products is hard and you have to face the fact that the best formulated cosmetic product is not going to work as well as the best formulated cosmetic product which is not restricted to only natural ingredients. And consumers buy cosmetics for their functionality. Yes, they say they want natural and organic. They say it makes them feel better about their purchases. But when it comes down to it, for most consumers if your product does not perform as well as one of the pseudo-natural formulations, they will not continue to buy your product.
Considering the disadvantages that you are going to face as a natural formulated, you have to ask yourself, why formulate natural at all? The reality is that naturally formulated cosmetic products are not more safe than standard cosmetic products. You may disagree with that but your disagreement is not based on any kind of science or testing. Cosmetics have been safety tested and have proven to be some of the most safe consumer products that anyone can buy. By restricting yourself to ingredients that are arbitrarily considered “natural” you are not making them automatically more safe. In fact, there is evidence that unprocessed, natural ingredients are sometimes less safe due to bacterial and microbial contamination.
So, be sure to ask yourself why you want to formulate naturally. You may still want to because it has proven to be a profitable marketing angle. Unfortunately, it is not a good formulating angle. Ultimately, consumers will buy products that are effective. Whether they are considered “natural” or not is just a bonus.
If formulating natural formulas is of interest to you, be sure to check out ourFormulating Naturals Cosmetics course.